Who wants to dash to a power outlet in the middle of the night to save their laptop battery? That’s never fun, especially if your family works and learns from home these days, in places where there may not be a convenient outlet nearby. Modern computers, fortunately, are far more efficient than their predecessors. Even low-cost desktop replacement laptops and even gaming behemoths now have a battery life of over eight hours on a single charge. Ultraportables can last for up to 14 hours.
Even so, the unfortunate truth is that unless you pay attention to a few key factors, the battery in your PC or Mac laptop will not last as long as the manufacturer claims unless you pay attention to your power settings, how many apps you’re running, and even the temperature of the room in which you’re working. The good thing is that once you know which options to change, none of this takes much effort to figure out. Let’s look at the best ways to get the most out of your laptop’s battery with the least amount of work.
Use the Windows Performance Management Tool to improve your computer’s performance.
The Windows performance management tool is the first stop on our battery-life improvement tour. It’s a slider in Windows 10 that you may get from the battery symbol in the taskbar. It’s under Settings > System > Power & Battery > Power Mode in Windows 11. Its goal is to categorize all of the parameters that influence battery life into a few simple categories.
The manufacturer of your computer selects the parameters the battery slider regulates. However, keep the following principles in mind:
- The Best Performance setting is for those who are willing to sacrifice battery life in exchange for increased speed and responsiveness. In this mode, Windows will not prevent background apps from using a lot of power.
- The Better Performance (or Recommended) setting stresses power over efficiency, limiting resources for background apps.
- The Better Battery mode uses less power than the default settings in prior Windows versions.
- The Battery Saver mode, which appears only when your PC is disconnected, lowers the display brightness by 30%, disables Windows Update downloads, disables syncing in the Mail app, and suspends most background apps.
To use with a MacBook: On macOS, go to Battery Settings.
You can change a lot of energy and power parameters on recent Mac laptops that run the latest versions of macOS. Open the System Preferences program on macOS Monterey and select Battery.
Check “Slightly dim the display when on battery power” and uncheck “Enable Power Nap while on battery power.” (If you have Power Nap turned on and your MacBook is sleeping, it will periodically wake up to search for updates.) If you disable it, your MacBook will remain entirely sleeping until you want to wake it up.) If you have “Slightly dim the display when on battery power” enabled on newer MacBook Pro laptops, the display brightness adjusts to 75% when you disconnect the machine.
Additional options in the Energy Saver preferences pane may be available depending on your MacBook and macOS version. “Optimize video streaming while on battery” disables HDR video playback, and “Optimized battery charging” improves battery life. Energy Mode is an option on some Macs that is quite similar to the Windows performance management tool described above. You have the following options if you encounter Energy Mode in the Battery area of system preferences:
- Low Power: To extend the life of your battery, reduce the amount of energy you use.
- Automatically select the appropriate performance level for your Mac.
- High-Performance: Increase energy consumption to improve performance during long-term workloads.
Close Apps and Use Airplane Mode to Simplify Your Workflow
If you spend a lot of time working away from a power outlet, it’s a good practice to alter your laptop usage in battery-saving ways, such as keeping to one app at a time and dismissing everything else when you’re not using it. When a room is empty, it’s similar to shutting off the lights. Keep both sets of lights (and apps) on if you’re constantly walking back and forth between the kitchen and the pantry, or between Firefox and Microsoft Word (and open). If you’re just cooking or watching a YouTube video, however, you’ll be better off turning everything else off and locking the door.
If you know you’ll be revising a document with no need for web access, consider setting Airplane mode in Windows or turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in macOS, in addition to shutting down other programs while you single-task. Airplane mode not only reduces distractions but also eliminates a substantial source of battery drain; not only the wireless radios themselves but also the background apps and processes that use them on a regular basis, such as updaters and push notifications.
Close any apps that consume a lot of battery.
Multiple programs and processes running on your system at the same time will drain your battery faster, and chances are you aren’t actively using everything that’s currently running on your computer. The Settings app in Windows is the first place to look for energy-sucking apps.
For a list of apps that are consuming the most power, type “See which apps are influencing your battery life” into the Windows 10 search bar. This list can be found in the Power & Battery settings pane under Battery Usage in Windows 11. If you see a program you don’t use much consuming a lot of power, make sure to close it. Frequently, these are apps you’ve left open in the background, such as Spotify or Adobe Reader.
Then, in the search bar, type “See which processes start up automatically when you start Windows” or open the Task Manager software. Every utility that launches as soon as your computer starts is listed in the Startup tab. Disable anything with the words “Download Assistant” or “Helper” in the name. You can disable the Spotify Web Helper, for example, unless you frequently open Spotify playlists, tracks, or albums through links in a web browser.
To execute comparable app purges in macOS, go to Users & Groups, then Login Items, where you’ll discover a list of apps that are set to run in the background when your Mac starts up.
Graphics and Display Settings can be tweaked.
If your laptop has a strong graphics processor, you may limit its use to games and other graphics-intensive apps, while everything else can take advantage of the more efficient on-CPU graphics processing. Open the GeForce control panel (usually situated in the Windows notification area on the right side of the taskbar) if your system uses Nvidia GeForce graphics, then click the Program Settings tab to allocate each app to a certain graphics-processing chip. Assign the GeForce discrete chip to games and picture and video processing apps like Adobe Photoshop and Premiere and the integrated graphics to everything else.
Open the same Battery preferences pane stated previously on a Mac and make sure the “Automatic graphics switching” option is checked, as shown in the screenshot above from macOS Big Sur. Because you don’t have the same level of control over each program as you do in the GeForce panel, you’ll have to rely on macOS’s judgment when deciding which software should use which graphics accelerator.
Take Notice of the Airflow
Most laptops today include lithium-polymer batteries that require far less maintenance than batteries from a decade ago, thanks to advancements in software and firmware as well as battery technology innovation. You won’t have to execute a full battery discharge on a regular basis to calibrate it, and you won’t have to worry about damaging your laptop if you do.
However, you must be wary of heat, as it will speed the battery’s mortality. Physical blocking of ventilation apertures is the source of the most serious issues. One issue is dust buildup, which can be addressed by cleaning the laptop’s vents and fan. (Blow out part of the dust with compressed air on a regular basis.) However, a more common problem is resting the laptop on a pillow or blanket, which can obstruct the ventilation fan and trap the heat generated by the system. To avoid this, keep your laptop on hard surfaces like a table or a desk that won’t flex and obstruct ventilation or cooling.
Keep an eye on the health of your battery.
Over time, all batteries lose their charge capability and must be replaced. It’s usually a good idea to check on the health of a battery every now and then.
Hold the Option key and click the battery icon in the menu bar to show the battery status on an Apple MacBook notebook to determine if your battery is nearing the end of its life. If you notice a notification that says “Replace Now” or “Service Battery,” your battery is most likely working at a fraction of its original capacity.
By launching the System Information app and heading to the Power page, you can get more specific information on how many charging cycles your battery has survived. To figure out how many more cycles you have left, compare the cycle count value to the rated maximums in Apple’s list.
In Windows 10, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and dive into the world of the command prompt to find a comparable battery-health indicator. Here’s a step-by-step approach to utilizing the command prompt to get a Windows battery report.
Examine the Battery Management Options.
Some new laptops can now automatically track the battery’s temperature history and charging habits. This information can be utilized by the manufacturer’s software to alter “full” charging so that it stays below 100 percent of the battery’s capacity if you don’t use it frequently. (Longer battery life can be achieved by reducing the number of charging cycles.)
Although it’s a good idea to use this monitoring, many manufacturers allow you to disable it to ensure that you’re constantly charging the battery to its maximum capacity. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu on a MacBook running macOS Catalina or later, then choose Energy Saver. Deselect “Battery health management” from the Battery Health menu, then click OK. For Windows laptops, instructions differ by brand; here’s Dell’s guidance.
Always have a backup battery with you.
Finally, bringing an external battery pack with you is the simplest method to ensure that you always have enough battery power.
External power sources are connected to your laptop in the same way that your charger is. They usually cost between $100 and $200 and include adapters for a variety of laptop types. They work on multiple systems and can even be used on other devices like your phone or tablet.
These tips can assist you in getting the most out of your battery. If you’re looking for a new laptop and one of your main concerns is battery life, take a look at our list of the best battery-life laptops we’ve tested.