Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
Limited battery life can be so irritating. When your computer is updated, ticking along like a dream, and your battery seemingly lasts for decades, you’re in a technology sweet-spot. But we’ve all been at the other end of the spectrum; device standby and troublesome applications draining your battery life past zero, and into the bad zone.
Windows computers are no different, and Windows 10 brought forth a rash of battery life improvements, even granting extra-life to older devices updating to the new operating system. It hasn’t all been a breeze though. Some applications prove tricky to manage, desperate to eat through your precious ions before you’ve had chance to work or play.
You can identify what is destroying your Windows 10 battery life, and we will show you how.
Identify Those Destroyers
New operating system, mo’ problems. This hasn’t strictly been the case with Windows 10, but newly minted operating systems, no matter the developer, always come with their own personal set of issues. For battery issues, Microsoft was ahead of the game, including a new Battery saver option in the System Settings.
Press Windows key + I and head to System > Battery saver. Clicking on Battery Use will open a new screen displaying the applications using your battery.
It shows us 24 hours of battery use by default, but to assess where the most battery is being lost, switch to the 1 week view using the dropdown menu at the top of the screen. You’ll now see aggregated battery use for the entire week, allowing you to spot the biggest offender. Beneath the dropdown box should be some additional power use aggregates. These display how much battery the system, display, and Wi-Fi adapters are using.
There is a difference in battery usage here for us to consider. Some applications drain the battery when they’re in use, which is irritating, but if it is a particularly powerful piece of software, could just be par for the course. Other applications may have a relatively small imprint when in use, but massively drain the battery in the background. This is an important distinction between the helpful and the major drainage issues.
If you notice an application has a much higher “in background” to “in use” ratio, I would consider shutting the application between use, unless you really need the notifications to appear on demand.
Background App Settings
If you do have to let some applications run in the background, there could be others you don’t. Within the Battery Use menu, you’ll find an option to Change background app settings. Clicking it will display a list of your currently installed applications, each one with a toggle. Turn the toggle off, and the application will no longer receive data, send notifications, or update of its own accord.
For instance, the default Windows 10 installation includes applications such as “Groove Music” and the Xbox app, neither of which are any use to me, so off they’ve gone. Head through your list and see what you can disable.
You can also access the Background App setting menu via Settings > Privacy > Background Apps.
However, desktop apps are impervious to the reaches of background app settings. You’ll have to turn those services off manually.
Windows 10 introduced Battery Saver options to our systems. Battery Saver mode can be automatically enabled past a certain percentage of battery drain. While enabled, Battery Saver will completely disable all background data, notifications, and updates, as well as lowering the screen brightness to conserve those vital last drips of lithium-ion power. Here is what will go quiet:
- Mail, People, and Calendar applications do not sync
- non-critical Windows Updates are blocked, scans still performed for updates
- display brightness reduced to 30%
- majority of Telemetry blocked
- Windows Task Scheduler tasks only triggered under certain circumstances
If you have an application which absolutely must have its notifications and updates, in spite of a soon-to-be-deceased laptop, you can add applications to an “always allowed” list.
It Drains in Its Sleep
It isn’t always immediately apparent what is stealing your power. Sometimes, on modern devices, it happens when you think your system is largely absolved of power use, in the warming clutches of Sleep Mode. Even when our computers are dreaming of electric sheep, applications can wake, power cycle, hard-drive cycle, update, and more, depending on system settings.
InstantGo (Windows 8)
Windows 8 saw Microsoft implement “InstantGo,” a new specification allowing users to maintain network connectivity when in sleep or standby mode, the idea being you can complete important system upgrades overnight, or when you wake your system in the morning, your overnight emails are ready and waiting for response. Another handy feature is a constantly reachable Skype connection, which can wake your system (and you from sleep!).
Of course, this comes with more power use. Leaving the network connection alive is one thing, but unless you set your email program to only update just before your regular wake-time, it will sync your mailbox all night.
InstantGo is only available to Windows 8.1, and is the successor to “Connected Standby,” their first attempt to provide users with an “always on” state, similar to tablets and smartphones. Here is a blog with some more InstantGo details, and the below image dispels some common misconceptions:
To check your system compatibility with the InstantGo standard, press Windows key + R, type CMD, and press Enter. This will open a Command Prompt window. Next, type powercfg /a. Press Enter. This will return a list of sleep states available to your system. If you see Standby (Connected), your system will be able make use of the InstantGo standard. Otherwise, like me, you’re plum out of luck.
Alongside InstantGo, Microsoft also introduced Sleep Study, a tool allowing you to view the details of the standby session and where your battery is ebbing away to overnight. Microsoft, ever perceptive, actually designed Sleep Study to minimize its own battery imprint, so you don’t have to worry about the scan using more power than anything else!
To run Sleep Study, press Windows key + R, type CMD, and press Enter. This will open a Command Prompt window. Now, type powercfg /sleepstudy and press Enter. The command response should inform you of where to view sleepstudy-report.html, likely in the same directory as the Command Prompt. If you like to use a different directory, use the cd command e.g. to enter the Program Files directory I would type cd c:\program files.
The Sleep Study HTML document comes in several easily navigable sections:
- Machine information
- Battery drain chart
- Chart Legend
- Connected standby session summary table
- Connected standby session 1
- Session #1 summary
- Top 5 duration activities
- Detailed breakdown of sub components
- Connected standby session 2
- (Repeat for each subsequent session).
- Battery information
A sleep session is defined “as the period from Screen Off to Screen On.” We are most interested in anything constituting a “high-drain sleep session,” meaning sessions including Windows Update, playing music with the screen off, and high network activity, as well as any indication of poorly performing device drivers, or bugs in firmware, drivers, and system services.
Your sleepstudy-report.html document contains a Connected Standby Transition graph. The legend below the graph details the level of system activity. We are looking for Red sessions, indicating High System Activity. Once you spot where the major drains are occurring, we can move to the Summary table, then onto individual Connected Standby Sessions.
The per-session details expand on the previous information, but will allow you to view the Top Offenders in terms of type, duration, and active time. Once you discover the precise system feature draining your battery, you can begin to understand how to address the problem. A cursory Google search should immediately shed some light on your issue as it is more than likely someone else has the same problem.
Is It the Battery?
If you don’t find a culprit, but your battery is still draining, it could be the battery itself. Modern laptop and tablet batteries can take some pounding, but eventually will give in, losing capacity and power retention. Systems running Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 can generate an internal battery report, detailing information about each currently installed battery.
Open an elevated Command Prompt by right-clicking the Start menu icon. Type powercfg /batteryreport and press Enter. Copy the resulting HTML link into your browser where you’ll now be able to view your report. As you can see below, the Full Charge Capacity of my aging laptop battery has dropped by nearly 13,000 mWh, and I know whatever I do, the battery just won’t remain charged as when new.
Hopefully you’ve isolated the specific apps causing your battery life undue devastation. When using an unplugged mobile device don’t forget to turn off basic things, like back-lit keyboards and unnecessary USB devices. Similarly, you can set many scheduled upgrades to only install when the device is connected to a power source, or turn down the visual effects if needed, and maybe just eek a little more juice when it’s needed most.
Do you have any battery life tips? What apps have you noticed stealing your battery? Let us know below!
Image Credit: Connected Standby Graph and Connected Standby Graph per session via blogs.windows.com