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Laptop Battery Conservation Tips

By Matt@Smalldog.com

Small Dog’s home base in Waitsfield experienced an unexpected power outage this morning. I wrote this on a MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo 2.33GHZ 15” machine, which a half hour ago had a full charge but only estimated 1 hour 45 minutes of remaining battery life.

I know from experience with my 1.67GHZ PowerBook G4 that the pro machines lag behind the consumer models in battery life, and since I am in the position of having to conserve battery life I thought I’d share my technique.

  • Lower the display brightness all the way down. Doing this will generally double the estimated remaining battery life if beforehand you were set to full brightness.
  • Disable keyboard backlighting.
  • Ensure that Energy Saver is set to spin down hard disks when possible.
  • Put your computer to sleep whenever you’re not actively using it, like when you’re on the phone, in the bathroom, or walking the dog.
  • Eject optical disks. They spin, taking power, even when they’re not actively being used.
  • Have lots of RAM installed. This helps prevent excessive virtual memory use (virtual memory is hard drive space that’s turned into “virtual” RAM. When the computer needs more RAM than is physically installed, it’ll dip into virtual memory reserves, and cause increased disk activity. For this reason, avoid invoking dashboard for its excessive memory use; consider using activity monitor to kill the dock process, which owns Dashboard. If you’ve invoked Dashboard, killing the Dock will free up all the memory it used. Consider disabling Spotlight as well (see http://aplawrence.com/foo-mac/remove-spotlight.html) because its indexing is both processor- and disk-intensive.
  • Use your iPod for music. iTunes keeps the hard drive working.
  • Type in TextEdit, not Word. Word’s autosave feature spins up the hard drive all the time; TextEdit does no such thing.
  • Don’t keep unused Applications running in the background.
  • If you use Quicksilver (you should by the way—http://quicksilver.blacktree.com), ensure that it does not re-catalogue, which is hard drive- and processor-intensive. Set it to rescan every 24 hours.

    We’re still in the dark here, but the generator is chugging away keeping the web servers and VOIP phone system up and running. With these techniques I increased estimated battery life from 1h45m to 3h20m…that’s a big difference!

    By Matt@Smalldog.com

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