Manage Laptop PC Power Usage

Unlike desktop computers, laptop PCs have two sources of power: batteries and current from electrical outlets, converted by the laptop’s power adapter. This means that you have several extra tasks with a laptop PC to manage how you use these two power sources and conserve limited battery power.

Maximize Your Battery Life
If you use your laptop computer extensively on the road, your first concern is likely to be maximizing your battery life so that you can get plenty of work (or play) done without having to plug in your computer. The main ways of maximizing battery life are
Decrease the screen brightness Your laptop PC’s screen probably consumes the greatest proportion of battery power, so you can increase battery life by decreasing the screen brightness. Most laptop PCs have function keys for decreasing screen brightness. Some laptop PCs have hardware controls (for example, a slider). Otherwise, you can adjust the brightness by using the Display Brightness slider in Windows Mobility Center, which you’ll meet later in this chapter.
Turn off unnecessary components Many laptop PCs let you disable components that you’re not using in order to reduce power consumption. For example, when on the road, you might turn off your laptop PC’s serial, parallel, and infrared ports if you don’t need them. Consult your laptop PC’s manual for details on what you can turn off and how to do so. In some laptop PCs, you must change these settings in the BIOS; other laptops provide graphical configuration utilities.
Get a high-capacity battery Some manufacturers make high-capacity batteries for certain laptop PC models. These almost always protrude beyond the standard battery compartment, usually doubling as a stand to elevate the back of the laptop PC, which improves the typing position and the airflow to the underside. Third-party companies make replacement batteries for popular laptop models. These batteries sometimes have somewhat higher capacity than the original battery (for example, because of improvements in battery technology).
Use an extra battery (or two) Some laptop PCs enable you to insert an extra battery in place of the optical drive or another component. If not, carry an extra battery separately. When the first battery runs out, shut down your laptop PC, replace the battery, and then start your PC again.
Get an external battery If your laptop PC can’t take a high-capacity battery or an extra battery, consider getting an external battery for extra power. External batteries typically weigh several pounds and are around the size of a compact laptop PC, so they’re an awkward solution—but they can deliver up to six or eight hours of extra battery life.
Use an auto adapter or air adapter To charge your laptop PC from your car battery, get an auto adapter; to charge your laptop PC in a plane, get an air adapter. Many different models are available, from custom models designed for specific laptop PCs to standard power inverters that deliver AC current that can power any device.
Buy a second power adapter If you commute with your laptop PC, get a second power adapter so that you can keep one at home and one at work, decreasing your laptop PC’s travel weight and the chance of forgetting to take the adapter with you.
Get a portable solar panel If you need to use your laptop PC away from other sources of energy, consider a portable solar panel designed for powering a laptop PC. These are popular with computer-toting hikers as well as with those whose jobs require the use of a computer away from standard power sources.
Configure aggressive power management settings Reduce your laptop PC’s power consumption by using aggressive power management settings.
Keep your battery fully charged Modern battery technologies don’t need to be fully discharged before being recharged to avoid the “memory effect” that reduced the charge capacity of older batteries, so it’s best to keep your laptop PC plugged in whenever you have a power source available. That way, the battery will remain as fully charged as possible.
Configure Power Settings
You should configure power management settings on your laptop PC so that it runs at full speed when the power adapter is delivering power but reduces its power consumption to a sensible minimum when running off the battery.
To configure power settings, open the Power Options window in either of these ways:
Click the Start button, and click Control Panel. In Control Panel Home view, go to the Mobile PC heading, and then click Change Battery Settings. (In Classic View, double-click Power Options.)
Click the Power icon in the notification area to display the Power Status panel, and then click the More Power Options link. (Depending on your laptop, you may see other options here.)
The Power Options window appears. Exactly which settings appear in the window depends on the capabilities that Windows Vista detects in your laptop PC and whether your PC manufacturer has installed any custom power management options.
Set Up Power Schemes
To define the overall power settings Windows Vista uses, you configure a power scheme.
1. In the Power Options window, select the option button for the power scheme you want to use: Balanced, Power Saver, or High Performance.
2. Under the option button for the power scheme you’ve chosen, click the Change Plan Settings link to open the Edit Plan Settings window for the plan.
3. Use the Turn Off The Display, Put The Computer To Sleep, and Adjust Display Brightness controls in the Plugged In column to choose settings for when the laptop PC is plugged in.
4. Use the Turn Off The Display, Put The Computer To Sleep, and Adjust Display Brightness controls in the On Battery column to choose settings for when the laptop PC is on battery power.
5. Click the Save Changes button to save the changes you’ve made to the power scheme.
Leave the Edit Plan Settings window open so that you can set battery alarms and alarm actions, as discussed next.
Set Battery Levels and Actions
Most laptop PCs automatically hibernate when the battery reaches a critically low level. This is normally the most convenient action, but you can configure your PC to shut down instead if you prefer. What you’re more likely to need to do, however, is adjust the battery levels that Windows Vista considers to be “low” and “critically low.”
1. In the Power Options window, click the Change Advanced Power Settings link to open the Power Options dialog box.
2. The drop-down list above the main list box shows the power scheme from which you opened the Power Options dialog box. If necessary, choose another power scheme.
3. In the main list box, scroll down to the Battery category.
4. If the Battery category is collapsed, double-click it to expand it. (You can also click the + sign next to it.)
5. Expand the subcategory you want to adjust, and then choose the setting you want. For example:
To change the critical battery level, expand the Critical Battery Level category. Click the On Battery link to display a spin box, and then adjust it to the value you want. Repeat the process for the Plugged In link.

To change what Windows does when the battery reaches the critical battery level, expand the Critical Battery Action category. Click the On Battery link to display a drop-down list, and then choose the action you want—for example, Hibernate or Shut Down. Repeat the process for the Plugged In link if necessary.
6. Click the OK button to close the Power Options dialog box.
7. In the Edit Plan Settings window, click the Save Changes button to save the changes you’ve made. Windows displays the Power Options window once more.

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