Should I Remove My Laptop Battery To Increase its Life?

 

  • laptop battery lifeDoes running your laptop on AC power damage the battery? Should you remove the battery to increase its lifetime? If you own a laptop, these questions have probably crossed your mind before. The short answer to both questions is: most likely yes. Curious to learn why? Continue reading for all the juicy details.

To support my arguments and recommendations made at the end of this article, I have to provide some background information. So let’s start with the basics…

How Does A Laptop Battery Work?

The type of battery found in laptops today is called Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion). In this type of battery, lithium ions are loosely embedded (intercalated) in the porous carbon of the anode (negative electrode). When the battery is used, the ions flow from the anode to the cathode (positive electrode) through the electrolyte and the separator. This process releases energy and results in a discharge of the battery. When charging, energy is applied to make the ions move in the opposite direction. A charge thus forces them to return to the anode.

laptop battery life

How Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Age?

Theoretically, this process can go back and forth forever. Practically, however, the lifetime of a battery is limited. What happens is that ions get trapped and are no longer available to flow from the anode to the cathode. In other words, the battery loses capacity over time. In fact, Li-Ion batteries start aging the moment they are produced.

What Causes Lithium-Ion Batteries to Age?

Several things:

  1. High voltage and Overcharge
    Laptops typically have a charge threshold, which prevents overcharging and high voltage. However, constantly keeping the battery at a full charge also is a stress factor that contributes to aging.

  2. Heat
    Room temperature (21°C / 70°F) or higher temperatures promote chemical reactions, ultimately causing Li-Ion batteries to lose capacity.

  3. Low Temperatures
    Temperatures below 0°C (32°F) can damage materials inside the battery.

  4. Prolonged Storage
    Li-Ion batteries self-discharge at a rate of approximately 8% per month at 21°C (70°F). This increases with higher temperatures. When stored over long periods of time, the battery can reach a state of deep discharge (charge below 20%).

  5. Physical Shocks
    Batteries can break.

To Remove or Not To Remove

As indicated in the introduction, the answer is: yes, remove the battery to extend its lifetime!

When you continuously run your laptop on a reliable AC power source, you should definitely remove your battery. Firstly, the battery will not be exposed to heat from your laptop. Secondly, there is not even a remote chance that it will be overcharged or exposed to high voltage. Hence, removing the battery eliminates the two main causes for battery aging.

When I say remove, I don’t mean that you should simply take out the battery. Please turn off your laptop, remove the battery, and then boot your laptop. For safety reasons, please do not remove the battery while your laptop is running.

What Should I Do To Increase My Battery Lifetime?

You can do multiple things. I wrote an entire article on this topic (link above). Below you will find a summary.

Proper treatment of a Li-Ion battery:

  • never discharge battery below 20%
  • always partially discharge, then recharge
  • cycle* battery every few weeks or after 30 partial dis/charges
  • charge at lower voltage (if possible)
  • never leave charged battery in laptop when running on AC power

* Cycle means that you discharge the battery to around 20% and then recharge it fully. Going below 20% equals a deep discharge, something you will want to avoid.

Preparing a Li-ion battery for storage:

  • charge battery to 40-50%
  • remove from laptop
  • put into an air-tight zip-lock bag
  • store in fridge at 4-8
  • re-charge to 40-50% every few weeks

When storing your battery, take note how fast it self-discharges and make sure it never goes below 20%.

laptop battery life

For times when you have to run your laptop on battery, you should have a look at this article:20 Ways To Increase Laptop’s Battery Life

What are your experiences with laptop batteries? Do you go through all the hoops to extend the lifetime of your battery?

20 Ways To Increase Laptop’s Battery Life

increase laptop battery lifeMobile computing has got better with lighter components, better chips and faster processors. But the Achilles heel of a laptop has remained its battery. So here are we are going to look at ways to increase laptop battery life.

Modern graphic intensive operating systems and resource hungry applications are cutting down the life of your laptop’s battery every day. The average battery life per continuous use still stands at a maximum of three to four hours. So, a fast depleting battery could very swiftly put the crutches on your ‘mobile’ road trip.

Falling just short of carrying an extra pack of batteries in the back-pack, are several ways to keep the juice flowing through the batteries.

1. Ship shape with a defrag

Regular defragmentation helps to arrange data more efficiently thus making the hard drive work less to access the data. The quicker the moving hard drive works lesser is the load placed on the battery. Thus, your batter can last longer. The effect is minimal, but this efficiency goes hand in glove with hard drive maintenance.

2. Kill the resource gobblers

End the background processes that are not vital. Monitor the resource usage through a “˜Ctrl-Alt-Del’ which brings up the Windows Task Manager (in Windows). If you’re not on the internet, it is safe to shut down the immediate non-essential programs running in the taskbar like the antivirus and the firewall. Weed out unnecessary programs running as start-ups by launching the System Configuration Utility from Run ““ Msconfig ““ Tab: Startup. Uncheck the programs which you don’t want to launch and reboot the computer once.

3. Pause the scheduled tasks

It may be a defrag or a virus scan, but make sure it is scheduled for a time when you are near a power outlet. If not then nix them for the moment.

4. Unplug external devices

USB devices are the biggest drainers of battery power. Unplug all external devices like an external mouse, PC cards, Wi-Fi, external speakers, Bluetooth and even an attached iPod.

5. Empty the CD/DVD Drives

Even if you don’t intend to use it, don’t leave any CD/DVDs as leftovers in the drives. A spinning drive sucks battery power like a sponge.

6. Go local

Desist using the DVD/external drives while running on batteries. Shift the content to the hard drive or run using (free) virtual drives like Pismo File Mount or even Microsoft’s Virtual CD ROM Control Panel.

7. Lower the lights

The LCD screen of a laptop is another huge power sink. Calibrate the brightness to the lowest level you can tolerate using the Function key toggles or using the Display Settings applet in the Control Panel.

8. Kill the sounds

Mute the speakers and try avoiding the use of multimedia software to maximize the battery life. Installed sound schemes also drain a battery perceptibly.

9. Rid the screensaver

To maximize battery life by a little, switch off the screensaver.

10. Visit Power Options

Get familiar with power management through the “˜Power Options’ applet in the Control Panel. Both XP and Vista come with advanced power management features which shut off components like the monitor and/or the hard drive after specified intervals. This again depends on the chosen “˜Power Schemes’ (for XP) in the same applet. For instance in XP, “˜Max Battery’ under Power Schemes can be selected for maximum battery optimization.

Similar settings can be found under “˜Mobile PC’ in the Control Panel of Vista.

11. Turn off the looks

Today’s OS’s like Windows Vista come with features like “˜Aero Glass’ which are resource guzzlers. One can turn it off and go for the “˜Classic’ appearance which consumes less power. In Vista, click on Desktop – Preferences – View Colour – Appearance – Classic Appearance and Windows Basic graphical interface. In XP it’s – Display Properties – Theme – Windows Classic.

Linux and even Macintosh are better optimized for longer battery life.

12. Hibernate is better than Sleep

In the Stand By mode (or sleep mode), the computer turns of the hard drive and the display but memory remains active while the CPU slows down. This draws on the battery. In contrast, hibernation mode is better because the computer saves the current state and shuts itself down completely thus saving power.

13. Get the most…work on the least

Working on too many programs while on the battery is a sure fire power drainer. Keep use of graphic intensive applications to a minimum. Working on a spreadsheet consumes much less than playing your favorite game. To increase the life of the battery open just one or two programs concurrently.

14. Ram in more RAM

Adequate RAM reduces the load on Virtual memory which by default resides on the hard drive. Though every extra bit of RAM uses up more power, it increases overall savings by short cutting access to the power hungry hard drive.

15. Keep it clean

A laptop with blocked air vents will generate more heat thus reducing the life of the battery. Clean the air vents regularly to keep operating temperatures low. Allow for open space around the vents for air to circulate freely. Keep the area around the laptop clean to avoid entry of dust.

16. Temperature is a silent killer

Undue heat kills off a battery slowly but surely. Avoid leaving the laptop under direct sunlight or inside a closed car.

17. Avoid the memory effect

A problem more for the older Ni-MH batteries than for Li-Ion batteries on which most modern laptops run. Memory effect relates to the loss of battery charge when they are repeatedly recharged after being only partially discharged. It can be prevented by discharging the battery fully and then completely recharging it. Li-Ion batteries on the other hand have no problems with partial discharges and re-charges and complete discharge is never recommended for this type.

18. Update software and drivers

This sounds a bit incongruous but then newer drivers and software are often designed to be more efficient (and hopefully less resource hungry).

19. Use the right adapter

Ensure that the adapter you use to charge the laptop battery is an original one or one with the correct specifications. A mismatch in the wattage could cause an overload thus damaging the laptop and the battery.

20. Pack it up

If you don’t plan to use the laptop on batteries for quite some time, ensure that the charge is nearly 40 percent – remove the batteries and store it in a cool place.

A typical lithium ion battery has an overall average life of 2-3 years. With some care and caution, its mortality can be delayed.

Have you found your own way to increase battery life of your laptop? Share the “˜life giving’ tips with us in the comments.