Occasionally we receive a question on MakeUseOf Answers about a battery that refuses to charge. This isn’t surprising. Batteries are known to only last so long, and poor conditions can drastically reduce their life. Issues with chargers or excessive power draw can also be a problem.
Let’s address this common concern. Just what do you do when your battery is on the outs? There are several answers, and they apply to most devices with batteries – laptops, smartphones and even tablets.
Are You Drawing A Lot Of Power?
Every single electronics device in your home, including your DVD player and microwave, has a power supply. The power supply is designed to handle a certain mount of juice. In a device without a battery there is a maximum amount of power draw that must be handled – but no more.
Devices with batteries are different. They come with adapters that are meant to handle a certain mount of power, but what happens if you’re charging the battery and using every bit of juice the device can draw? Your charging may slow or stop.
The most extreme and popular example of this is the iPad 3, a device that badly outmatches the capacity of the adapter. Apple’s latest tablet will sometimes use up battery even though it’s plugged in. Power coming in through the adapter is outmatched by power used by the tablet.
Many phones and tablets exhibit similar behavior. USB charging is a common culprit because a USB connection delivers less power than a connection to a wall socket. Laptops are less likely to have this problem, but I have used gaming laptops that charged slowly if they were used for gaming while the battery in for a fill-up.
Is Your Battery Connection Secure?
This is the re-incarnation of “is it plugged in?” for the wireless world, and just like that old bit of embarrassing advice, this one is equally valid. In fact, I say it’s more valid now than ever before – unlike power plugs, batteries come in all shapes and sizes.
What can you do? Take a very close look at your battery and, if you still have the device’s manual, consult it as well. Make sure there are no gaps and that the battery is flush with its mount.
If that seems to be the case, remove the battery again and check its connectors. It’s rare, but a connection can become blocked by debris, a portion of the connection might become bent or a connector may have suffered corrosion.
Should you find any of the above to be the case you’ll need to clear the connection. Wipe away debris with a soft cloth, re-position any bent metal with a small pair of tweezers and remove corrosion with a small amount of an appropriate cleaner (which may just be water) – just be sure to let the connection dry before using the battery again.
Is The Power Adapter Working?
Sometimes a battery won’t charge because the adapter meant to charge it is broken. The easiest way to check this is to remove the battery, plug in the adapter and see if the device turns on.
With that said, a wounded adapter might appear to work at first but fail to work when you attempt a demanding task. Don’t just plug in the adapter and see if the device works. You should see if it continues to work when the device draws a lot of power, such as when you’re playing a game or watching a high-definition movie.
Re-Calibrate The Battery
In some cases a battery may seems to no longer be charging because of a calibration issue.
Calibration issues occur because a battery does not have a gauge inside it. The battery life gauge you see in your operating system is only a prediction. Battery size, current power draw and known past battery life are some of the variables used to calculate how long your device will last – and sometimes, the calculation can be badly skewed.
Resetting the battery can solve the problem. Allow the battery to discharge fully and then charge back up. The re-charge process may take many hours and may not seem to proceed as it should, but give it time. With luck, your battery will suddenly register a 100% charge and your troubles are solved.
Give The Battery Time To Recover
A battery that appears to be dead may have been deeply discharged. This means that the amount of charge taken out of the battery was more than it was designed to handle, and as a result there’s so little charge left that it appears dead.
Batteries found in consumer electronics don’t often have this problem, but I’ve run across it three times, all with laptop batteries. In each case the laptop had been discharged until it automatically shut down. A laptop is supposed to shut down automatically at around 10% charge, depending on the operating system and user settings, but these laptops hadn’t done that. They’d consumed the battery until nothing was left and then shut down cold.
Reviving a battery from a deep discharge, if it can be revived, requires that you turn the device off entirely and allow it to charge for an extended period of time (at least two or three hours).
It’s Still Not Working!
I handle a lot of electronics of various types, so I’ve run across more than a few batteries that appeared to be malfunctioning, not charging or dead. Every single one of them eventually returned to normal behavior after I followed the tips outlined above.
With that said, batteries do eventually die. My old Lenovo laptop reached a point where it would only last twenty minutes on a charge. Its battery was clearly ready to shed its mortal coil, and no doubt would have if I had not replaced it.
Once your battery issues are resolved, be sure to treat it right to preserve its future endurance. Check out Tina’s article about how to care for your battery to find out more.