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There are many things you can do to improve your laptop’s battery life 20 Ways To Increase Laptop's Battery Life 20 Ways To Increase Laptop's Battery Life Read More . But is there anything you can do to extend the actual lifespan of the battery?

One often discussed question is whether it’s better to keep your laptop plugged in, or if you should use it on battery power.

Turns out, the answer isn’t entirely straightforward. Let’s take a look.

Know Your Laptop Battery

There are two main types of battery New Technology Halves Cost of Lithium-Ion Batteries New Technology Halves Cost of Lithium-Ion Batteries A new manufacturing approach developed by researchers at MIT and startup 24M could significantly reduce the cost of the batteries while improving safety and durability. Read More used in laptops: lithium-ion and lithium-polymer. Although they are different technologies, they function in broadly the same way, with power being created by the movement of electrons. This flow also helps to keep the battery healthy.

For both types of batteries, the following statements are true (for modern laptops):

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  • A battery cannot be overcharged. There’s no danger of a battery being overcharged if you leave it plugged in all the time. As soon as it hits 100%, it will cease charging and won’t start again until the voltage falls below a certain level.
  • Fully discharging a battery will damage it. Having a battery fully discharged for an extended period can put it into a deep discharge state, from which it might never recover.

So, based on this, do we conclude that you should simply leave your laptop plugged in all the time? Not quite.

Things That Damage Lithium Batteries

The truth about lithium-based batteries is that they are inherently unstable. They begin to lose capacity from the moment they are produced, and there are numerous factors that hasten their decline How a Battery Works and 3 Ways You Can Ruin It How a Battery Works and 3 Ways You Can Ruin It The modern battery is featured in so many of our favourite technologies that you could almost be forgiven for not spending time learning about their workings. Read More . These include:

  • Charge/discharge cycles. Every battery has a finite number of times it can be charged and discharged.
  • Voltage level. The higher the charge level (measured in volts per cell), the shorter the battery’s life.
  • High temperature, over 30 degrees celsius. This can cause irreparable damage.

The last two are the ones that we’re most concerned with here. A comprehensive study by Battery University Battery University: Your Guide To Rechargeable Batteries Battery University: Your Guide To Rechargeable Batteries Read More highlights how voltage level and high temperatures will shorten the life of a battery in isolation, and even more when they combine.

Charge Level

Lithium-ion batteries charge to 4.20V/cell, which amounts to 100% of its capacity. At this level, the battery will have a lifespan of 300-500 discharge cycles.

battery university

Every 0.10V/cell reduction in the charge doubles the number of discharge cycles, until the optimum is reached: 3.92V/cell, with 2400-4000 discharge cycles. Unfortunately, at this level the battery is only 58% charged, so the runtime will be little more than half of a fully-charged battery.

Heat

And then there’s heat. Elevated temperatures, typically classified as being over 30 degrees celsius, will shorten the life of a battery irrespective of any other factors. Simply leaving your laptop in your car on a summer’s afternoon is a bad idea.

When the stress of high temperature combines with the stress of high voltage, the effects are even greater.

The Battery University tests showed that a battery stored with a 40% charge at 40 degrees would see its capacity fall to 85% after a year.

battery temperatures

Charged to 100% the capacity falls to 65% under the same conditions. For a fully charged battery at 60 degrees the capacity plummets to 60% in just three months.

The evidence seems clear. Keeping the battery permanently charged at 100% will slowly shorten its life. Keeping it at 100% and exposing it to high temperatures will shorten it much quicker.

These high temperatures are not just environmental. Resource intensive tasks such as gaming or video editing will considerably increase heat levels How To Fix An Overheating Laptop How To Fix An Overheating Laptop Read More , and using the laptop on a pillow or in a poorly designed case will trap that heat as well.

Should You Remove The Battery?

If heat is such a danger, it begs another question. Should you remove the battery altogether when using your laptop on AC power?

Obviously, this isn’t possible on the growing number of laptops that sport sealed batteries How To Care For Your Non-Removable Laptop Battery How To Care For Your Non-Removable Laptop Battery What precautions should you take to ensure your non-removable laptop battery last for as long as possible? Read More .

remove laptop battery

Where they are replaceable, the answer seems to vary from one manufacturer to the next. Acer, for instance, suggests removing the battery at all times. When Apple produced laptops with removable batteries, it advised against ever taking them out.

It all comes down to the power management setup in the laptop Save Energy & Extend Your Battery Life With Custom Windows Power Plans Save Energy & Extend Your Battery Life With Custom Windows Power Plans Read More . Some may reduce the power when a battery isn’t present, just as some do when the battery level gets low. This could leave you with subpar performance.

If you do choose to remove the battery, ensure that you store it properly. This means charged to between 40% and 70%, and kept at room temperature.

Recommendations

Curiously, the industry as a whole doesn’t seem to have settled on a single answer for the question about whether to use your laptop on AC or battery power.

We’ve seen that Acer recommends removing the battery when on AC power. HP draws the line at two weeks of continuous charging. But Dell says there’s no problem leaving the laptop plugged in at all times.

plugged in

Apple’s advice is no longer on its website, but you can still read it online. The company recommends against leaving a laptop plugged in all the time. Instead, it suggests:

An ideal user would be a commuter who uses her notebook on the train, then plugs it in at the office to charge. This keeps the battery juices flowing

Leaving your laptop plugged in will not cause short term damage, but if you only ever use it on AC power you’ll almost certainly find that after a year the battery’s capacity has been significantly reduced. Similarly, if you only ever use it on battery power you’ll get through the battery’s discharge cycles quicker.

So, the best solution is something of a compromise between the two: use it on battery power some days, and keep it plugged in on others. And in all cases, you’ll want to ensure it doesn’t get too hot.

How do you use your laptop? What steps do you take to keep your battery lasting for as long as possible? Let us know in the comments.

Image credits: Remove laptop battery via ifixit.com, Plugged in via Anthony Ryan

  1. Judy in the Pacific NW
    November 6, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    I use AC power on my Dell XPS M1530 and did so successfully for 8 years on the original battery. Late last year I noticed that my laptop was heating up and that the battery was failing. Until then, I could still rely on my battery those relatively short times I needed to work without AC. I usually work with multiple programs open and I like a bright screen, and I found that even with a brand new fully-charged battery, I couldn't work very long before I was losing my charge. As a result, I will continue to use AC power with the battery in place, as Dell recommends. I'm on my laptop for hours every day and I rarely shut it down. I think my experience shows that (at least with a Dell) you can use your AC with your battery in place for quite some time.

  2. Kirk
    October 15, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    That's way, WAY too much to think about and even be bothered with. My solution is simple. Remove the battery permanently and use the laptop only wherever and whenever a power socket is available. It reduces the portability a bit, but I can't think of anywhere I could legitimately use a laptop computer that one couldn't find a power socket nearby easily. Better that than be bothered with additional unnecessary chores just to keep the expensive-to-replace battery running, in which case it will probably just die out anyway. No thanks. If I can't unplug it and leave it alone and not think about it for months and even years at a time, then come back to it and turn it on and have it "just work", then it isn't worth it.

  3. Heather
    September 30, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Dell is full of horse crap!! I left my laptop plugged in a lot the first year i had it, because it rarely left my desk setup. And barely a year into owning the brand new laptop, the motherboard fried itself! When i called customer service, they were like yeah you can't leave it plugged, try taking battery out for awhile. But at that point it had already died. They said my warranty was void and they couldn't help. What a crock! I had to basically replace the whole dang thing, just glad the price was lower then getting a new laptop.

  4. Israel As.
    August 2, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Heey How are Everyone!! I'm Izra,
    I just need some clarification about the battery being removed or not during usage, of course I read the article and I appreciate that for sharing the real concept and recommendation you EXPERTS. but there is something that I need to know well; that is, did the laptop circuit component/as a general the laptop is gain a power from the direct power which is coming from the laptop adapter or which pass through battery circuit?? Meaning that, if I kept plugged in the battery's onto the laptop and give the power source to the laptop; IN MY ASSUMPTION, first the laptop power adapter gives its DC power to battery's and the battery's try to filter any AC voltages may be which passed through the adapter, and finally the battery's circuit gives its pure DC (the only pure DC voltage is comes from batteries) voltage to the laptop circuits; so if this assumption is right the better option is kept the battery's plugged in. So, you experts what did you say/recommend on the questions and assumptions that I kept in my mind.
    In addition to this, is there any things happen if the battery charging level is reach 100% and I’m kept plugged in the power source which coming from laptop adapter as well as keep using the laptop. IN MY ASSUMPTION if the battery level is reached 100% there is no excessive charging and discharging process is happening, if so there is nothing that affect the battery’s discharge cycles except filtering the voltage which comes from power adapter.

    Let me know your ideas.

    Thanks again for your efforts and sharing your knowledge!!!

  5. Marko
    July 16, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    i have Fujitsu/Siemens Amilo 1450G over 10 years, maybe 12... And I never, i said never unplug the battery. And battery still hold on for 2 hours, like before 10-12years.

  6. Al
    July 7, 2016 at 5:32 am

    Very useful information. I just bought a relatively high end ASUS and trying to figure out whether I should leave it plugged in...

    My strategy with my old Sony Vaio was to take the battery off unless I took on the road, and it seemed to work. After 8 years of use, battery lost very little from its capacity. But the capacity was terrible to start off with: Only 1.5 hours :(

    One question I have is, do the circuitry that prevents a battery from being overcharged work when the computer is shutdown?

  7. Sybil Schwencke
    June 29, 2016 at 3:08 am

    Hello from Singapore :)
    For someone who has no knowledge of technical facts , I found these tips most helpful. So Thank-you for taking the time to write this article. I now charge my lap-top/cell phone when battery drops to 30 % and switch off when it reaches 95 %
    Sybil S

  8. djwind
    June 25, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I have a Dell Vostro 3700 for over 5 years. I keep it 95% of the time plugged in. I use my laptop as a desk PC. I keep the battery mainly as a protection to voltage spikes caused by power failures. Only a few months ago I get a message from Power Management that the battery's life is low and recommends replacement. But if I unplug it it still has power for some 2 hours. Hence, I conclude that Dell is right in saying that you can keep the laptop plugged in. In the past I had a Toshiba Sattelite laptop a with similar situation, although the battery's life was shorter, it lasted some 3 years.

    • aclav
      July 15, 2016 at 1:45 am

      hey! i just got a new li-ion battery for my toshia satellite (L755) and i'm wondering if i understood you correctly. your toshiba's laptop battery life lasted for 3 years while leaving it plugged in 95% of the time?

  9. asadkhattak
    June 25, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Hi, I am using a sony VAIO for last two and half years. I have kept charge level at 80% and laptop is always plugged in. Once in a blue moon, i unplug it and consume the power upto 20%. Still the battery gives me around 3 to 4 hours, which is quite satisfactory.

    PS: My screen is on 50% brightness

  10. julius-kpopper
    April 24, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Hi! I'm trying to calibrate the battery of my laptop, HowToGeek and Tom'sHardware both told me to charge it up to 100% and let it rest for 2 hrs, keeping the laptop plugged in. Is it okay, for the sake of calibrating the battery??? I really need answers coz' i'm scared it might break, and i don't want that :(

  11. PAULETTE
    April 18, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE, SINCE 2008 I BEEN LOOKING FOR ANSWERS.

  12. 1singur
    March 27, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    I have an ASUS gaming notebook which I use daily at home, meaning I rarely take it somewhere else (I don't do office work on it). That means I keep it plugged permanently. Every couple of months I eventually unplug it for a night, or use it on battery alone to discharge it a bit, but not more often than that. After a year of almost daily gaming and the occasional unplugging it charges to 98-99 percent, which should be quite good if I am to believe this article.
    I wouldn't trust taking it out of the laptop though, for two reasons. One is that the battery discharges anyway, albeit much slower, but it surely does. If it reaches almost zero juice while I forgot about it, it dies completely. I've had this happening before with batteries. The other reason might be just a myth, but I wouldn't be the one to find out it might be true: there might be a higher risk of getting your laptop fried by an electrical fluctuation if the battery is not present. This could be hardly possible nowadays because the charger has it's own circuitry meant to secure against such fluctuations, but it is believed that the battery acts like a buffer too.

  13. obiad
    February 15, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Should i Power supply plugin all times while working it all times

  14. Ivan Dimitrov
    February 8, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Hello!

    I want to ask this: Should I remove my laptop Battery when I am at home and using it like a computer? My laptop is plugged in the AC with a battery. When the battery fully charges I remove the AC and when Windows 10 tells me that my battery is at 10% I put the AC back. I repeat that... But I don't want to, because my battery life goes down... Is it safe to remove the battery when I use my laptop at home? What are the risks of making that? Will the battery die and if it will - How can I prevent that from happening? Will the laptop work slow?
    I have read all the things here but still I want to ask... sorry for this

  15. Shailendra Prasad
    December 11, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    I am searching all over the internet but there is so much differences between al Tech Gurus. I just got a new Apple Macbook so wanted to see what is the best option to run it for a longer time but after so much research I am still clueless. Keeping it plugged in always or not has no one answer and that is the headache.

  16. Jack
    December 4, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Hmm.. I plugged in all times since Asus Notebook doesnt have replaceable batteries and it is sealed too.

  17. Maryon Jeane
    October 3, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Oh - and while searching for an answer to the 'screaming laptop' problem, I found this which might be helpful to someone - worth noting, perhaps? http://tinyurl.com/abplyk

  18. Maryon Jeane
    October 3, 2015 at 10:38 am

    At the risk of being slightly off topic, my laptop (Lenovo Thinkpad x200) has recently started emitting a 'scream' (sharp, high, continuous bleeping) every time it's plugged in with its battery in. Nothing I do resolves the problem. It's been back for repair, but still no joy. Tried different chargers, different batteries, different sockets (with and without protection), but the result's the same: the scream. I've never met this before and it seems to have everyone flummoxed - anyone any ideas among this savvy crowd?

  19. Rafa Melo
    September 26, 2015 at 6:45 am

    Short is good; specially with a nice video to backit up!!! jaja Here's your spanish dose too...

    HASTA LA VISTA BABY!!

    A battery cannot be overcharged. There’s no danger of a battery being overcharged if you leave it plugged in all the time. As soon as it hits 100%, it will cease charging and won’t start again until the voltage falls below a certain level.

    Fully discharging a battery will damage it. Having a battery fully discharged for an extended period can put it into a deep discharge state, from which it might never recover.

    //Charge/discharge cycles. This is possible the most important fact; Every battery has a finite number of charges programmed into the controller for charge and discharge. In laptops is known to be 500 cycles; in mobile devices I haven't confirm the controller charge limits yet.

    //Voltage level. Another important factor; The higher the charge level amperage (measured in volts per cell), the shorter the battery’s life.

    High temperature, over 30 degrees celsius. This can cause irreparable damage if the use generate heat beyond specificatiions or charge levels as mentioned above //.

    As far as my research on the World Wide Web and personal battery usage goes, there is no harm in keeping the laptop plugged in all the time. The technology has improved, battery never gets over-charged either on newer lithium-ion computers or mobile devices.

    My experience with a Mac Pro was that the battery self destructs at 3 years on the dot. One day it works fine. 3 years + 1 day, nothing. This may fall in the charge/discharge cycle facts so a recommendation will be to not discharge below 20% if possible. Laptops tend to have a 500 charge cycles programmed in the controller; mobile devices as phones might have this program as well within the controller hardware but I haven't confirmed it.

    Estos detalles acerca de las batterias ayudaran a que tus equipos duren mas y reduscas los danos a la baterias. La technologia ha mejorado pero los puntos mas importantes estan marcados con // y en el video que esta en ingles y no ha sido traducido.

    Una bateria no puede sobre cargarse. Hoy dia esa idea o peligro ha sido eliminado por los adelantos y controladores integrados en las baterias o equipos mobiles de comunicacion. Cuando la carga llega a 100% el controlador para la carga y no se inicia hasta que el voltage sea reducido nuevamente.

    Descargar un bateria completamente puede dañarla: Tener una bateria descargada completamente for un periodo extendido puede dañarla y ponerla en un estado de descarga profunda que puede ser dificil de recuperar.

    //Cantidad de ciclos de CARGA/DESCARGA. Esta puede ser la mas importantes de todas; cada bateria tiene un numero de cargas definido en el controlador de carga y descargas. En laptops es conocido como 500 ciclos en los mobiles no es determinado la cantidad todavia.

    //Nivel de carga de voltage. Otro factor importante, Mientras mas alto el nivel de carga en amperajes mas corta es la vida de la bateria por el calor generado.

    Altas temperaturas por encima de 30 celsius. Esto cae junto con el calor generado por uso o carga y puede crear condiciones inreversibles y reducir la vida de la bateria como el "Nivel de carga de voltage".

  20. Rafa Melo
    September 26, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Good article the video is superb but this is applicable to mobile battery devices as well

  21. Rafa Melo
    September 26, 2015 at 5:49 am

    What ampHour you have? Cause this guy is on time; the delivery got me wattsmerized!!

  22. Sachin Goral
    September 25, 2015 at 2:52 am

    As far as my research on the World Wide Web and personal laptop usage goes, there is no harm in keeping the laptop plugged in all the time. The technology has improved, battery never gets over-charged.

    But,
    IMPORTANT: DON'T FORGET TO FULLY DISCHARGE AND RECHARGE THE BATTERY ONCE IN 20 TO 30 DAYS.

    Been following this since I got my laptop 2 years back and there is no drop in battery backup time whatsoever.

    • Ahamed Mahuzin
      September 26, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      yup, agreed 100% with what u said; me too always keep my laptop plugged & @ every 30 battery cycles I completely discharge & charge it back. been following this for the last 1 and half years.

  23. Gangadhar Kulkarni
    September 24, 2015 at 3:19 am

    Dear Andy,

    Informative article indeed......!!!

    The information you provided here about laptop battery life and recommendations are really helpful for laptop users like me.

    Thanks again for sharing such a valuable stuff with us.......!!!

    Regards,
    Gangadhar

  24. George Guba
    September 23, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    My experience with a Mac Pro was that the battery self destructs at 3 years on the dot. One day it works fine. 3 years + 1 day, nothing.

  25. smehlert
    September 23, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    My Lenovo laptop allows me to maintain a charge of 60% while plugged in… very handy to save the battery

  26. Nicholas Symonds
    September 23, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Lets be honest, most people will have purchased a new laptop (every 3-5 years) before the battery has a chance to show any drastic deterioration anyway.

    Only one time ive noticed a battery isnt as good as it once was; I received a free laptop as a hand-me-down and it had been used all over the place (indoors and outdoors) in varying ambient temperatures.

  27. Chinmay Sarupria
    September 23, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Laptop batteries are the worst of all. I have not yet seen a single person whose laptop is not plugged in all the time. If they don't do it, their laptops get shut down quickly. Whatever the brand may be, I am seeing this 24/7. Only Apple is an exception.

  28. Arjun Sreekumar
    September 23, 2015 at 5:08 am

    acer recommends plugging in the AC adapter whenever possible

  29. Anurag Jain
    September 23, 2015 at 2:36 am

    I don't travel while carrying the laptop.While at home..I charge it to around 95-99%. Then us it on battery power till the battery reaches 15-20%. Is this way right ??

    • Race Quest
      September 23, 2015 at 5:09 am

      In my opinion always use AC adapter when possible. You only have a finite number of charge cycles so each time you do that - in your case - you used about 80%-85% of one of those full cycles, so you are slowly wearing you battery out. Although there "may" be a risk of overcharging and shortening battery life by having AC power connected most devices ARE smart enough not to do this. ANY time you are using only the battery you are using part of your finite number charging cycles and you should avoid that. I don't think this article made that clear.

      • Race Quest
        September 23, 2015 at 6:22 am

        After my last comment, I read "BU-808: How to Prolong Lithium-based Batteries" and BU-409: Charging Lithium-ion at http://batteryuniversity.com/ and I see there are cases when running for some time on battery will help. Cases where you believe your device is a always doing a "top up" charge. If it is not then this is not needed. Going to 50% would be better that 15-20% you mentioned and how often do it is not really stated anywhere I can find my gut feeling is once a week. What policy you choose is dependent on how smart is the charging hardware and how it has been programmed.

      • Andy Betts
        September 23, 2015 at 12:06 pm

        Batteries are typically guaranteed for 300-500 charge cycles until the capacity drops below 80%. So, that's at least a year of charging 100% every single day. Charging 80% every other day will give you the best part of three years.

        In reality most people will have bought a new laptop before they're worked through the battery's charge cycles.

        • 1singur
          March 27, 2016 at 11:12 pm

          People in poor countries don't buy laptops every 3 years. I spent some good money on mine, here's hoping it'll last me more than 5. My desktop was 10 years old when I got my laptop. I had to retire it because it had AGP 8X video interface and... well, you know how it is. Couldn't play anything better than Half-Life 2 and San Andreas.

  30. Pradip Shah
    September 23, 2015 at 1:39 am

    I have a USB controlled power outlet to which I attach the charger. I have a looping startup script file which checks the status of battery charge level every 10 minutes . It switched on when the charge level drops to 10 % and switches off when it exceeds 95 %. I am using it with a 5 year old Asus netbook. When I power it off it also switches off the charger. The battery is still going strong.

  31. Allan Pendlebury
    September 23, 2015 at 12:44 am

    I have a 5 1/2 year old Dell Studio 1747. One feature I like about it is that by a simple Fn plus battery key gives the option to disable charging; which i do as the laptop is plugged in 99.9% of the time. This would be in my opinion a great feature for all laptops.

  32. likefun butnot
    September 22, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    On days when I'm mobile, I most often run my laptop off its battery up to approximately lunchtime, then break out the charger after lunch. If I know I genuinely need its CPU, I'll plug in to make sure I can get all four cores running at full speed, but most often my laptop is just a terminal to some other computer anyway.

    As an interesting point of reference, Genuine OEM batteries for Dell Latitudes are much less expensive compared to OEM batteries for Thinkpads. Dell's batteries are definitely priced to sell.

    For home users, I almost always tell them to just remove the battery if they're planning to leave it plugged in. I also tell them they should've purchased a desktop if that's really how they were going to use their computer.

    • Jose Luis Lalama
      September 23, 2015 at 2:30 am

      what if the home space is reduced? i live in an apartment and don't have the space for a desk to sit a desktop computer on top of it. a laptop also means less cables.

      • likefun butnot
        September 23, 2015 at 2:40 am

        @Jose Luis Lalama,

        An Intel NUC is a fantastically small device that can plug in to an HDTV or computer monitor.
        I'd recommend one of those over a laptop that isn't going to used as a portable computer any day of the week.

        • Jose Luis Lalama
          September 23, 2015 at 3:12 am

          very interesting. never heard of it before. ill keep that in mind next time im in the market to replace my current laptops. thanks.

        • 1singur
          March 27, 2016 at 11:15 pm

          You could also look for a capable all-in-one.

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