Most laptops now come with non-replaceable batteries. MacBooks, Ultrabooks running Windows, and Chromebooks. No matter what the price point or platform, non-removable batteries are the norm.
In some respects, this is a good thing. These laptops are slimmer and sleeker than ever before, and with low-power processors and fanless designs, their battery life actually far outstrips that of their bulkier counterparts.
But it also gives the laptop a limited lifespan, with the prospect that the battery dies when the rest of the hardware is still going strong. So what precautions should you take to ensure your built-in laptop battery lasts for as long as possible?
Watch The Heat
One of the main factors affecting laptop battery life is temperature. Cold temperatures can be an issue if you live in a cold climate, but high temperatures are a bigger concern.
Not only are ambient conditions at work, but heat is also naturally generated by the computer’s processor and other components. Furthermore, leaving your laptop in your car on a hot day is a very bad thing.
It was often recommended that users remove the batteries from their laptops when playing high-end games, editing video, or performing any other resource-intensive tasks.
However, while a few gaming laptops still offer removable batteries, it’s becoming sadly less common. Mainstream laptops generally don’t, regardless of their price point.
In some ways, this doesn’t matter too much. Modern chipsets are designed to generate less heat, and Apple’s new ARM-based M1 processor doesn’t require a fan at all in the MacBook Air.
But you should also make sure air can circulate around the laptop, keeping any vents clear and not resting it on a cushion. Try and keep it under 35 degrees Celsius. If you use the laptop in bed, a stand is a good way to help keep it cool.
Charge and Discharge
A common question about laptops is whether it’s better to use them on battery power or leave them plugged in all the time.
The short answer is “a bit of both.” Unibody Apple MacBooks all have sealed batteries, and the company recommends switching between the two on an occasional basis. If you mostly use your laptop in the office, for example, then leaving it plugged in is fine, though you should make a point of running it off the battery every now and then.
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Batteries cannot be overcharged, so they won’t be damaged directly, but it’s important to remember that charging is yet another source of heat.
Don’t Let It Run Down
If you are running your laptop off battery power, you should ideally avoid fully discharging it—or even getting below around 20 percent—regularly.
Tests from batteryuniversity.com show that it can take around 600 complete discharges to reduce a laptop battery’s capacity to 70 percent. By comparison, if you only run the battery down to around 50 percent before charging it, you’ll get over 1500 discharges before its lifespan is reduced to the same level.
That said, many manufacturers recommend that you perform a full discharge every few months to help keep the battery properly calibrated and to ensure the stats it reports are accurate.
Choose the Advanced settings, then battery, and under Low battery level and Critical battery level change the values to a percentage that you want.
Keep It Charged
The charge level of your battery is important, even when you’re not using your laptop.
HP recommends that batteries should be stored with 50-70 percent charge at temperatures between 20-25 degrees Celsius. If you’re not going to use your laptop for a while, try and keep it as close to these conditions as possible. You should never store a device for a long time with the battery fully run down. You might never get it working again.
How Long Will Your Laptop Battery Last?
It’s an unavoidable fact that a laptop battery’s capacity declines a little every single time it is charged.
ASUS states that its batteries have a lifespan of between 300 and 500 charge cycles (which is typically measured as using the full capacity of a battery—so a single 100 percent charge or two 50 percent top-ups), after which the capacity will have dropped to 80 percent.
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Therefore, after a year to 18 months, you may begin to notice that the battery doesn’t last for as long as it previously did. At this point, you may want to start focussing on the numerous methods for extending your laptop’s battery life.
It’s easy to check your laptop’s battery cycle count on Windows and Mac.
You can also analyze the health of your battery. In Windows 10, you can get a full battery report by going to the command prompt and typing powercfg /batteryreport. Using File Explorer, navigate to the folder listed in the command prompt window where you’ll find a file called battery-report.html.
In macOS, go to About This Mac and click System Report for a similarly detailed report. For a much quicker macOS method, simply hold down the Alt or Option key while clicking on the battery icon in the status bar.
Care for Your Laptop’s Built-In Battery
Whether you view it as planned obsolescence or a necessary way to facilitate sleeker products (or even just phasing out a feature that many people never bothered with anyway), non-removable batteries are the reality for modern laptops.
It isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You just need to be a little more aware of how you look after the battery than you may have done in the past.
There are no major steps to take. A few common-sense precautions and being aware of the factors that can shorten a laptop battery’s lifespan will ensure your battery lives a long and healthy life.
But if you already have concerns, there are many essential tools to help you analyze your laptop battery’s health.