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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In certain scenarios users of Windows 7 and Windows Vista can experience problems when connecting their mobile computers to some Wi-Fi hot spots. According to Microsoft, symptoms will vary, and can include poor performance as well as having the wireless network connection dropped altogether. The Redmond company revealed that these issues are also associated with mobile machines which are running on battery power. The software giant noted that customers running Windows 7or Vista mobile PCs and connecting them to wireless access points (AP) also reported these issues.

“This issue occurs if the Wi-Fi hot spot uses wireless APs or routers that do not support the 802.11 power save protocol,” Microsoft informed. Still, the power saving features built into both Vista and Windows 7 by default, contribute to this problem. Essentially, when a Windows 7 mobile PC is plugged into a power source, the wireless network adapter will go into Maximum Performance mode and switch off 802.11 power save mode. At the same time, for Windows 7 machines running on battery power, the wireless network adapter will go into Medium Power Save mode, which is associated with the 802.11 power save mode. More »

Wireless access to the Internet provide so much flexibility and break limitations on mobility. With the prices of wireless hardware continually decreasing, wireless networks are becoming increasingly popular in businesses as well as in homes. However, not many resources that help fix issues with these unpredictable wireless connections exist. Sometimes, the solution might be extremely simple, if only users are informed about it. The tips here will help you understand some common trouble scenarios in a WiFi connection, and assist you in tackling them.

Hard Reset The Router

This might seem to be an insignificant solution, but surprisingly, it does work sometimes! Simply try turning off your router, and switch it back again after a minute or two. If this doesn’t work, perform a hard reset of your router.
Remove Sources of Interference More »

The latest routers, security suites, and software patches can help protect your PC against today’s ever-more-sophisticated Internet attacks.

These security tools are easy to install, easy to maintain, and provide the average PC user with basic protection against viruses, botnets, Trojans, rootkits, and other types of malware.

Keeping your PC secure goes far beyond convenience it can protect you against significant financial loss. That’s not hyperbole: according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2009 annual report (available from the IC3 site), Internet crime losses more than doubled through 2009 to more than U.S. $559 million!

But it’s not hard to provide a reasonable level of basic security for any PC. For average PC users, the basic rule for keeping PCs secure has not changed  keep it simple, keep it up-to-date.

The WS Security Baseline summarizes the latest reviews from trusted computer test labs. The current status of these reviews will be periodically updated on the Security Baseline page at Pctipsbox.com. More »