More and more laptops are designed with non-replaceable batteries. MacBooks, Ultrabooks running Windows, and Chromebooks — no matter what the price point or platform, non-removable batteries are becoming the norm.
In some respects, this is a good thing. These laptops are slimmer and sleeker than ever before, and with low-power processors and fanless designs, their battery life actually far outstrips that of their bulkier counterparts.
But it also gives the laptop a limited lifespan, with the prospect that the battery dies when the rest of the hardware is still going strong.
So what precautions should you take to ensure your non-removable laptop battery last for as long as possible?
Watch The Heat
One of the main factors that affects the life of a laptop battery is temperature. Cold temperatures can be an issue if you live in a cold climate, but high temperatures are a bigger concern.
Not only are ambient conditions at work — including things like leaving your laptop in a hot car — heat is also naturally generated by the computer’s processor and other components.
It’s often recommended that users remove the batteries from their laptops when playing high-end games, editing video, or performing any other resource intensive tasks. However this isn’t possible for models where the battery isn’t removable.
Many of these use lower power components, such as the Intel Core M processor, which are designed to generate less heat. You should also make sure air can circulate around the laptop, keeping any vents clear and not resting it on a cushion. Try and keep it under 35 degrees Celsius.
If you use the laptop in bed, a stand is a good way to help keep it cool.
Charge and Discharge
A common question about laptops is whether it’s better to use them on battery power, or leave them plugged in all the time.
The short answer is, a bit of both. Unibody Apple MacBooks all have sealed batteries, and the company recommends switching between the two on an occasional basis. If you mostly use your laptop in the office, for example, then leaving it plugged in is fine, though you should make a point of running it off the battery every now and then.
Batteries cannot be overcharged, so won’t be damaged directly, but it’s important to remember that charging is yet another source of heat.
Don’t Let It Run Down
If you’re running your laptop off battery power, you should ideally avoid fully discharging it — or even getting below around 20% — on a regular basis.
Tests from batteryuniversity.com show that it can take as few as 300 complete discharges to reduce a laptop battery’s capacity to 70%. This compares to as many as 1500 discharges to a level of 50% before the battery’s lifespan is reduced equally.
That said, many manufacturers do recommend that you perform a full discharge every few months to help keep the battery properly calibrated and to ensure the stats it reports are accurate.
In Windows, you can explicitly prevent the battery from dropping below a certain level. It’s well-hidden, but go to Control Panel > System Maintenance > Power Options > Select a power plan and click Change plan settings. Choose the Advanced settings, then battery, and under Low battery level and Critical battery level change the values to a percentage that you want.
Keep It Charged
The charge level of your battery is also important even when you’re not using your laptop.
HP recommends that batteries should be stored with 50-70% charge at temperatures between 20-25 degrees Celsius. If you won’t be using your laptop for a while, try and keep it in as close to these conditions as possible.
How Long Will Your Laptop Battery Last?
It’s an unavoidable fact that the capacity of a laptop battery declines a little every single time it is charged.
ASUS states that its batteries have a lifespan of between 300 and 500 charge cycles (which is typically measured as using the full capacity of a battery — so a single 100% charge, or two 50% top-ups), after which the capacity will have dropped to 80%.
Therefore, after a year to 18 months, you may begin to notice that the battery doesn’t last for as long as it previously did. At this point, you may want to start focussing on the numerous methods for extending your laptop’s battery life.
You can always check the health of your battery. In Windows 8, you can get a full battery report by going to the command prompt and typing powercfg /batteryreport. Using File Explorer navigate to the folder listed in the command prompt window where you’ll find a file called battery-report.html.
On OS X, go to About This Mac and click System Report for a similarly detailed report. For a much quicker method on OS X, simply hold down the Alt or Option key while clicking on the battery icon in the status bar.
Whether you view it as planned obsolescence or a necessary way to facilitate sleeker products (or even just phasing out a feature that many people never bothered with anyway), non-removable batteries are the future for laptops.
It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you just need to be a little more aware of how you look after the battery than you may have done in the past.
There are no major steps to take. A few common sense precautions and being aware of the factors that can shorten a laptop battery’s life will ensure your battery lives a long and healthy life.
Is a replaceable battery important for you in a laptop? Do you run your laptop off battery or mains supply? Let us know in the comments below.
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