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Linux tends to guzzle up more battery life than Windows, even though most Linux installations are lighter than Windows on system resources. Why is that? 

It primarily comes down to a lack of optimized, under-the-hood power settings. Happily, there are Linux tools for optimizing your energy usage. Perhaps the best known is called “laptop-mode-tools”, but it’s  been incorporated into the Linux kernel. Additionally, another common tool named Jupiter Get More From Your Battery With Jupiter [Linux] Get More From Your Battery With Jupiter [Linux] Get better battery life from your Linux laptop. Jupiter Applet is a small program that helps you save energy by adjusting your CPU, tweaking the Linux kernel and your hardware. You probably won't notice a... Read More was recently discontinued.

Don’t worry, though, because there’s another tool worth looking at: TLP.

What’s TLP?

TLP (no one knows for sure what this acronym stands for) is a simple tool available for various Linux distributions. It’s meant to enhance your battery life (or your power usage, for the occasional desktop user who is interested in power savings). You can change a lot of settings by editing a configuration file, but TLP comes with a default options for optimizing battery life. So, if you don’t care about the little details, you can simply install TLP and forget it, and reap the benefits.

tlp_stat
TLP increases battery life with the default configuration by having an ac and a battery mode. In ac mode, performance is preferred, while in battery mode, power savings are preferred. It accomplishes this by changing various states and timeouts of various system devices to reduce the amount of power they draw. These are all settings that you can only access “under-the-hood”, and not via the Gnome or KDE power settings.

Installing TLP

Installing TLP is a quick three-step process. You’ll need to add a new repository, install the packages, and then either start the service manually or simply restart. I’ll be covering installation instructions for Ubuntu and Fedora here – for other distributions, check out the official installation guide.

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Ubuntu

In Ubuntu, you’ll want to do the following:

  1. Run this command to add the repository: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp.
  2. Run sudo apt-get update to make your computer aware of the new repository.
  3. Run sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw to install TLP.
  4. If you are on a ThinkPad, you’ll need to install a few more packages for maximum battery life, which you can do with the command sudo apt-get install tp-smapi-dkms acpi-call-tools.
  5. Finally, run sudo tlp start to start the TLP service. You won’t need to do this ever again as it should start automatically on each boot.

Fedora

In Fedora, you’ll want to run these commands to add the necessary repositories:

yum localinstall –nogpgcheck http://repo.linrunner.de/fedora/tlp/repos/releases/tlp-release-1.0-0.noarch.rpm
yum localinstall –nogpgcheck http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm

Please notice that the second command adds the “free” portion of the RPMFusion repository. If you already have this added, you can skip it. If not, or you’re unsure, do it anyways.

  1. Then, to check the new repository and install TLP, run yum install tlp tlp-rdw.
  2. If you are on a ThinkPad, you’ll need to install a few more packages for maximum battery life, which you can do with the command yum install akmod-tp_smapi akmod-acpi_call kernel-devel.
  3. Finally, run sudo tlp start to start the TLP service. You won’t need to do this ever again as it should start automatically on each boot.

Default Results

tlp_battery_life
I find TLP to be fairly effective. My battery life is already terrible: I usually only get an hour and a half. TLP gives me up to an extra 30 minutes of battery life, bringing me to two total.

Of course, your results will vary greatly and are highly dependent on your system, your usage, and other factors. At least the good thing about the default settings is that you achieve these results with virtually no performance impact – your computer should function as quickly as it did before.

Configurability

tlp_config
If you’d like to change the configuration file of TLP yourself (if you want to save power more aggressively at the cost of performance), you can do so at your own discretion. These settings are highly technical and require that you know what you’re doing. To give you an idea, you can control everything from undervolting to audio controllers to USB autosuspend to disk standby to network settings. I’d recommend that you just go with the defaults, but if you’re set on changing something you should consult this configuration guide. It details everything you can change.

Conclusion

For the amount of time it takes to install TLP, it’s certainly worth using. In less than five minutes, you can enjoy increased battery life with virtually no performance impact. And why wouldn’t you use it, when it’s that quick and that simple?

What’s your favorite method of increasing battery life in Linux (besides the usual tips, like reducing screen brightness)? Let us know in the comments!

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