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Ask The Readers: How Do You Maximize Your Battery Life?

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Although batteries have become more robust and longer lived, some days the outlets are far and few between. How do you maximize the juice when you’re away from home?

Laptops, smart phones, tablets, ereaders, and more require a steady supply of juice to give you the information, connectivity, and gaming fixes you crave. How do you keep the lights on when you’re trekking across the city, county, and country? Sound off in the comments with your best tips and tricks for maximizing your battery life when you’re on the move.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/25/12

Comments (47)

  1. chris

    I usually turn my screen brightness to the lowest setting and only charge when the battery is about to die.

  2. Sean Mc.

    I don’t. I’m just awesome instead. True story.

  3. john weiss

    I use toggle icons to keep my 3g network, wi-fi connection, and GPS turned off. When I need them I turn them on, use them, and turn them off when done.

  4. Option 5

    Setting the time for the screen to automatically dim or shutoff to shorter intervals helps across all of my devices.

  5. Arston

    I don’t use screen savers. I shut off the screen manually instead.
    The brightness level is a major battery saver for both laptops and phones, though I haven’t used a phone with AMOLED display.

  6. Michael

    Rather than fiddle with the settings and lose functionality, I bought a third party battery. They’re less than $20, and some of them last twice as long as the stock battery.

  7. Dictionar textil

    I use a free software, BatteryCare – it tell’s me when it’s time to do perform a calibration for battery, and do all the work when unpluged (disable aero, turn my brightness level to minimum).

  8. Grant

    Laptop: Copy files to the hard drive (instead of optical drive) for use while traveling.

    Phone: Llama to turn off stuff I don’t need based on where I am (WiFi and Bluetooth) and Juice Defender to cut off the data when it is not in use. I also bought a second battery and external charger, so I don’t need to worry as much. The phone runs 1.5 days on a battery, and the charge time externally is 4.5 hours. When it gets down to 5%, I just swap it out. I always have a good battery, and I am never tethered to an outlet waiting for it.

  9. Shari

    I have a budget tablet that was basically made with the innards of a phone. As such, it’s constantly searching for a cell signal even though it’s incapable of making phone calls. Silly thing.

    To conserve the battery and keep it from doing this, I keep my tablet in Airplane Mode 24/7. Through third party apps, I can also turn WiFi on while still in Airplane Mode. I turn it off again as soon as I’m done using it. (Some people also have rooted the tablet to delete the dialer and cell applications entirely, but I have no other need for rooting at the moment, so I’m just sticking with this solution.)

    I also keep the screen on the dimmest comfortable setting (there are apps out there that will let you go lower than the device’s default settings will allow, as well) and tap the screen off entirely when I’m not using it. Basic stuff, I guess?

    One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about my particular tablet is that the battery life is abysmal – which it totally is, if you forget to turn Airplane Mode on. Otherwise, it’s actually pretty decent.

  10. xana452

    For my iPod I turn it on Airplane mode whenever possible. I also keep it on lowest screen setting, and use pkiller to free up some memory (also saving battery)

  11. LadyFitzgerald

    I don’t worry about my netbook. I just run it on A/C. If I need it where there is no A/C, I use a 12-120v inverter in my truck to power the netbook’s power supply. Leaving the battery in when running exclusively is supposed to reduce its life but I haven’t noticed any degradation.

    I keep my cell phone turned off except when I actually need to use it (rarely) or I am expecting a phone call on it (even more rarely). Being a retired flatulent geriatric who has lived most of her life without being connected 24/7, I don’t need an electronic umbilical cord tying me down when away from home.

    Everything else I have that needs batteries uses either AAs or AAAs (I make it a point to buy equipment that uses either AAs or AAAs whenever possible). I exclusively use Sanyo Eneloop prechargeable NiMH batteries. Unlike conventional NiMH batteries that will self-discharge in a month or so, Eneloops will discharge down to around 1.32v in 4-6 weeks, then hold that charge for as long as a year, and can be recharged up to 1000 times (the newer ones will hold that charge for as much as two years and will recharge 1500 times).

    I have two smart chargers to keep my AAs and AAAs charged up, a La Crosse BC900 (which has been replaced by the BC9009) and a BC700. A smart charger will regulate the amount of current going through a battery (technically, they are cells–multiple cells make up a battery–but everyone calls them batteries so, yes, I do know what the correct terms are) by starting out at a higher rate, then tapers the current off as the battery nears full charge. Once the charge is complete, it will feed only a trickle charge to the battery. On my chargers, each cell is charged independently of the others (each charger holds four batteries) and AAs and AAAs can be mixed in the charger. Each battery gets its own display. The displays can be toggled between voltage, charging current, time elapsed, and battery capacity (based on the amount of charge put into the battery; there is a way to discharge batteries then recharge them to determine total capacity). The chargers can also be used to precondition NiCads and recondition them if they develop a memory problem.

    Since heat is what kills NiMH batteries, I charge mine at the lowest setting on my smart chargers: 200mA. The BC900 can go up to 1500mA (1800mA if charging only two batteries) and the BC700 will go up to 1000mA. Both will also charge at 500mA and 750mA. I rarely will charge at 500mA and never above to ensure my batteries will last me a long time.

    Even though prechargeable NiMH batteries have less capacity than conventional NiMHs, they will last way longer because they will need recharging less often (I used to recharge all of my batteries every month; what a pain!). To compensate for the lower capacity, I carry extra spares. The little camera I keep in my purse uses two AAs. My big camera and external flash use four AAs each. My e-book reader uses four AAs. I also have a flashlight that uses three AAAs, an audio recorder that uses two AAs (more convenient than using my cell phone and saves on my cell phone’s battery), and a lighted magnifier that uses three AAAs in my purse. I carry 16 AAs and 16 AAAs in little plastic cases of four each in my purse. They do not take up much room in the purse and I’ve never run out of batteries during the day. even when using the snot out of my large camera and external flash. If I don’t want to lug my purse around when using the cameras, I just slip a couple of cases of AAs in my pocket.

    When I’m on the road, I take both chargers and sixteen each of AAs and AAAs, all in a convenient soft case, with me. The case doesn’t take up much room. I rarely use both chargers but at least I will have it if I really use the snot out of my batteries before I get a chance to charge them. In a pinch, I can always use the chargers in my trucks by plugging them into the two inverters I carry in the truck (I don’t like to do this because people might be tempted to steal them if they see them in use). I have never run out of batteries, even on a long trip.

    I also have other equipment at home (flashlights, remotes, computer keyboards, a music keyboard. mice, etc.) that use AAs and AAAs. When I swap out those batteries, I immediately recharge the discharged batteries.

  12. calebstein

    JuiceDefender Ultimate. Makes up for the fact that I’ve overclocked my phone from 1.2ghz to 1.6ghz and run it on performance mode :D

  13. jeorgekabbi

    you said : “and only charge when the battery is about to die.”

    that used to be true with Ni-Ca bateries , but is not true anymore with lithium ion batteries.

  14. KatsumeBlisk

    I don’t really do anything. My iPod Touch is in airplane mode when I leave the house to save it from scanning Wifi networks for no reason. Disabling Wifi on my devices is the only thing I really do. The battery life isn’t as bad as people make it out to be on these devices.

  15. Saman

    change CPU settings.

  16. Wurzelmann

    Smart phone (Android): I keep my screen brightness around 20-25 %, more is seldom necessary and it drastically increases battery life. Also, I only turn om 2G/3G when I need it.

    Netbook (Xubuntu): basically the same as seen above; WIFI only when I need it and keep the screen brightness real, I replaced the HDD with a SSD, which makes it more flexible and longer enduring.

  17. Alendra

    I don’t.

    Current batteries don’t need any kind of calibration or full discharge/recharge cycles to keep working correctly and for a long time.

    I’ve had a laptop for around 3 years now, never took any special care on the battery (always plugged in, mostly), and whenever I am on battery, it still lasts 6-8 hours (depending on the use, like wireless, high CPU usage, etc.), same as when I first bought it.

  18. rOBzUC

    Smartphone: black static background, no data connection, toggle WiFi when needed, low screen brightness, li-ion battery recharged when 33% left.
    Laptop: I run it plugged in the mains with battery not inserted; when I need it with battery inserted, a power policy automatically decreases the screen brightness. I charge the li-ion battery when 33% is left.

  19. ALI

    I use juice defender to maximize my battery life

  20. XaviAvant

    For my laptop I made a hybrid power setting between low and max performance. On the battery it’s basically set to power saver, limiting processor state to about 80%, automatically turning off the display after 1 minute (If I happen to walk away and forget to close it), enabling sleep on lid close, hibernation after 30 minutes, things like that. I can usually get about a good 9 hours out of my laptop with these settings.

    For my phone (Android), I use Tasker to turn off things like WiFi and Bluetooth after about 10 minutes of no connectivity, and also to turn off when I go to sleep. I keep GPS off most of the time because I never really use it, And I usually get about 18 hours out of it before I ever need a charge. On top of that I also bought a universal backup battery from Duracell, just in case I ever kill it playing a game or something.

    My iPod Touch is usually set to airplane mode when it’s off the dock. Just listening to music, it lasts me about 3 days before it ever needs a charge.

  21. Timothy King

    Simple, turned off vibrate!

  22. dragonbite

    In Linux, at least, I set up the /var location, where log files are written to, to go into RAM instead. The reduced read/write on the hard drive and as everybody knows, physical activity takes a lot of battery power.

    I have also added the Jupiter applet which allows me to easily switch between a full-steam-aheat to a very power-sipping settings and a dynamic “power on call” middle ground.

    Then, of course, there is lowering the screen brightness and turning off Wireless if not using it. I’ve also found that moving to a 9-cell battery makes a difference too! ;)

  23. dragonbite

    I forgot, I also try and boot up while plugged in. Once it is booted up, which is a massive power sucker, then I can unplug and be using it as the battery maintains the system.

  24. RABO

    1. dim screen all the way
    2. disable wifi
    3. disable toutchpad
    4. disable ethernet port
    5. turn screen off after I finish typing/looking at something
    6. set it to sleep after 1min
    I get an extra 3hours
    I squeal like a little girl
    I get kicked out of the starbucks

  25. Hisa

    I don’t bother. I just carry a spare cable with me so I can hook up and charge on the go conveniently. Honestly, I prefer brighter screens, knowing when wifi is available, bluetooth connectivity, and more. As a convenience person, having that extra power cable is better than turning off everything I use daily.

  26. Meena Bassem

    3G and wifi always off, low screen brightness, power saving mode, no apps running in background, sometimes turn off phone during sleep,
    and it doesn’t usually last for more than 3 days, if not used much ,
    that’s for my C7

  27. cpx

    Android smartphone: do not use 3G. EGDE is absolutely enough for simple tasks. And use Wi-Fi if possible. Also, set maximum time for applications to sync data. With these simple trick my Ideos X5 Pro can last for 2 days on 1 charge.

  28. Roshnal

    As for my equipment, I have an iPod, HTC Wildfire S and a Acer Netbook…

    My iPod – Its an iPod Touch 3rd Gen & I find it’s battery more than satisfying (I only use it for listening music when I’m away from home and to read books whenever I can). So its 35+ audio-listening-hour battery is enough for me without doing anything else.

    My HTC Phone – Its battery is it’s biggest problem- it would hardly last more than a day. But for me, its not that-much of a problem as most of the time, I’m home. And when I’m home, I keep it always plugged in to my PC (75% of my life, I’m in front of my PC anyway :D ).

    My Netbook – Its got 8+ hour battery life. More than enough for my needs, and as I said, I’m at home most of the time so I could keep the Netbook plugged in.

  29. rc

    …I use things as they should be used, and then buy a new battery

  30. Ken

    I’m not sure if it’s been mentioned here, but simply turning your smartphone off when you know you won’t be using it for a period of time. A good example is when I go to the gym. I leave my phone in my locker, so there’s no point in keeping it on because my Android is a battery drainer.

    The other thing I do when I have it on and want to conserve power is turning off 4G and GPS when I don’t need them.

  31. xfireslidex

    Laptop (Ubuntu 11.10, Unity) – Use the Jupiter applet as appropriate for your performance/battery needs.

    Android (Root, CM7) – Use Overclock! Widget to underclock when the screen is off. Doing this has doubled the battery life for my Evo Shift.

    Nook (Classic, 3G) – Keep in airplane mode at all times.

  32. Please?????

    I hope theres a guide to maximize jailbroken iPhoness

  33. MdKnightR

    For my Android, Juice Defender is my weapon of choice against battery drain. It comes with a free version, but if you want to tweak the settings and fine tune for more juice savings, there is a Plus and an Ultimate version that you can pay for.

  34. Nat

    for an ipod touch 4th gen: i usually shut off running programs, reduce brightness, and only use programs that use minimal energy.

  35. d3

    My phone’s battery goes out really fast…less than a day….but then i reduced the brightness to the lowest and i removed the vibration intensity from 5 to nothing…. now it lasts for about 3 days….=P

    for laptops….until you get the message “LOW BATTERY” dont re-charge unnecessarily!
    The Battery life runs down…and once its done (100%) only then remove it, not before, not after!
    Dont leave it on the plug when fully charged…. :D

  36. Henry

    turn off wifi and keep brightness at 90% on android

  37. Frank

    I seldom use my laptops on battery, but for my AAA and AA batts and my drill battery I have their chargers plugged into timers from Harbor Freight and have them charging about an hour each day. When I’m doing heavy battery usage I’ll plug them in directlhy, but this setup seems to have them always ready when they’re needed.

  38. Cancerbero

    ¡Wow Lady Fitzgerald, you sure have a complicated life! It seems to me like a gargantuan task to keep up juggling that legion of rechargeable batteries. Congratulations, for a “geriatric”, like you called yourself, you have proved to have an excellent memory.

  39. Mayur Saxena

    Hi Folks,

    I own a simple Java phone, a Sony VAIO VPCEA42EG laptop and I do few things to get maximum life out of the battery. Just make sure, you do not overcharge the phone/laptop battery. When it demands for power, wait till the “Critical” message appears. Then give the power. Also, while downloading, we often keep our laptop plugged to the power. Instead, you can remove the battery and use it directly.

    I had a phone earlier “sony ericsson cybershot k550i” whose battery wasn’t good enough. But with the proper charging, It’s battery life increased to 2 days from 1 day with more consumption. This is all you have to do. If you want to lower the unnecessary consumption, you can turn off the bluetooth, etc devices. Try it.. :)

  40. Vezikon

    to keep my laptop up as much .. I use less programs as I can and also with the less brightness, wifi when needed and always full screen programs

    and for my phone .. i believe that 3G always use less power … and with minimum brightness also and reasonable volume for music make it works for longer time

  41. Jim

    The question posed was “How Do You Maximize Your Battery Life?”, not battery charge. I was expecting to see tips on battery life of which I am very interested since I have a new laptop and battery charge is 5-6 hours.

  42. DiggerP

    @ Jim.
    If you re-read the preceding posts ,there are several tips regarding battery life and every one
    is geared to prolong the time you get from the battery.
    Yes ,I know ,you’re talking about battery life expectancy ,but using the battery conservatively,
    reduces the number of charges for a given time period.
    Batteries are rated for a defined number of recharges ,which is only an estimate.
    Proper treatment and avoiding heat, overcharging or very frequent re-charging will get you
    a long way to reach the predicted number of recharge cycles.

  43. Oldtimer88

    what about the iPad2 ????
    I would like to know:
    1. what battery type it uses?
    2. what will happen when the battery dies, where-who-how it is possible to replace it? or will I have to throw the iPad to the trash?
    3. if you use it connected to AC normally, what effect on its battery life, etc?
    thanks a lot.

  44. Oldtimer88

    ,,,,, and question #4: what is the best way to use the iPad to prolong its battery life, based on its particular type??????

  45. David Chen

    Don’t power on the laptop.

  46. LadyFitzgerald

    @ Cancerebero. Thanks…I think. All seriousness aside, what juggling? When I was using conventional NiMHs, I had to recharge all of them every month, even if I hadn’t used them, because they would self discharge. Since the Eneloops keep their charge for so long, I don’t have to worry anymore about keeping them charged up. When they run down in use, I just swap them out with some spares, then the first chance I get, I recharge them (usually, the same day). I keep my spares in little cases of four that both keep them corralled and, depending on which direction I put the batteries in the case, the case will tell me whether each battery is charged or discharged. I generally put the discharged batteries in my pocket to make sure I remember to recharge them. Granted, some will wear out before others since I don’t make any attempt to rotate my stock, even with some of them approaching three years of age, none have failed me yet. When one eventually does fail, I’ll just replace it.

    Roughly once a year, I run all the spares through the chargers just to make sure they are all charged up. Since, at worst, they have a partial charge on them, it doesn’t take long, even at only 200mA, especially since I don’t have to babysit them while they are charging; the smart chargers take care of that for me. I just glance at the chargers whenever I happen to walk by and when each battery shows FULL, I pull them out and load up the next batch. Switching to Eneloops has saved me an incredible amount of time and hassle. Using only equipment that uses only AAs and AAAs whenever possible reduces the number of kinds of batteries and the number of different chargers I have to keep up with.

  47. Bob

    There is no sense to toggling on and off power saving devices in your laptop. It degrades the display performance of the computer and makes the overall performance miserable while in use in that mode. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot in order to save footwear. A far better idea is to use your laptop on battery and when shutting down, never forget to recharge fully. Never never constantly use it with the power cord in all the time and above all never leave it plugged in for extended periods of time. This is the fastest killer of batteries.

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