How to increase laptop battery capacity

Laptop battery removal

Have you ever issued laptop battery problem. Here are some tips on how to increase laptop battery capacity and everything about it. The batteries in our mobile devices have become the protagonists of our user experience, but they have long been critical components in laptops as well. Has the technology built into those batteries improved? What is the best way to squeeze these components and get the most out of them ?

This is what we will try to explain by clarifying some of the most important myths and facts about laptop batteries . If you want to know when you should charge your laptops, if you should have them plugged in all the time or what happens with the recharge cycles, pay attention.

There are two main types of batteries

In our laptops we usually find two types of battery: lithium ion and lithium polymer . Both are characterized by their already consolidated mass production -which has made it possible to lower the price of these components- and their good behavior except at high temperatures, something we will talk about later.
The fundamental difference between the two is the way in which the lithium salt is contained in these batteries: while in lithium ion batteries this component is contained in a liquid organic solvent, in lithium polymer batteries the container is a gel-like polymeric compound. Here are some tips on how to increase laptop battery capacity.

Keep them plugged in as much as you want

Laptop battery charging
Laptop battery charging

One of the first questions often asked by laptop users is what happens when one works on the laptop at home or in the office. Should you always leave it connected? Should you disconnect it at a certain point so that the battery does not degrade? Can leaving it connected all the time cause some kind of overload?

The answer is simple: you can leave your laptops plugged in for as long as you want , because there is no danger of overloading the laptop. As soon as the battery is fully charged, this process stops, and does not start again until the battery voltage drops below a certain level.

Do not leave the laptop completely discharged for a long time

When one uses the laptop without being plugged in, a moment ends when the low battery warnings appear that the operating system shows and that remind us that we must recharge the laptop.If we do not have the charger or a plug nearby, there is no major problem, since we can drain the battery to the maximum, let the computer turn off due to lack of battery and recharge the battery later. However, leaving that battery discharged for a long period of time can place that component in a state of deep discharge (another way of indicating the state of charge) from which it may never recover.
Lithium ion batteries have a protection circuit to prevent battery “abuse”. This means that among other things the battery does not become unusable if it is “over discharged”, but this mechanism does not always work. When the batteries “go to sleep” the chargers offer a small impulse charge – pulses of very short duration but of very high voltage – to activate this protection circuit, and if it is detected that one of the cells begins to charge, the process begins. normal. Unfortunately that mechanism does not always work,

How is the state of a battery measured?

That concept from the previous section leads us to another important concept: how to describe the state and condition of a battery. There are several types of ways to present it , but the most widespread is the state of charge (State of Charge, SOC), which is a percentage of the maximum capacity. Another way of expressing it is the depth of discharge (Depth of Discharge, DOD), which is also a percentage of the maximum charge: it is generally accepted that 80% of DOD means having entered a deep discharge phase, and this it is dangerous.
Other measurements are the terminal voltage -varies with the SOC and the charge and discharge current-, the open circuit voltage -the one that exists between the battery terminals when no load is applied- and the internal resistance , which varies and depends on the state of charge: as the internal resistance increases, the efficiency of the battery decreases and the thermal stability decreases because more and more charge energy is converted into heat. Bad business again.

Don’t count sheep, count recharge cycles

All batteries of this type have a certain useful life that is measured in recharge cycles . There is no standard that specifies what constitutes a recharge cycle in detail, but it is often assumed that a full recharge cycle applies when we recharge the battery (again, it is not accepted that it needs to be fully charged) after fully discharging. below 20%.The way to count those charge cycles varies according to the manufacturers, but Apple gives a good example of how they do it: “You could have used half the charge of your laptop one day and you could recharge it completely. If you did the same the next day, that would count as one charge cycle , not two. Thus, it could take several days to complete one charge cycle . “

Macbook Pro system information
Macbook Pro system information

As explained in the same document, it is recommended to replace the battery once the maximum number of charge cycles is reached . We can continue using that battery, but we will notice an inevitable reduction in the autonomy of those batteries that will worsen over time, something that Battery University explains very well . There they commented, for example, how even during the first year of use the batteries fail to give 100% of their capacity: on the one hand, their storage causes them to lose capacity, but on the other, the manufacturers often give optimistic data because “they know that few users they will check that ability and complain . “

Each laptop is different because it integrates batteries of different capacities and with subtle differences that can make the number of recharging cycles supported vary . At Apple they offer an estimate of their equipment in which we see quantities ranging from 300 cycles of the old models to 1,000 of the new ones. Not many manufacturers make it so clear, and for example in the Dell XPS 13 it was criticized that this number reached only theoretically 300 cycles , something that would be an extra cost for users who wanted to continue to keep that section at bay.

Laptop battery life cycle
Laptop battery life cycle

You can get information about the battery status in Windows . For this we will have to open the command console and execute the following command: “powercfg / batteryreport”. After a few moments a report will be generated in the directory “C: \ Windows \ System32 \ battery_report.html”. If we open this file with a browser, we can see how the battery will have degraded from the original capacity (Design Capacity) to the current capacity (Full Charge Capacity). That will give a good reference to know the state of our battery.

Heat, the great enemy of batteries

If there is one element that affects the life of batteries, it is heat . Not only that: it is also a parameter that can condition the correct functioning of the batteries we are talking about, even turning them into “explosive” batteries , something that has caused numerous cases of return of manufacturers’ equipment and that also affects other products. like recent hover-boards. Using equipment in locations where the temperature is above 30 degrees can have significant consequences for the life of our equipment, and again we have a document from Battery University that reveals that lithium ion batteries ” suffer. stress when exposed to heat in the same way they suffer when subjected to high voltage charging . “

Laptop battery temperature
Laptop battery temperature

As can be seen in that table, temperatures directly affect the performance we obtain from our batteries, and that is why if one day you have to store a battery for a long period of time, the best thing you can do is 1) Leave it charged 40-50% (to avoid prolonged deep discharge state) and 2) store it in a cool place. It is even suitable to cover the metal terminals of the battery with electrical tape to avoid accidental conductivity or short circuits and to put the battery in a bag with hermetical closing to protect it from dust and dirt.

Storing the battery in the fridge or freezer is of (almost) nothing

If heat is bad for batteries, cold should be good, right? Well, no. That widespread myth that storing batteries in a freezer or refrigerator can improve their behavior is one of the most popular, but it’s not necessarily true.
Although in certain types of batteries – such as NiMH or NiCD, practically in disuse today – the degradation even at room temperature is appreciable and can be slowed down at low temperatures, lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries are not so sensitive to that problem -yes to high temperatures, as we said-, and in fact keeping batteries in the freezer or fridge can damage the batteries. Condensation can corrode the contacts or the seal.

There are cases in which however this method can serve another purpose: recovering a “dead” battery . In discussion forums and some blogs, users have reported how storing these seemingly unrecoverable batteries in the freezer for 14 or 15 hours could be useful. The process is simple – put the battery in a sealed bag in the freezer, remove it after that period, let it recover to its normal temperature before putting it in the equipment and perform several full recharge cycles – so if you are in that case, perhaps you can check if the method works or not.

Charging voltages, a whole science

That temperature influences the way in which the batteries degrade, and the same happens when charging them with an excessive voltage – above 4.1 volts per cell things get complicated, so be careful – something that makes the number of available charge cycles is reduced.Do I remove the battery if the laptop is plugged in?
This is one of the questions that has no simple answer, and in fact each manufacturer seems to have their own opinion on it . In Acer, for example, they do recommend removing the battery if you are going to use the laptop connected to the current.

Windows laptop battery status
Windows laptop battery status

Other manufacturers did not agree , and for example Apple insisted on not removing the battery from its MacBook when this component could still be removed – there are practical tips to save battery life in these computers -. In HP they indicate that there are no problems unless you use the laptop plugged in for more than two weeks – they do not explain why – while in Dell they say that you can use the laptop without removing the battery as much as you want .
Obviously there are computers in which the option to remove the battery is not available -not at least in a simple way- and as we have already explained, lithium ion batteries do not have overcharge problems , so even if you do not remove the battery, it will not nothing happen.Do I load and unload completely, or only partially?

The lithium ion batteries that we find in many of our equipment not only have heat as an enemy, but also those complete recharge cycles that end up depleting the battery’s performance, as we explained previously. The usual use of these batteries is to fully charge them and then discharge them until the operating system warns us that we will have to recharge them. It is not so normal that we discharge them completely, which would result in a full charge cycle exhausted, but there are alternative methods.

This is the one proposed, for example, by the CEO of Cadex Electronics, Isidor Buchmann, who explained that the ideal is for people to recharge their laptops to 80% and then exhaust them to 40% to repeat the cycle. This allows, according to his tests, to extend the life of the battery in a remarkable way -up to quadrupling it, he assures- since the level of voltage at which we charge the battery cells with this cycle makes the battery “suffer less stress.”

The problem, of course, is to follow this method continuously, especially when there are no utilities in Windows or OS X / macOS that warn of those levels. Too uncomfortable for most users, we fear.
Here we could also mention another of the popular tips that are seen on the internet: should a device always be fully charged before its first use? The truth is that although some manufacturers do recommend this practice, the process is not strictly necessary, and is usually done to complete the battery calibration . Thanks to this process, the battery indicator of the operating system will be able to behave optimally when it comes to showing us the available capacity at all times.

Beware of “alternative” batteries and chargers

What happens in the smartphone segment is no less true for the laptop segment: both batteries and original power adapters and chargers are too sensitive components to experiment with third-party alternatives that can give us many problems.
This is especially true in the case of chargers, which despite being compatible may not be as neat as the originals. These elements are small works of electronic engineering that do much more than charge our device : they monitor voltages, overheating and overloads, and therefore they are elements in which it is convenient to invest if for some reason we end up having to go to a charger to replace ours. .

Battery removal of Laptop
Battery removal of Laptop

Changing the battery is possible (and recommended)

The capacity of the battery degrades over time , and that causes our laptops to be more and more damaged and become less and less portable equipment: we need to have them plugged into the power every so often if we do not want them to turn off.

When the battery life runs out, it is best to consider a battery change . Laptop manufacturers have been making that option more and more accessible for some time, and although it is recommended that a technical service do it, any user with some time and patience can do it without problems.

Compatible batteries are usually available in all types of online stores, they are not especially expensive -it would be much more expensive to completely renew a laptop that can still be very useful- and that option allows us to recover that autonomy that we missed so much.

Promises, promises

When we inquire about laptops available on the market, manufacturers tend to err on the side of optimism when it comes to talking about the autonomy of their equipment. It is easy to find promises of the battery life of these teams, but pay attention to the fine print : these autonomies are measured in very special conditions, usually with undemanding tasks such as continuous video playback and with screen brightness at 50% or even less.

By activating the WiFi connection, performing all kinds of tasks and having the screen with a higher brightness, consumption increases significantly, so it is better not to take too much into account the manufacturer’s data or take it only as an optimistic reference .

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