Battery Boosters

Notebook PC Tips

Illustration: Otto Steininger
Tweak the power manager: Check the Power Options control panel (or your laptop's power management utility) and configure the settings on the right side of the pane, under 'Running on batteries'. How aggressive you want to be about power savings is a matter of choice. In general, the lower you set the intervals at which your monitor and hard disk turn off or go into standby, the more power you'll save. Don't set your hard-disk or standby time too low, however: Your PC expends power (and time) to spin up a hard drive, so make sure it shuts down only during periods of inactivity and not during brief pauses in your work. Turn-off times of 10 minutes for the monitor and 20 minutes for the hard disk should work well.

Go easy on the brightness: Every laptop has controls for lowering the brightness level, usually via a function-key combination. If you're in a dark setting, such as on a red-eye flight, you'd be surprised at how legible your screen is at 50 percent brightness. Nix Wi-Fi: You can typically add at least half an hour of running time by turning off Wi-Fi--and Bluetooth if your laptop has it. Idle Wi-Fi can be a security risk, too: Any open directories on your PC could leave the door ajar for snooping types in the area.

Take out unused components: Your removable optical drives, PC Cards, and USB peripherals all consume power, even when they aren't in use. Simply disconnecting these components--even if you slide the PC Card out of its slot just partway--will improve your notebook's battery life.

Add RAM: This is one component you don't want to disable: The more you have, the more headroom Windows has to work with, which will help your machine avoid excessive hard-drive reads and writes. This way, your hard disk can idle more often and reduce power consumption. More RAM also boosts your computer's performance considerably--a double win.

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