Should you leave your laptop plugged in and charging when you’re not on-the-go? What’s best for the battery? What’s best for your user experience? Read on as we investigate.
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Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-drive grouping of Q&A web sites.
More than one SuperUser reader was curious about the whole matter of laptop batteries and wall current. ClickUpvote inquires:
When your laptop’s battery is 100% charged, should you leave it plugged in so any battery power doesn’t get used, or will that cause overcharging, overheating, etc.? Should the laptop be unplugged when the battery level is 100%?
He echoes a similar question asked by Moayad Mardini:
When I’m at home, is it better to use the laptop plugged into AC power, or with just the battery, for the overall battery life?
So what was the verdict? Should you leave your laptop almost perpetually tethered to the wall or only charge it when the battery charge is running low?
The answer to the question isn’t a cut and dry “Yes, leave it tethered” or “No, unplug it” because of the variety of laptop designs, their battery types, and the integrated charging circuit that recharges the battery. That said, the insights provided by SuperUser contributors cover the most common scenarios laptop owners will come across. Contributor Charles Roper writes:
It won’t make all that much difference. What will shorten battery life is temperature: If it gets hot, it will shorten the battery life. Best thing to do, if you are able, is to remove the battery while you’re at home and keep it somewhere cool.
If it’s a Li-ion battery, then they don’t like to be completely discharged, so make sure you charge them regularly. Wikipedia:
Lithium-ion batteries should not be frequently discharged fully and recharged (“deep-cycled”), but this may be necessary after about every 30th recharge to recalibrate any electronic charge monitor (e.g. a battery meter). This allows the monitoring electronics to more accurately estimate battery charge. This has nothing to do with the memory effect.
More tips can be found here:
What about the “Remove the battery!” camp? It turns out that while removing the battery can be beneficial, the situations in which it is beneficial are fairly limited. Splattne writes:
This page has a good answer: “it depends”
The answer is: YES and NO, it depends on the situation.
Having a battery fully charged and the laptop plugged in is not harmful, because as soon as the charge level reaches 100% the battery stops receiving charging energy and this energy is bypassed directly to the power supply system of the laptop.
However there’s a disadvantage in keeping the battery in its socket when the laptop is plugged in, but only if it’s currently suffering from excessive heating caused by the laptop hardware.
- In a normal usage, if the laptop doesn’t get to hot (CPU and Hard Disk around 40ºC) the battery should remain in the laptop socket;
- In an intensive usage which leads to a large amount of heat produced (i.e. Games) the battery should be removed from the socket in order to prevent unwanted heating.
The heat, among the fact that it has 100% of charge, is the great enemy of the lithium battery and not the plug, as many might think so.
The best plan of attack then, is to monitor your hardware to ensure you’re not overheating your battery and be concious of the limitations of the type of battery in your device–for the majority of users, a Lithium-Ion battery.
For more battery saving tips, laptop-oriented and otherwise, make sure to check out some of our feature articles on the subject, including:
- Complete Guide to Maximizing Your Android Phone’s Battery Life
- Improve Battery Life in Windows 7 with the Built-In Power Troubleshooter
- How to Maximize the Battery Life on Your Linux Laptop
- How to Maximize Battery Life on Your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch
Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 09/25/12