You love your Linux laptop, but there is one thing that niggles: the battery life. Running with Windows, the laptop has hours of battery life, but under Linux, it’s a different story. So, how can you squeeze more time from your battery, and enjoy a truly portable Linux computing experience?
There are several settings, and even a useful app, that can be used to increase your Linux battery life. Did you know that brightness, wireless connectivity, and removable media all contribute to faster battery drain?
Tweaking these settings can make all the difference — here’s what you need to do!
1. Use Built-In Power Settings
The first thing to check is the power settings. Every Linux operating system offers some level of power management, enabling you to manage how the laptop behaves on battery power. Settings for power management while plugged in are also included.
In Ubuntu, for instance, you’ll find these options in System Settings > Power.
Once you’ve opened the settings screen, adjust the settings in the On battery power column. For instance, you have the option to Suspend when inactive for… and set a time or condition. Or you might specify what happens When power is critically low.
When the lid is closed lets you automatically suspend activity, although you might prefer another option.
While not as detailed as the comparative screen in Windows, you will find enough here change how your Linux laptop behaves in certain scenarios.
2. Lower Your Display’s Brightness
Another sure-fire way to improve battery life is to reduce the display brightness. The easiest way to do this is to check your keyboard for any quick access brightness controls. However, if your keyboard doesn’t have these, you’ll need to use the operating system controls.
To find them, open System Settings > Brightness & Lock and find the brightness slider. Adjust this to suit, finding a workable midway point between lower brightness and readability. Whatever you do, note that avoiding full brightness is the best solution to improving battery life.
Look out also for a setting called Dim the screen to save power. If this is available, check the box.
Also, consider relying on a brighter desktop background. According to the Ubuntu team, darker backgrounds use up to 1% more power than lighter ones.
3. Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Connectivity options are always a problem for maintaining battery life.
Wi-Fi can be a big hit on your battery, often scanning (polling) for new networks to connect to, or refreshing any website tabs you have open. To overcome this, the simple option is to disable Wi-Fi.
It’s easy to do: click the wireless networking icon in the system tray (usually appearing as a series of curved lines). In the resulting menu, click Enable Wi-Fi to clear the check and disable wireless.
When it comes to Bluetooth, on older hardware you’re more likely to run into a problem. Bluetooth 4.0 LTE is very low on resources, so if your laptop is equipped with this, you should be fine. However, if your computer doesn’t have Bluetooth 4.0 LTE compatible hardware, you’re going to run into some increased battery use.
To overcome this, find your Bluetooth settings (usually via the Bluetooth icon in the system tray) and switch to Off. Take care if you’re using any necessary Bluetooth devices, of course, as these will be instantly disabled!
Another option is to disable the older Bluetooth hardware and buy a Bluetooth 4.0 LTE USB dongle. And if you want to disable both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with a single keystroke, try the Airplane mode button on your keyboard.
4. Close Any Apps You’re Not Using
One easily-overlooked battery drain on any system — and Linux is no different — is keeping apps open that are no longer being used. Multitasking can be tough on your battery!
Even if you’re using a different app, the others that are open are using CPU and RAM. They’re not quietly frozen in the background. These apps might be your browser, email client, Skype for Linux, whatever. Not only are they drawing energy from the battery for extra CPU and RAM resources, their presence means that the fan also has to work harder… and guess where the fan is getting its power from?
Naturally, you’re going to need to close these unused apps until you need them again. Right-click the icon on your task bar, launcher, or dock, and select Quit. Meanwhile, if you’re having difficulty closing apps in Linux, these tips should help.
5. Eject Any External/Removable Media
Hard disk drives use battery life. All those moving parts need something to power them. The same can be said for DVD drives. But your battery is built to accommodate these devices. And unless you’ve switched to a solid state drive, your HDD is pretty much required.
However, removable media is a different story. If you’re not using it, you’ll want to remove it. While external HDDs and DVD drives have their own power supplies, USB flash drives and SD cards do not. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to eject these media devices when they’re not in use.
But it doesn’t end there. While the laptop battery should be able to handle DVD use, it’s a bad idea to rely on this disc drive unless you’re expecting the battery charge to drop quickly. Removing the disc from your computer when it’s not in use will prevent any sudden autoloading.
For the best results, however, you might consider removing the entire optical drive and replacing it with an SSD.
6. Manage Your Flash Settings (Or Uninstall)
Ah, Adobe Flash. Although it has finally been given an end date by developers Adobe, Flash remains a piece of software that you need to have for visiting certain websites. It’s less than ideal, but until it goes end of life in 2020, you’re probably going to need Flash installed on your Linux laptop.
Of course, using Flash is a massive resource drain on your system, with your battery taking a massive hit. So what is the answer?
Several options are available. First, you could simply uninstall Adobe Flash, and hope for the best when browsing. Alternatively, you could configure your browser to prevent Flash-based videos from auto-playing.
If you’re using Mozilla Firefox, open the menu and select Add-ons > Plugins. Here, set Shockwave Flash to Never activate. Or, if you expect to need Flash from time to time, use the Ask to activate option. That way, when a video is loaded, you’ll be prompted to enable Flash before it plays.
In Chrome, enter chrome://settings in the browser address bar and find Content settings then Flash. Here, you can toggle whether to Allow sites to run Flash. There’s also the option to Ask first. If you think you’ll need Flash, then activating both of these settings would be the wisest course. On the other hand, you could simply disable Flash.
Also with Chrome, you can try the chrome://flags/ screen, and look for Prefer HTML over Flash. This setting forces websites to present media in HTML5 rather than Flash; when enabled, videos will not play in Flash.
7. Install TLP for Linux
Finally, there’s a great piece of software that you can install in Linux to help improve your laptop battery life. Featuring various customizable configurations, TLP nevertheless ships with a default config file to help you get started.
To install TLP for Ubuntu, you’ll need to add the repository:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp
As with any PPA, you’ll then need to run an update before installing the software:
sudo apt update sudo apt install tlp tlp-rdw
IBM ThinkPad users will need to install the dedicated packages:
sudo apt install tp-smapi-dkms acpi-call-tools
If you’re running Fedora, add the repositories with
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
Next, check the repository and install:
yum install tlp tlp-rdw
Whichever method you use, enter
sudo tlp start
…to run TLP the first time. After configuration, it will run each time your computer boots.
Default use with TLP is good, but you might prefer to adjust some of the settings to tailor it to your laptop. Running the config guide in your preferred text editor will let you tweak the settings
sudo nano /etc/default/tlp
A whole host of settings can be found in the TLP documentation, but these should not be applied without due consideration. Indeed, changing one setting, rebooting (required to apply changes) and seeing how the setting helps or hinders your laptop’s battery is the safest course of action. Note that because of the many differences between laptops, what works for you may not work for your friends.
7 Ways to Improve Your Linux Laptop’s Battery Life
Improving battery life on a Linux laptop is not difficult. All you need to do is:
- Use the built in power settings.
- Tweak the display’s brightness.
- Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
- Close unused apps.
- Eject removable storage.
- Disable Adobe Flash.
- Install TLP.
It’s not difficult to squeeze extra minutes — or even hours — from your Linux laptop battery. All of the above tips and tricks can be applied quickly, and the results are seen immediately. Even TLP takes no more than five minutes to install and use with the default configuration.
What do you use to improve your Linux laptop’s battery life? Do you have a trick to share or an app to recommend? Tell us in the comments.