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A lot has been written over time about laptop batteries and the best way to preserve the life in them.  In reality this changes depending on the brand of laptop or phone and the type of batteries installed.

In the last few years the quality of batteries has dramatically improved.  For example, the current Apple MacBook Air has a battery life of a full working day.  I use one of these and have managed to get considerably more life out of it.  I have used it, as I would any other laptop, for several days without the need to charge it.  The incredible thing is I was not even trying to get extended life out of it – I did not dim the display, keep an eye on open applications or turn off extra services in the background.  It is a huge step forward in just a few years.

But, how do I now maintain this level of battery life?  Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Do not continuously plug in and then disconnect your laptop. Connecting for short periods of time will wear out the battery much quicker.
  • Every couple of weeks allow your battery to completely discharge (save your work first!) and then plug in to charge overnight.
  • If the device is discharged (0%) then plug it in to charge. Do not leave it for several days as this will severely damage the battery.
  • Think about the environment you are in; is it too cold or very hot? Either extremity can have an effect on the running performance as well as when recharging.

I have come across users in the past who have taken their batteries out of their laptops whilst they have been connected to the mains.  However, in my experience this is not something that I have found to be beneficial.  Once the battery is charged the laptop’s internal system will recognise this and then use the charger simply to keep the laptop running.  You will sometimes see the battery lose a little bit of power because of this as the battery is not doing anything.  One issue I have found is that some laptops will then recognise the battery is removed and will disable some performance.  This is not something I would recommend.

My biggest recommendation is always to use the supplied charger, or the manufacturers recommended replacement.  There are a lot of cheap third party knockoffs out there, and some may be good, but these can have a very detrimental effect on your batteries.  Potentially they could either undercharge or overcharge the batteries.  Neither of these will have a good result.

The type of battery typically used on laptops and mobile gadgets is Lithium-Ion or Lithimum Polymer.  The MacBook Air uses the latter due to its weight.  Otherwise both are pretty similar and have the same recharge life or 300-400 cycles (a cycle is a full drain and recharge).

If you take good care of your laptop or device the battery can survive three to four years, but a more realistic expectation is two to three years.



Adrian Brittlebank is from Silver Cloud Technologies – an independent IT support provider based in London.

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