How to Increase Your Windows Laptop’s Battery Life

We often fixate on smartphone battery life, but most laptops still don’t have all-day battery life. Rather than tethering your laptop to an outlet, here are some ways to squeeze more life from your laptop’s battery.

None of these tricks will turn a laptop without much stamina into an all-day workhorse, but they’ll help you go without an outlet for a while longer. Pay particular attention to your laptop’s display—that’s a big battery sucker.

Use Windows 10’s Battery Saver Mode

If you want to extend your battery life without thinking too much about it, enable Windows 10’s Battery Saver mode. Windows automatically enables this feature when you’re down to 20% battery by default, but you can manually enable it whenever you like. So, if you know you’ll be away from an outlet for a while, you might enable it at the start of a long day.

Battery saver performs a few tweaks automatically, like limiting background activity and lowering screen brightness to achieve longer battery life.

To enable Battery Saver mode, click the battery icon in your notification area and drag the Power mode slider to the “Best battery life” point on the left.

You can customize when Windows automatically enables battery saver from Settings > System > Battery.

Reduce Your Display’s Brightness

The biggest battery drain on any modern portable electronic device—whether it’s a laptop, smartphone, or tablet—is the display. Reducing your screen’s brightness is a simple way to squeeze significantly more time from your laptop’s battery.

On a typical laptop, you’ll just need to press the brightness buttons on your laptop keyboard (on some laptops, you may need to hold the Function (Fn) key while pressing the brightness buttons). The lower the brightness level, the longer you can use your laptop on battery power.

On Windows 10, you can also open the Action Center by clicking the notification icon on your taskbar and click the brightness icon to adjust brightness (click “Expand” if you can’t see it). You can also head to Settings > System > Display and adjust the slider here.

On Windows 7, you can launch the Windows Mobility Center by pressing Windows + X and use it to quickly adjust brightness.

Check Which Applications Are Using the Most Battery on Windows 10

Windows 10 allows you to see which applications are draining your battery the most. It does this by tracking CPU usage over time, then listing which programs are using the most power. This feature isn’t available in Windows 7.

To access this list, head to Settings > System > Battery > Battery Usage By App. This screen will show you which applications are using the most battery. This doesn’t necessarily mean the application is bad—the applications you use the most will probably have used the most battery power, of course. But you may want to consider switching to more power-friendly applications if something is unusually heavy, or close background applications that seem to use a lot of power even when you’re not actively using them.

Microsoft Edge is lighter on battery life than Chrome or Firefox, so you may want to give Edge a try if Chrome or Firefox are using a lot of power. But, if you spend a lot of time in your browser, whatever browser you choose will probably use a lot of power. It’s just a matter of how much.

Turn Off Your Screen and Go to Sleep Sooner

Since the display uses so much power, it’s important not to have it on longer than necessary. You can configure your laptop to automatically go to sleep sooner when you’re not actively using it—or at least turn off its display to save power.

This won’t help your battery life if you’re actively using the laptop the whole time, or always put it to sleep immediately when you’re done, but it can ensure your laptop doesn’t waste power by running for too long when you step away.

To change these settings on Windows 10, head to Settings > System > Power & sleep. Tell Windows when you want your screen to turn off and when you want your PC to go to sleep.

On Windows 7, head to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options and adjust the “Turn off the display” and “Put the computer to sleep” options.

Disable Bluetooth and Other Hardware Devices

Hardware devices you don’t use can also waste battery power for no good reason. For example, if you never use any Bluetooth accessories with your laptop, you can turn off the Bluetooth hardware radio to eke out some more battery life. (f you do use Bluetooth accessories regularly, toggling Bluetooth on and off may not be worth the trouble, as the Bluetooth hardware in modern laptops is more power efficient than it once was.)

To turn off Bluetooth on Windows 10, head to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & other devices and set Bluetooth to “Off”.

On Windows 7, look for a hotkey or option provided by your laptop manufacturer. There’s no convenient toggle to disable Bluetooth built into Windows 7.

You may also want to disable Wi-Fi if you’re working offline somewhere where there isn’t Internet access. If you don’t need any wireless devices at the moment, you can activate Airplane Mode on Windows 10 to turn them all off. An “Airplane mode” toggle is built into the Action Center, which you can launch by clicking the notification icon on your taskbar.

Microsoft also recommends unplugging hardware devices you aren’t using. For example, even leaving a wireless mouse receiver or USB flash drive plugged into your PC could sap some battery life if you aren’t using them.

Tweak Your Power Plan

On Windows 7, you can save energy by selecting the “Power saver” Power Plan from Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options. This isn’t necessary on Windows 10, as you can just use Battery saver mode instead.

To modify advanced power options, click the Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings here.

You can change a variety of settings from the Power Options window that appears, including configuring your laptop to power off its hard drive more quickly and telling your computer to slow down the processor rather than turning on the fan if it becomes hot. Both of these behaviors will save power. The default settings should be fairly optimal if you select Power saver mode, but you can make the settings even more aggressive in some areas, if you like.

These options will also function on Windows 10, too, allowing you to tweak more low-level settings. Just head to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings to find them.

Run the Windows Power Troubleshooter

Windows 7, 8, and 10 include a power troubleshooting tool that will scan your system for common battery drains and automatically fix them. For example, this tool will automatically decrease the time before the display dims if it’s too long, or disable the unnecessary screensaver feature if it’s enabled.

To launch the troubleshooting tool on Windows 10, head to Settings > System & Security > Troubleshoot > Power.

On Windows 7, open the Control Panel, type “troubleshooting” into the search box at the top right corner, and click Troubleshooting > View All > Power.

Windows will look for common issues and automatically fix them. This is a quick way to check if a laptop’s settings are optimal without digging through many different options dialogs.

Lighten Your Software Load

To save power, make your computer do less in general. For example:

  • Don’t use a screensaver. They’re unnecessary on modern displays and will drain your battery to do nothing useful when your display could be off and saving power.
  • Run fewer programs in the background. Examine your system tray for programs you don’t need and uninstall them or disable them and prevent them from automatically starting with your computer.
  • Reduce CPU usage. If you use heavy programs that have your CPU doing a lot of work all of the time, your CPU will use more power and your battery will drain faster. Running fewer programs in the background can help with this, as can selecting lightweight programs that are easy on system resources.
  • Avoid maxing out your RAM. If your computer fills its RAM and needs more memory, it will move data to the page file on its hard drive or SSD, and this can drain battery power. This shouldn’t be as much of a problem on modern computers with a decent amount of RAM. If your laptop’s RAM is full, try to make more RAM available—close programs running in the background or even upgrade your laptop’s RAM.

The less your computer has to do, the more power it can save. You can find more information about CPU and RAM usage in your Task Manager.

Hibernate Instead of Sleep

When your laptop goes to sleep, it uses a small amount of power to power its RAM and keep its system state loaded in memory, allowing it to wake up and resume in just a few seconds. When your laptop hibernates, it saves its system state to disk and powers off, using almost no power.

If you’re not going to be using your laptop for a few hours, place it into hibernate mode rather than sleep mode to conserve even more battery power. Sleep mode doesn’t use a lot of battery power, but hibernate uses as much as having the computer powered off.

The hibernate option is disabled by default on Windows 10, so you’ll have to re-enable hibernate to hibernate directly from the power menu. However, Windows will automatically switch your PC from sleep to hibernate after a period of time, even if you don’t re-enable the manual hibernate option.

If you’ll just be putting your computer aside from a few minutes, you should use sleep instead of hibernate. When you hibernate, the computer has to use power to save its state to disk and then restore it from disk when it starts back up again, so it doesn’t make sense to hibernate the computer unless you won’t be using it for a while.

Take Care of Your Laptop Battery

All batteries lose capacity over time, so your laptop’s battery life will decline no matter what you do. But there are ways to keep your battery as healthy as possible.

For example, don’t always run your laptop down to 0% battery—try to charge it before that. Over the long run, keeping your laptop battery cool will also prevent unnecessary wear and tear caused by heat. Heat is a battery’s biggest enemy.

Image Credit: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.