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Home  /  geekspeak  /  Power Tips

Power Tips

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There’s more notebooks sold now than desktops by a rather healthy margin, and this year should also see smartphones overtake standard mobiles as the portable phone platform of choice. Whether it’s a smartphone or a laptop, one thing remains constant: You can never have too much power.

Not so much in terms of processing power, although that can be quite handy, but definitely in terms of actual juice to run your computer or smartphone. Despite years of incremental advancements in battery technology, and the promise that fuel cells are “just around the corner” for longer than anybody wants to admit, most systems struggle to get through a full day without wanting to be connected to the mains. It gets worse the older any system gets, as batteries gracefully (and sometimes not so gracefully) degrade, giving you less and less time to get your computing tasks done.

There’s not that much you can do about battery degradation aside from purchasing new batteries when they go from “functional” to “able to hold less than a minute’s charge”, but there’s plenty of things you can do to make the battery you’ve got now last longer in actual usage. Here’s some quick tips:

1) Dim the screen

Brighter screens are easier to see, especially in bright sunlight, but they’re also a real power hog. If you’re able to use your system with a slightly less ambient display, you’ll be able to use it a whole lot longer.

2) Turn off unnecessary networks

For laptops, this means not having WiFi actually on if you’re not connected to the internet; even searching for nearby networks (most of which are likely to be locked down anyway) will kill your battery quite quickly. It’s even more true for smartphone users; drop Bluetooth if you’re not using it all, WiFi likewise, and if you really want to eke out a little bit more power before you reach a wall socket, drop your phone down from 3G to GSM. You’ll sacrifice network availability this way, but it’s the simplest way to get a smartphone that might only last half a day to last two or more.

3) Remove optical discs from drives

It shouldn’t be a surprise to note that mechanical moving parts use power, and optical drives can be a particular nuisance here. If you’ve got a CD, DVD or Blu-Ray disc in your notebook drive, it’ll spin up every time the operating system thinks there’s a chance you’ll need it, in order to maximise the speed at which you can use it. This, naturally enough, uses power, but it’s also not particularly good for the disc, which is going to bounce around in your notebook while you move around.

4) Don’t forget the power saving utilities!

These vary from vendor to vendor, but most of them will offer a power-saving profile on top of Windows’ inbuilt power saving utilities. The inbuilt Windows Power utility is good, but if your notebook vendor offers a specific utility, why wouldn’t you use it? It’s more likely to be specifically fine-tuned to the hardware you’ve got in your system. Many of the fixes they implement will be tips such as screen dimming, but it’s a simple way to set up power saving, and perhaps tweak settings like hard drive spin down time to your best advantage.

5) Switch off when practical

This tip is a touch more variable depending on your needs. Most notebooks will hibernate if you close the lid, only drawing a trickle of power. This is great when your meeting finishes and you just want to get going, because you don’t have to sit through lengthy shutdown processes, and when you next need it, operating system permitting, it should boot up in seconds. Still, a trickle of power is still a trickle of power, and if you’ve got more time than power, switching off will use exactly no power at all.


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