Monitor your laptop battery and extend its life

Inadequate battery technology is one of the biggest problems we face these days and despite all the research and money thrown at the subject, they still run down far too quickly. How healthy is the battery in your laptop computer? Does it still hold the same charge as it used to when it was brand new? Is it weakening over time? How long will it last today? Is it gradually wearing out? A free utility called BatteryCare answers those questions.

BatteryCare is a simple utility for Windows (see here for Linux) that monitors the battery and provides useful status information. It can replace the Windows battery icon at the right side of the taskbar to provide more comprehensive details.

Go to batterycare.net and the program is on the Download page. Instead of clicking the large BatteryCare Free Download button, click the More Download Options link below it. There is a portable version and I prefer portable software because it does not need installing into Windows. The less you install, the fewer problems you will have.

To use the portable version, right click the zip file that downloads and select Extract All. I keep all my portable software in C:\Users\Public\Portable, so I just drag the BatteryCare folder to it. You can keep it in the Downloads folder if you want though.

 BatteryCare battery monitor

Open the BatteryCare folder and double click BatteryCare.exe to run it. Windows 8 displays a message saying that it has protected your PC by preventing the program from running. This does not mean that it is a bad program and It does this to any program it does not recognise. There are tens of thousands of programs and Windows doesn’t know half of them.

 Windows Smartscreen

Click the More info link on the left and then there is a Run anyway button. If you know that a program is OK, and I have been running this one for a while and it is fine, then you can ignore Windows warning and run the program anyway. Go ahead, this is a useful utility for laptop owners. (This is a once-only message and you will not see it again.)

 Windows SmartScreen

You will not see much because BatteryCare hides among the icons at the right side of the taskbar in that pop-up tray of icons. The icon has tiny writing on it and you can just make out the percentage of battery charge and the remaining time left. As the mouse hovers over the icon, a pop-up window shows more information.

 BatteryCare battery monitor

You can see the time remaining, battery percentage, discharge rate, power plan (HP Recommended on this HP laptop), CPU (processor) and HDD (hard disk drive) temperatures. There is some useful information there. (Are you using the right power plan?)

All this information did not immediately appear and it took some time to settle down. Perhaps it just needs to monitor the battery for a couple of hours to work out its capacity, charge rate, discharge rate and so on. Give it some time.

Right click the icon and select Show to show the program window. The Basic Information tab shows the battery status and also the number of cycles. A cycle is 100% use of the battery. You could use 40% one day, 45% another day and 15% on another, charging up in between each use. That is still just one cycle because they add up to 100%, and you don’t need to run it down to zero before charging it up.

 BatteryCare for Windows

The Detailed Information tab does exactly what it says. It tells you the model, design capacity (what a brand new battery can store), total capacity (the maximum it can now hold), the current capacity (how much is left), and so on.

 BatteryCare utility for Windows

The settings are worth exploring and there is an option to start BatteryCare automatically with Windows and options to disable certain features when running on battery to extend its life. It does not say which services, so you might want to try this to see if it is OK on your laptop.

In the Advanced section in Settings is an option to Run at startup in Administrator mode. This enables the temperature monitors for the CPU and HDD, and the stopping of energy sapping services.

BatteryCare is a simple, but effective utility that is free and works well. If you have a laptop computer running Windows you should grab a copy.


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