Have you ever run out of battery power on your mobile PC during a meeting or a class? Have you worried about running out of power while waiting to meet with a client? Have you asked yourself how much longer your battery will last? Sufficient battery life is a persistent challenge for mobile PC users. But Windows offers several ways to help maximize the battery life of your mobile computer.

In this article, I’ll discuss how to take advantage of Windows settings to manage power more efficiently. I’ll also introduce some non-software related tips that you can use to extend battery life.

Optimize your power settings

Windows 7

Windows 7 has two default power plans:

  • Balanced: Automatically balances performance with energy consumption on capable hardware.
  • Power saver: Saves energy by reducing your computer’s performance where possible.

Change your power plan

1. Click the battery meter icon, located in the notification area on the Windows taskbar.

The display and hard disk on your mobile PC are the two biggest consumers of battery power. By choosing a power plan (called a power scheme in Windows XP) you can extend your battery life. A power plan is a collection of hardware and system settings that control how your mobile PC manages power.

2. Select either the Balanced or Power saver power plan.

Windows Vista

Windows Vista has three default power plans:

  • Balanced. Offers full performance when you need it, but conserves power when the computer is idle.
  • Power saver. The best choice for extending battery life. The cost? Slower performance.
  • High performance. Maximizes system performance at the expense of battery life.

Change your power plan

1. Click the battery meter icon, located in the notification area on the Windows taskbar.
2. Select the Balanced, Power saver, or High performance power plan.

Windows XP users

Windows XP includes two power schemes that were created specifically for mobile PCs.

  • The Portable/Laptop power scheme minimizes the use of power to conserve your battery, but adjusts to your processing needs so that the system speed is not sacrificed.
  • The Max Battery power scheme minimizes power use but does not adjust as your processing demands change. You should use Max Battery only in situations that require minimal processing, such as reading documents and taking notes in a meeting.

Use a power scheme designed to maximize battery life:

1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

2. In Control Panel, verify that you’re in Category view, and then click Performance and Maintenance.

3. In the Performance and Maintenance window, click Power Options.

4. On the Power Schemes tab of the Power Options Properties dialog box, click the arrow under Power schemes, and then click Max Battery.

5. Click OK.

You can also create a custom power scheme to suit your specific needs. You can create as many custom power schemes as you want.

Take advantage of low-power states

The different versions of Windows provide the following battery-saving states:

  • Windows 7: sleep and hibernation (which is like deep sleep)
  • Windows Vista sleep and hybrid sleep (which is a combination of sleep and hibernation)
  • Windows XP standby (which is like snoozing) and hibernation (which is like deep sleep)

Sleep (Standby)

In a sleep state (standby), your display and hard disk turn off, and all open programs and files are saved in random access memory (RAM) your computer’s temporary memory rather than to the hard disk. Information stored in RAM is cleared when the computer turns off, so it’s a good idea to save your work before placing your system in standby mode. Otherwise, you may lose data if you lose power, you swap batteries, or your system crashes.

Sleep (standby) is particularly useful when you’re using your mobile PC intermittently during the day. For example, when driving between clients’ offices during the day, put your computer to sleep or on standby to maximize the life of your battery and maintain quick access to open programs, files, and documents. When you want to use your computer again, it wakes up quickly, and your desktop is restored exactly as you left it.

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Dell has produced the first drivers for select desktops and laptops running Windows 7 RTM. The US computer maker did not detail the specific products for which it now provides full driver support in concert with the gold release of Microsoft’s latest Windows client. However, customers can of course look for Dell Certified Windows 7 drivers via the company’s official Dell Online Windows 7 Support website. Of course, the search for Dell Certified Windows 7 drivers would have to be done in accordance with the Dell desktops or laptops they are running.

“Dell is jumping in to help business (commercial) customers get ready for Windows 7 by offering Windows 7 drivers for their commercial desktop and laptop PCs. They are posting their Windows 7 drivers (see Drivers and Downloads on left-hand navigation),” revealed Brandon LeBlanc, Windows communications manager on the Windows Client Communications Team. “By offering drivers for their commercial desktop and laptop PCs, Dell is helping business customers with Dell PCs in their environments prepare for Windows 7 deployments.” More »