How to Increase Your Chromebook’s Battery Life

Chromebooks are supposed to have amazing, all-day battery life — but not all of them do. Follow these tips to squeeze more battery life out of your Chromebook.

The same basic principles apply whether you’re trying to boost a Windows laptop’s battery life or squeeze more time out of a MacBook. But every operating system has its own way of doing these things.

Decrease the Display Brightness

When you want to make any type of mobile device last longer on battery — whether it’s a laptop, tablet, or smartphone — the first thing to do is decrease its display brightness. The display backlight uses a lot of power, and dimming the display makes it use significantly less power.

To dim the display, just press the brightness up/down keys. You should find these on the top row of your Chromebook’s keyboard.

If your Chromebook has a backlit keyboard, you can also temporarily disable that when you want to squeeze more battery life out of your device.

Disable Bluetooth and Other Radios

As on any type of device with wireless radios, the radios use power while they’re enabled. Even if you’re not actively using them, Bluetooth, cellular, and Wi-Fi radios are scanning for signals. Disabling those radios can save power with no real disadvantages if you’re not using them.

Bluetooth is used to connect with various peripherals. If you’re not using and Bluetooth peripherals, disable the Bluetooth radio by clicking the “system tray” area at the bottom-right corner of your taskbar and clicking the Bluetooth option.

If your Chromebook has a cellular radio so it can access cellular data, you may want to disable that if you’re not using it. You’ll see a mobile data option in the system-tray pop-up list if your Chromebook supports this. Click that and use the options to disable it.

It seems silly to consider disabling the Wi-Fi in a Chromebook, but — if you’re working offline on your Chromebook, or if you have an Ethernet cable plugged in — you can disable the Wi-Fi radio in the same way you can disable the Bluetooth radio. Just click the system tray area, click Wi-Fi, and disable it.

Unplug Peripherals

Unplug any peripherals you’re not using, too. Dongles like the USB wireless receiver dongles shipped with many wireless mice use power while plugged in, as do USB flash drives and any other connected devices. The less devices plugged in, the less power your Chromebook wastes on peripherals.

View Per-Web Page Battery Usage

The current developer channel build of Chrome OS offers a feature that allows you to see how much battery power has been used by different web pages and Chrome apps. You probably don’t have this feature yet, but it should be trickling down to the stable release of Chrome OS soon. If you’re reading this long after December, 2014, you probably have this feature right now.

To access it, open the Settings page and click the Battery button under Device.

You’ll see a list of the web pages and apps you use ordered by how much of your battery power they’ve consumed, so you can make informed decisions.

Close Open Tabs and Background Processes

As on any other computer or device, doing more with your Chromebook uses more power. If you have a large amount of tabs open — especially if they’re refreshing or updating in the background — this will drain your battery faster. If you have background processes using CPU, they’ll use power too. If you have quite a few extensions installed and they’re running in Chrome or executing scripts on every web page you load, that will also use additional power.

You may want to trim things down. First, close any unnecessary tabs, especially ones that might have advertisements or other activate content that’d be updating in the background. Try to keep your tabs to a minimum. if you need to come back to something later, you can bookmark it. You can even right-click your tab bar and select Bookmark All Tabs to bookmark a set of tabs as a folder so you can easily come back to them later.

Second, open Chrome’s Task manager by pressing Shift+Esc; right-clicking Chrome’s window bar and selecting Task manager; or clicking Chrome’s menu button, pointing to More tools, and selecting Task manager. Examine the list of background processes here. If there are some processes you don’t feel are essential, you may want to disable or uninstall them.

While your’e at it, consider your list of installed extensions. If you don’t need an extension, you may want to uninstall it to speed up your browser and get more battery life. Click the menu button in Chrome, point to More tools, and click Extensions to view and manage your installed extensions.

Turn It Off

If you use your Chromebook constantly and it’s your main computer, you may want to leave it in its standard sleep mode all the time. Open your Chromebook and it will pop right out of its sleep so you can use it immediately.

However, sleep mode does use some power. It’s a small amount of power, so it’s better to use sleep mode if you’re stepping awy from your Chromebook shortly instead of going through the shutdown and startup processes.

However, if you use your Chromebook less frequently — perhaps it sits on a coffee table and you go days without touching it– you may want to consider shutting it down. If you find yourself picking up your Chromebook and being annoyed that its battery has drained while you weren’t using it, shutting down your Chromebook can prevent this from happening and ensure your Chromebook only loses battery power when it’s being used. You’ll have to boot up your Chromebook the next time you use it, but Chromebooks boot up pretty quickly.

As always, none of these tips are mandatory. If you’re happy with your Chromebook’s performance, there’s no need to spend time tweaking it and disabling potentially useful hardware features and extensions to improve battery life. If you’re already happy with your battery life; that’s great — you don’t need to tweak!

Image Credit: John Karakatsanis 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 Google+.