technofile template How to take care of your laptop's battery

Let's find out what's right and what's wrong about all that battery lore.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


How to take care of your laptop's battery

June 10, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

Nobody loves laptop batteries. They don't last as long as we think they should, they need recharging at the worst possible times, they let us down when we really need them and they always cost too much.

Even worse, they're not just "batteries." They're "BATTERIES." Prima donnas. We have to nurture them, take care of them in special ways -- keep them out of the cold, away from the heat, not plugged in all the time, not run down so that they're practically dead, and not used too much. Or something like that -- if, indeed, any of that is true.

Is there any relief?

There sure is. Let's knock that battery pedestal down and find out what's right -- and what's wrong -- about all that battery lore. In the process, we'll see what you can actually do to bring your laptop's battery back to health. I promise to leave out the jargon.

What's not good for your laptop battery:

-- Heat. Lots of heat, like the rear-window shelf of a car that has the windows rolled up in Miami . This kind of heat is deadly. (But what about cold? Your laptop battery could care less if it's stored in the Arctic. But warm it up slowly before you use it.)

-- A full charge every time you use your laptop followed immediately by unplugging the charger. Just keep the laptop plugged into the charger whenever you can. The charger knows how to taper off the charge; that keeps the battery happy. If you're not going to use your laptop for a week or so, charge it up all the way and then turn it on for 45 minutes to give it a relaxed discharge, then store it off the charger.

-- Storing your laptop when the battery is dead. You might not be able to bring it back to life. Always store your laptop with a partial charge.

What about getting a wimpy battery to stand up and sing? If it's deader than dead, don't even try. But if the battery just seems tired and can't seem to last more than an hour or so, charge it fully and use it until the battery meter on your laptop shows that it's half drained. Then charge it again. Do this four or five times. (Laptop batteries don't have the "memory effect" of older-type batteries.) If the battery life has improved, charge it and run it until it's 3/4 drained and do this cycle again.

If the battery can't be resuscitated, it's time for a replacement. Skip the factory replacement -- it's three or four times the cost of an aftermarket battery. Try a Google search using the model number of your laptop and the words REPLACEMENT BATTERY.

If you have a Mac with a non-user-replaceable battery, go to the nearest Apple store for a replacement. If you bought the Apple Care warranty with your laptop, the battery might still be covered. (My Mac laptop battery went bad but was covered even through my warranty had run out. The Apple store folks told me it shouldn't have happened and installed a new battery, for free, in five minutes.)