Seraphim Systems | Small Business Information Technology Support & Consultation

Ways to optimize battery life in Windows 10

Always keep firmware and OS up to date

Just as we mentioned part 1 of Ways to improve the performance of Windows 10, we’ll start off with something obvious. Keep your firmware and OS as up to date as possible. With Windows 10, this is easy, and be easy I mean almost impossible not to do. By default, windows regularly checks for updates in the background and will prompt you to install them at scheduled intervals. You can set active hours such as 9:00am to 5:00pm so that Windows will not interrupt your work day with updates, and Windows will do its best to install updates outside of that timeframe. However, if you only shut down your laptop at the end of the day, windows will not be able to perform updates, and if enough time passes without updating, Windows will eventually override your work hours and prompt you to update, even during busy hours.

Columbia, MO Small Business IT In most cases, Windows updates are simple patches or security patches (we’ll talk about that in a later series.). But there are occasions when the new drivers are released for your hardware that meaningfully improve their performance or efficiency, saving you precious battery life!

On mobile devices there are a lot of factors that determine how much battery life you have, the most important of which is the capacity of the battery itself. Since that isn’t something you can generally change, what you have to work with is how much power all the connective devices need to do their jobs. Every device takes power, from the display, to the wireless adapter, and everything in between. Keeping Windows up is a great way to ensure all of those devices have current drivers, and aren’t gobbling up unnecessary energy.

Disable unused devices

Every device is a little different, and not just in superficial ways like the shape and color. Every laptop has a different array of connected devices such as webcams, microphones, speakers, touch adapters, fingerprint readers, and many more. In most cases, the connected devices are there to add an important function to the device that users need in order to do critical work, but this is not always the case.

If you are a web developer, blogger, or writer, your primary use for the device is as a terminal, and the hardware you need on your mobile device is pretty basic. You’ll certainly need a color accurate display, a solid keyboard, and a wireless adapter – assuming you aren’t using your laptop at a docking station. But what you probably won’t need are webcams, or microphones, touch digitizers, and so on. Disabling those devices will actually make a huge difference in your battery life since each of them is functionally always on and waiting for your input.

This is just an example of course – perhaps your work is very social, and you regularly take part in conference calls while on the go. In this case you probably want to keep your webcam, microphone, and speakers all enabled.

As you fall into a groove with your workload, you’ll start to realize which devices you regularly make use of and which ones just sit in the background and drain your battery. Disabling devices you don’t use all the time can easily be the difference between making through the day on a charge, or having to interrupt your work to find an outlet or charger.

Columbia, MO Small Business Managed IT As an added bonus, disabling some of those unused devices and not suing so much power, often times results in cooler operation and better performance! If your laptop could talk, it would thank you!

Manage your display brightness

Under normal circumstances, the display on laptop or tablet is the power-hungry component. I say “under normal circumstances” because no two devices are really alike, and if you are using a mobile workstation to render complex 3D models or environments than the combination of your CPU and GPU as a pair will consume more, but that’s a fairly unusual use-case.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that your tablet is not under such a demanding workload. In these situations, the display is almost certainly going to eat up more of your battery life than anything else.

As a general rule, you should not have your display brightness anywhere near its maximum unless you are working outdoors, in direct sunlight. If you are indoors, with remotely decent lighting, setting your brightness to about 40% is usually more than enough to eliminate glares or reflections, and should allow you to clearly whatever it is you’re working on. However, as I mentioned, this is a general rule and won’t apply equally to every laptop.

No two laptops or tablets are the same, and the display is a big part of why they are all so different from one another. The most common type of display is an IPS (In Plane Switching) panel. You’ll find this type of display on most luxury or “prosumer” laptops and tablets such as the Microsoft Surface lineup, Apple’s Macbooks and iPads, and most of dell’s XPS products. There are a lot of reasons why IPS panels are common on higher end devices, such as wide color reproduction, great viewing angles, aging, and a few others, but what matters for this article is that they have the highest peak and sustained brightness, and that means that drain the most juice from your battery.

TN (Twisted Nematic) and VA (Vertical Alignment) panels are also pretty common, but are found most commonly on budget friendly hardware, or in some cases, very niche gaming hardware that relies heavily on the higher refresh rates and lower response times of these panel types. Again, for the purposes of keeping your battery alive, TN and VA panels have significantly lower maximum and sustained brightness than their IPS counterparts, and thusly use less energy.

To make matters even more complicated, not all panels of the same type are made equal. For Example, Acer, LG, and Samsung all manufacture IPS panels for everything from smartphones to refrigerators, and no two of them are quite alike either. Within a single product family you can find IPS panels that offer completely different refresh resolutions, refresh rates, and color reproduction values. And as you probably expect, each of them will draw more or less power based on their maximum brightness.

So as you can see, the general rule of 40% is exactly that. General. It’s not going to deliver the same results for every device, but it represents a good baseline for a wide range of hardware configurations.

For our tests, we ran a Surface Pro, a Surface Laptop, and a Macbook Pro (all 2019 models) on a typical workload, and found that the reducing the brightness from 100% to 40% resulted in almost doubling the life of the battery.
In the case of our Macbook Pro, we got 3.7 hoours of use at 100% brightness, and just a hair under 7 hours of use at 40% brightness.On our Surface Pro we got nearly 5.2 hours of use with brightness at 100%, and 10.1 hours with brightness at 40%The results on the Surface laptop were very similar with 5.4 hours of use at 100%, and 10.2 hours at 40%.