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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Ever notice how each PC has a personality of its own? Or maybe even multiple personalities? In the course of a week, your computer may act friendly, moody, and sometimes downright mean.

However, don’t take a hammer to your PC just yet. The following is a list of common symptoms and treatments to help even the most troublesome PCs. You don’t even have to be a psychologist (at least not yet) to deal with your PC’s neuroses.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista usually manage this automatically, but overall you’ll find that these tips work for all versions of Windows, from Windows 95 to Windows 7.
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Occasionally, you might discover a client that isn’t automatically installing updates correctly. Such clients are typically identified during software update audits. To identify the source of the problem, follow these steps:

1. Determine the last time the client was updated. This can be done in two different ways—by checking the client’s registry (the most reliable technique) or, if you use Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), by checking the Reports page on the WSUS Web site.

* To check the client’s registry, open the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\Auto Update\Results registry key. In each of the Detect, Download, and Install subkeys, examine the LastSuccessTime entry to determine when updates were last detected, downloaded, and installed. More »

Most existing 16-bit and MS-DOS-based programs were originally written for Windows 3.0 or Windows 3.1. Windows 7 runs these older programs using a virtual machine that mimics the 386-enhanced mode used by Windows 3.0 and Windows 3.1. Unlike on other recent releases of Windows, on Windows 7 each 16-bit and MS-DOS-based application runs as a thread within a single virtual machine. This means that if you run multiple 16-bit and MS-DOS-based applications, they all share a common memory space. Unfortunately, if one of these applications hangs or crashes, it usually means the others will as well.

You can help prevent one 16-bit or MS-DOS-based application from causing others to hang or crash by running it in a separate memory space. To do this, follow these steps: More »

Customers looking to tailor an application to Microsoft’s latest iteration of the Windows client now have a new tool at their disposal. In collaboration with Microsoft, ChangeBASE has introduced AOK4SMB, a Cloud-based offering designed to perform application-compatibility testing and remediation for apps that need to be adapted to Windows 7 Professional. AOK for Small and Midsize Businesses (AOK4SMB) is available for free until the end of July 2010. SMB customers, developers and IT professionals can upload their app into AOK4SMB, and have the tool assess Windows 7 Professional compatibility but also automatically remediate problems, free of charge.

“The ability to ensure application compatibility when migrating to a new operating system is crucial for any organization,” Colin Gray, global sales director, ChangeBASE, noted. In fact, one of the largest impediments associated with businesses embracing a new OS is related to incompatibility worries. Microsoft offers a range of resources capable of allowing customers to evaluate potential compatibility problems, but the twist added by AOK4SMB is that the automatic remediation of issues is also performed. More »