Even the longest-lasting laptop batteries will die eventually. Here’s everything you need to know to maximize the amount of time between visits to the power outlet.
Who wants to rush to a power outlet to recharge their laptop battery? That’s no fun, especially if your family works and learns from home these days, in different parts of the house that may not have a convenient socket nearby. Fortunately, modern laptops are far more energy efficient than their predecessors. Even low-cost desktop replacement laptops and some gaming behemoths can now run for more than eight hours on a single charge. Ultraportables can frequently last 14 hours or more.
Still, the unfortunate truth is that the battery in your PC or Mac laptop will not last as long as the manufacturer claims unless you pay attention to a few key factors, such as your power settings, the number of apps you’re running, and even the temperature of the room in which you’re working. The good news is that once you know which settings to change, none of this requires much effort to sort out. Let’s look at the best ways to get the most out of your laptop battery with the least amount of effort.
Use the Windows Performance Management Tool
The Windows performance management tool is the first stop on our battery-life improvement tour. In Windows 10, it’s a slider accessible from the task bar’s battery icon. It’s located in Settings > System > Power & Battery > Power Mode in Windows 11. It aims to categorize all of the settings that affect battery life into a few simple categories.
The manufacturer of your computer determines which settings the battery slider controls. However, keep the following guidelines in mind:
The Best Performance mode is intended for users who are willing to sacrifice battery life in exchange for increased speed and responsiveness. In this mode, Windows will not prevent background apps from consuming a lot of power.
The Better Performance (or Recommended) mode limits background app resources while prioritizing power over efficiency.
Better Battery mode provides longer battery life than previous versions of Windows’ default settings.
The Battery Saver mode, which appears only when your computer is unplugged, reduces display brightness by 30%, prevents Windows Update downloads, prevents the Mail app from syncing, and suspends most background apps.
For a MacBook: Use Battery Settings on macOS
Recent Mac laptops with current macOS versions have extensive battery and power settings that you can control. Open the System Preferences app in macOS Monterey and select Battery.
Check “Slightly dim the display while on battery power” and uncheck “Enable Power Nap while on battery power.” (With Power Nap enabled and your MacBook sleeping, the machine will periodically wake up to check for updates. Disabling it puts your MacBook to sleep until you wake it up.) If you have “Slightly dim the display while on battery power” enabled on recent MacBook Pro laptops, the display brightness adjusts to 75% when you unplug the computer.
Depending on your MacBook and macOS version, you may see additional options in the Energy Saver preferences pane. “Optimize video streaming while on battery” disables HDR video playback, as does “Optimized battery charging.” Some Macs include an Energy Mode option, which is very similar to the Windows performance management tool described above. You have the following options if you see Energy Mode in the Battery section of system preferences:
Low Power: Reduce energy consumption to extend battery life.
Automatic: Set your Mac to use the best performance level automatically.
High Power: Increase energy consumption to improve performance during long-term workloads.
Simplify Your Workflow: Closing Apps, and Using Airplane Mode
If you spend a lot of time working away from a power outlet, it’s a good habit to adjust your laptop use in battery-saving ways, such as sticking to one app at a time and closing everything else when you’re not using it. It’s similar to turning off the lights when a room is empty. If you’re constantly switching between the kitchen and the pantry, or between Firefox and Microsoft Word, keep both sets of lights (and apps) on (and open). However, if you’re just cooking or watching a YouTube video, it’s best to turn off and close everything else.
If you know you’ll be editing a document with no need for web access, consider enabling Airplane mode in Windows or turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in macOS, in addition to shutting down other programs while you single-task. Airplane mode also eliminates a significant source of battery drain: not only the wireless radios themselves, but also the background apps and processes that constantly use them, such as updaters and push notifications.
Close Specific Apps That Use Lots of Power
Multiple apps and processes running on your system at the same time will deplete your battery faster, and chances are you’re not actively using everything that’s currently running on your PC. The Settings app in Windows is the first place to look for energy-sucking programs.
In the Windows 10 search bar, type “See which apps are affecting your battery life” to get a list of the apps that are consuming the most power. In Windows 11, you can find this list under Battery Usage in the Power & Battery settings pane. If you notice a rarely used app consuming a lot of power, make sure to close it. Often, these are apps you’ve left open in the background, such as Spotify or Adobe Reader.
Next, open the Task Manager app or type “See which processes start up automatically when you start Windows” into the search bar. Every utility that runs as soon as your PC boots up is listed in the Startup tab. Anything named “Download Assistant” or “Helper” is usually safe to uninstall. You can, for example, disable the Spotify Web Helper unless you frequently open Spotify playlists, tracks, or albums from links in a web browser.
In macOS, search for Users & Groups, then click the Login Items tab, where you’ll find a list of apps that are set to run in the background when you boot up your Mac.
Adjust Graphics and Display Settings
If your laptop has a powerful graphics processor, you can configure it so that only games or other graphics-intensive apps use it, while everything else uses the more efficient on-CPU silicon for graphics processing. If your system uses Nvidia GeForce graphics, launch the GeForce control panel (typically found in the Windows notification area on the right side of the taskbar), then select the Program Settings tab to assign each app to a specific graphics-processing chip. Allocate the GeForce discrete chip to games and photo- and video-editing apps like Adobe Photoshop and Premiere, while using the integrated graphics for everything else.
On a Mac, open the same Battery preferences pane mentioned earlier and check the “Automatic graphics switching” option, as shown in the screenshot above from macOS Big Sur. Because you don’t have the same level of control over each program as you do in the GeForce panel, you’ll have to rely on macOS’s discretion when deciding which graphics accelerator to use.
Take Heed of Airflow
Most laptops now include lithium-polymer batteries that require far less maintenance than batteries from a decade ago, thanks to advancements in software and firmware as well as battery technology innovation. You no longer need to perform a full battery discharge on a regular basis to calibrate it, nor do you need to be concerned that completely draining the battery will damage your laptop.
However, you must be cautious of heat, which will hasten the demise of a battery. The most serious issues arise from physical obstruction of ventilation ports. One issue is dust accumulation, which can be remedied by cleaning the laptop’s vents and fan. (On a regular basis, use a can of compressed air to blow out some of the dust.) A more common problem is resting the laptop on a pillow or blanket, which can obstruct the ventilation fan and retain the heat generated by the system. To avoid this, use your laptop only on firm surfaces that won’t flex and obstruct airflow or cooling, such as a table or a desk.
Keep an Eye on Your Battery’s Health
All batteries lose charging capacity over time and must be replaced at some point. It’s always a good idea to check on the health of a battery from time to time.
To see if your battery on an Apple MacBook laptop is nearing the end of its life, hold the Option key and click the battery icon in the menu bar to reveal the battery status. If you see a “Replace Now” or “Service Battery” message, your battery is probably working at a fraction of its original capacity.
In Windows 10, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and dive into the world of the command prompt to find an equivalent battery-health indicator. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a Windows battery report using the command prompt.
Review the Battery Management Settings
Some new laptops can now automatically monitor the battery’s temperature history and charging patterns. If you don’t regularly use it, you can use this information to adjust “full” charging to stay below 100 percent of the battery’s capacity using manufacturer software. (Reducing the number of charging cycles can help the battery last longer.)
It’s a good idea to use this monitoring, but many manufacturers allow you to disable it to ensure that you’re always charging the battery to maximize capacity. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu on a MacBook running macOS Catalina or later, then click Energy Saver. Click Battery Health, uncheck “Battery health management,” and then OK. For Windows laptops, instructions vary by manufacturer; here’s (Opens in a new window) Dell’s how-to guide.
Carry a Battery Backup
Finally, bringing along an external battery pack is the simplest way to ensure that you always have enough battery power.
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External power sources connect to your laptop in the same way that your charger does. They typically cost between $100 and $200 and come with adapters for a variety of laptop models. They can be used on multiple systems as well as other devices such as your phone or tablet.
These strategies will assist you in making the most of your battery. If you’re looking for a new laptop and battery life is one of your top priorities, check out our roundup of the laptops we’ve tested with the best battery life.