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Jul 16 2013

Looking after my laptop battery

Almost every time I deliver a new laptop, the customer will ask me how he should be looking after the laptop battery. There is so many theories and myths and most of them are not true. Looking after my laptop battery is a very simple job these days, but 10 years ago it was a different story.

Laptop batteries have a short lifetime and it sometimes feels that it only lasts while the 1 year warranty is valid, but on the other hand, sometimes you get a laptop battery that lasts for 3 years or more. In this article, I will shed some light on some of the questions that you may have.

How to extend my laptop battery lifetime?

In the old days, that is about 10 years ago (in the technology world that is like 100 human years) laptop batteries were made of lead-acid or Nickel Cadmium. These Nickel Cadmium batteries needed to be drained and run down completely to extend the laptop battery’s lifetime and prevent that it build up a “memory” as some people call it. Today’s modern laptop batteries are Lithium Ion and do not need to be run down completely and won’t build up a “memory” as some people believe.

laptop batteries

You can even leave the new Lithium Ion laptop batteries in the laptop permanently and you can keep the laptop connected to the power outlet as long as you want. Your laptop battery lifetime will not decrease and the laptop itself will regulate that the battery charge until it is 100% fully charged and then the laptop will stop charging it until you use the laptop battery. This prevent that the battery is on continues charge, not that it will affect the laptop battery lifetime.

There are however some things that will reduce your laptop battery lifetime. Firstly, do not leave the laptop battery fully drained for more than a week. That will reduce its lifetime significantly, so rather keep the battery in the laptop and fully charged and plugged into the power outlet. Secondly, do not leave the laptop battery in extremely hot or cold temperatures like for instance in your car during daytime. That will definitely reduce your laptop battery lifetime.

Check if laptop battery is charging

When your laptop battery starts to give you problems there is a couple of things to check first before you buy a new laptop battery. Put the laptop battery in the laptop and check the following:

  1. Leave the laptop plugged in for about an hour and then pull the AC adapter out. If the laptop dies or go into Sleep Mode the laptop battery did not charge. This still does not mean the battery is faulty. The problem can still be with the laptop AC adapter or the problem can be on the laptop motherboard.
  2. Next, leave the laptop battery out and only plug in the AC adapter. If the laptop starts up it means that the AC adapter is still working. So this leave us with two options. It’s either the laptop battery or the unit on the motherboard that charges the battery, that are faulty.
  3. Now, click on the little arrow in the right bottom corner next to the time to preview the application that is running in the background. There will be an icon that will show whether your laptop is connected to an AC adapter and the laptop battery is detected by the laptop. While the laptop battery is out and the AC adapter is connected you will see that the icon will show that the laptop battery is NOT DETECTED like in the picture below.

No laptop battery detected

Take the laptop battery that you think is not working and put it into the laptop while the laptop is on. Wait for about 30 seconds and then check the icon again. If the icon still shows that the laptop battery is still NOT DETECTED, your battery is dead and not even picked up by your laptop at all. It can also show PLUGGED IN, NOT CHARGING. In both these instances the chances are 95% that the battery is faulty. The only way to test if the charging unit on the motherboard is malfunctioning will be to plug in a new laptop battery and see if it is actually charging.

Testing my laptop battery

You can still take the laptop battery that seems to be faulty and test it with a Multimeter. This will take a little technical ability, but it does work if you want to make sure your laptop battery output is correct. This can only work if the battery is fully or partially charged.

Remove the laptop battery from the laptop and have a look at the writing on it. Take note what the output voltage on the battery is showing e.g. 9.6V, 10.8V, 11.1V, 14.4V. This reading on the Multimeter should be the same or very close to the same when tested.

Look at the connector on the battery. It will have at least five or more connectors/pins. The outermost of these connectors/pins will be the positive and negative. Now using your Multimeter, change the reading scale on the Multimeter to the 20V scale and connect the positive and negative prong of the Multimeter to the outermost connectors/pins of the laptop battery. (If the connectors/pins are too small for the Multimeter prongs, use a paperclip or thin piece of wire and hold it against the connectors/pins and then hold the prongs to the thin wire). The reading that will be shown on the Multimeter should be the same or very close to the output voltage that you noted down from the laptop battery itself.

Laptop battery and multimeter

If this reading is good than your battery output is correct and most probably working fine.

After you went through all the steps above you will be able to easily determine whether your laptop battery is faulty or whether the problem resides with the laptop or AC adapter.

Generally looking after my laptop battery is a very easy and quick task and most of the time it is the AC adapter or the battery that is faulty. I hope this article will assist you to solve your laptop battery issue and also to understand the lifetime of laptop batteries.

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