How to Make the Most Out of Your Netbook Battery

When you first fire up your netbook you usually notice that the battery life is not what you’d expect from just looking at the box in a computer store. It depends on the person, some think they’re lied to, others simply want to know what’s behind that and some other people try to figure out if they can do something with it.

Fortunately they can, there are a few easy tricks everyone can try to match the factory figures disclosed by the manufacturer. The netbook I use for everyday tasks is an Asus 1005HA-M, which comes with a ‘8.5 hour’ battery. The first time I saw the 5 hour forecast in Windows, I thought something was wrong but I discovered a few tricks I could push it up all the way to 7 hours 20 minutes.

1. I don’t use the screen at its brightest setting. That is solely for show purposes, otherwise you’d see nothing on it in a well lit showroom of a computer store. For everyday use you don’t need that setting, because everything is visible indoors using 20% and you won’t see a thing in direct sunlight at 100% anyway. At night I often find myself pull it down to just one notch above minimum, since it takes 3-5 minutes to get used to and gives an additional hour over a 70% setting.

2. I make sure nothing runs that I don’t need. This sounds too obvious, burt hear me out. There are programs, usually instant messaging clients, that are rather hard to shoot down completely. They pretend they’re gone when you press the X in the corner but they keep a watcher process alive. Bring up Task Manager with Ctrl-Alt-Del and kill all processes you don’t need anymore. It goes for programs that are visible but you don’t need at the moment.

When offline, you don’t need your browser to keep computing a piece of flash content in the background. Switch it off and start it again when you’re online.

3. If you’re offline anyway for whatever reason, you might as well switch the Wi-Fi adapter off using function key combinations. It makes no sense to keep the radio unit looking when there is no available connection, or you simply don’t need to be online. It can add 30 to 60 minutes to the overall battery performance. Do the same with bluetooth, infra and 3G modem too, anything you don’t need should be off.