3 ways to make your laptop battery last longer—maybe all day

Take these steps to reduce your battery anxiety.
A man holding a laptop in an airport and looking at the flight board.
You really don't want to be wandering a crowded airport looking for an outlet. Anete Lūsiņa / Unsplash

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Few among us would not jump at the chance to make their laptop battery last longer. After all, our work and personal lives are at the mercy of the battery packs inside our laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices. When these batteries die, we have to put our lives on hold until we can find somewhere to plug in again. It’s no wonder battery life estimates are one of the first specs many look for when choosing a new device.

But with the right operating system tweaks and customizations, plus some good habits, you can go longer than ever without being shackled to a wall outlet. Life’s just better when you don’t have to spend all day worrying about when you’ll be able to charge your laptop.

Adjust your screen settings

One of the biggest draws on your laptop’s battery is its bright, high-resolution display. Anything you do to ease that strain will have a beneficial effect on the length of your battery’s life.

Start with brightness: Dial down the brightness of the screen as much as you can without having to strain your eyes, using whatever keyboard shortcuts your laptop offers. You can make more detailed modifications by opening up System, then Display in Windows’ settings, or Displays in System Settings on macOS (System Preferences if you’re using an Apple OS older than macOS Ventura).

Screens that time out sooner also use less battery. To set this and a bunch of other power-saving options, choose Power & battery inside the System section of Settings on Windows 11 (Power & sleep on Windows 10), or Screen Saver from System Settings on macOS.

[Related: One telltale sign it’s time to replace your laptop’s battery]

Other settings available on the same screens let you put your hard drives to “sleep” (they’ll take longer to wake back up, but they’ll use less power), put USB devices into a low power mode, and more. These adjustments won’t make major differences, but you can eke out some extra battery life by enabling them.

If you’re using Windows, there’s a special battery-saver mode that maximizes the time you’ll get between battery charges. It limits background activity and notifications and automatically adjusts the display brightness once your battery level dips below a certain point. To find this utility, click the battery icon on the taskbar, then Battery settings or the cog icon.

Apple’s low power mode does essentially the same job on macOS, and you can decide when it turns on by opening System Settings, then Battery. On the same settings page, there’s also a Battery Health widget—click the i icon to learn about your battery and decide if you want to enable Optimized Battery Charging to extend your laptop’s battery life.

Both Windows and macOS also feature a dark mode, which can reduce power draw, but only on laptops with OLED screens (an LCD screen draws the same amount of power to show black as it does white). If you have one, the dark mode option is under Personalization and Colors in the Windows Settings.

Reduce your laptop’s workload

The harder your computer is working, the faster it’ll drain your battery. When you’re away from a power source, you should close any programs hanging around in the background that you’re not actually using. If your laptop runs fewer applications and avoids demanding programs (such as games and video editors), its battery should last longer.

Even if you close everything you’re not using, the browser drains your battery more than you might think. Resist the temptation to have dozens of browser tabs open at once (or at least put them to sleep), and your laptop will thank you. And when you’re browsing on battery power, avoid video streaming sites. They typically demand a lot of juice, both because they keep the screen constantly active and because they require a decent amount of processing power.

Audio makes a difference too. Active speakers blaring out music will use up more battery power than silence—or a pair of plugged-in headphones. If you can, turn down the volume or do without sound altogether.

[Related: The best headphones of this year]

Maintaining WiFi and Bluetooth connections also uses up battery power, albeit a pretty small amount. If you can disconnect your laptop and work offline—and do without a wireless mouse and other peripherals—your laptop battery will last a little bit longer as a result. We’re not talking major improvements, but you might just make it to the end of the day.

Keep that battery healthy

Lithium-ion batteries degrade naturally over time, but if you treat your laptop battery right, you’ll enjoy better battery life for longer. Avoiding environments that are too hot or too cold is a good start, as temperature extremes will wear batteries down more quickly.

It’s not just the weather, either—running demanding applications on your computer can generate the heat your battery needs to avoid. This brings us back to the idea of sticking to lightweight tasks and programs while you’re away from a power source. If you really have to have a gaming session or encode some video, consider using a laptop cooler to dissipate heat more effectively, keeping your laptop battery running longer.

There’s an ongoing debate within tech circles over the “healthiest” approach to recharging batteries. The most up-to-date advice suggests that shallow discharges and recharges are preferable in the long-term, rather than allowing your battery to drain completely each time—though you should still do a full discharge about once a month. Unplugging your laptop once it’s fully charged, rather than leaving it always plugged in, tends to be better for your battery’s health as well.

Finally, if you won’t be using your laptop for a while, Apple and others recommend leaving the battery with a 50 percent charge in it—leaving it fully charged or fully discharged for an extended period of time can damage it permanently.

This story has been updated. It was originally published on April 3, 2017.