Optimizing Your Notebook's Battery Life

The three culprits in your laptop that are responsible for its abysmal battery life are everything that glows, everything that moves, and everything that radiates. Your bright, shiny screen, high-speed hard disk, and Bluetooth+802.11n wireless radio all collude to sap precious power from your battery.

How to get the most out of your battery

When you're away from an AC outlet, turn off any radios you're not using. Chances are you don't need Bluetooth and Wi-Fi at the same time. Remember that a brighter screen isn't always a better screen; having your LCD backlight on full power may provide a pleasant viewing experience, but it certainly isn't conducive to a long battery life. Finally, if you must edit large files that can't be stored in RAM, try to use only your hard disk. Consider copying critical files from optical media to your hard disk before unplugging so you won't have to spin up your optical disk reader and your hard drive at the same time.

Throttling your laptop

Modern mobile computers include CPUs and video cards that are capable of throttling their speed (and therefore their power consumption) depending on their workload. If you have an AMD Turion chip, an Intel Centrino package, or an Intel Core, Core 2, or Core 2 Duo CPU, your processor will decrease its speed in accordance to the load you place on it. Modern off-board graphics processors will do the same; all mobile solutions by Intel, nVidia, and ATi are capable of throttling the GPU clock when you're not playing games.

Using the Power Options in Windows XP

Windows XP has a control panel for moderating the amount of power your laptop will consume under certain circumstances. To access the Power Options control panel, choose Start, then Control Panel. Double-click on the Power Options icon. Under the Power Schemes tab, you can tell Windows when it should shut down your monitor and hard disk when you're not using your laptop.

Optimizing your laptop's performance

Just like a fine automobile, you should tune up your laptop on a regular basis to ensure you're getting the most out of your battery. Fine-tune your system startup to prevent unneeded programs from starting with your computer. Be sure to defragment your disk on a regular basis so your hard drive doesn't have to work as hard to find data requested by the operating system. Make sure you've run a memory tester like MemTest86 on your laptop, which will check for memory errors that could slow you down and corrupt your data.

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