Easy fixes for laptop battery issues

A laptop battery that doesn't last defeats the purpose of the portability of the machine. Not all issues require a replacement. Try the below tips and tricks to bring new life to an old battery.

Easy fixes for laptop battery issues

My laptop battery barely lasts an hour

Set up your system for maximum life

Short battery life is the curse of all laptop users, but there's lots you can do to boost your machine's stamina.

  • Eject CDs and DVDs when they're not in use. If you need to access data or programs on a CD or DVD, copy them onto your hard drive rather than accessing them directly from the disk.
  • Disconnect unused USB devices (such as mice, external hard drives and scanners) — they all draw power from your laptop battery.
  • Run only one program at a time; for example, don't play music while working on a spreadsheet.
  • Add more RAM — it'll make your computer faster, too.
  • Set up your laptop to save energy; your computer's hardware and system settings can be configured to cut power use or improve performance. If running Windows, go to Control panel -> Power options and select a set of options that best fits the way you work. Mac OS X users can find these controls at System preferences -> Energy saver.
  • Turn down the screen brightness.
  • Regularly defragment a Windows laptop hard drive.
  • Switch off your laptop's Wi-Fi connection if you don't need to be online. In Windows, go to Control panel-> Network and sharing center -> Change adapter settings -> Disable wireless network connection. If you are using Mac OS X, click on the Airport icon in the Menu bar, and disable the Wi-Fi connection.

My battery stores less power each time

Prevent the memory effect

Laptops from the 1980s and early 1990s use Ni-Cd batteries, while newer models usually use Li-ion technology. If you have a Ni-Cd or Ni-MH battery, you can slow down its gradual loss of power over time.

  • Charge your laptop battery fully, and then discharge it completely at least once every two weeks. Avoid topping off the charge too often between complete discharges.

My charger cable is fraying

Play it safe and reinforce your connection

Moving your laptop when it is charging puts strain on the charger cable at the point where it plugs into your computer. The cable may become loose or even begin to fray — but it's easy to reinforce this vulnerable area.

  • Visit your local electronic components shop and ask for a length of heat-shrink sleeving. Buy the smallest diameter that will fit snugly over the cable plug — it will cost very little. Cut off a six centimetre (2 1/2 inch) length and poke the plug through it so that the sleeve end is flush with that of the plug's barrel.
  • Carefully heat the tubing using a lit candle, cigarette lighter or heat gun. It will contract, fitting snugly around the plug's body and cable.

Is it time to toss it?

An ancient laptop may not be able to run the latest media files or even access the web, but it can be given a new lease on life as a basic word processor or email device.

Dead keyboards or trackpads can be remedied with cheap USB plug-in replacements, and a dead battery is no obstacle if you're happy to keep the laptop plugged in. However, if a pre-2000 machine with a slow Pentium or 486 processor won't start up, it's probably time to invest in a new machine rather than spending your money on a repair.

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