Recently, subscriber Don Hammons wrote to ask about how to treat the battery in a notebook computer. Don is the proud owner of a new Dell notebook.
I have searched your site looking for info for a new Notebook user. I was interested in how to handle power for the Notebook, especially whether to leave the power cable connected when the computer is shutdown. I understand that the battery will still charge so I wonder if it is fully charged the cable should remain connected or disconnected. Should the battery be run down to a low level occasionally and should you never use, let’s say 20%, then put it back on charge.
Here’s what I do with my Dell Inspiron 8600. It’s a couple years old and is my primary computer, although I’ve also got a home-built Windows XP desktop, a home-built Linux box, and of course my home-built Home Theater PC! My Dell notebook gets used extensively, enough so that the plastic is starting to show discolorations where my wrists rest on it. In other words, it runs a lot…
- First, it stays plugged in 24/7, unless I’m traveling. I probably should, but I don’t, have it connected through a surge suppressor (I think I’ll change that!)
- I turn it off or close the lid to hibernate it most nights
- The power cable stays plugged in and the power brick is “live.”
- I leave the main battery in at all times. My speaker unit is built into the main battery compartment
- I also have the optional second battery that fits into the “media bay.” I’ve found that I use it a lot more often than I use my DVD/CD. I recently changed started leaving the second battery in the media bay all the time. If I need the DVD drive, I’ll get it out of my notebook’s case.
Regarding running it down — that’s a procedure for the older Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd/NiCad) batteries because they had a "memory effect" that would reduce their capacity if they were recharged before being fully discharged.
Running the battery down is not good for Lithium Ion batteries, which are the common type in portable electronics today.
Li-Ion batteries will have a shorter life if you run them all the way down. Since they don’t have a memory problem, the recommendations are to recharge them even if they’ve just been used a little bit.
Also, if I wanted to make a long trip that was too long for the battery life, what is the best solution for a charger in the auto. Should it be an inverter for the cigarette lighter to attach to the regular cable converter or is there a better way.
I suggest talking to someone who has a Recreational Vehicle (RV) for travel, if you know one. Many RV users buy inverters (and notebooks) so they can use them when they travel.
Personally, I would buy an inverter sized at about 1.5 times the rating of the notebook’s power brick. The extra capacity for demand can help on instantaneous load. Also, the power brick’s rating is for the output, not its input. A larger-rated inverter should be able to run any given load without as much heat stress as a smaller inverter.
Is it OK to run the Notebook without the battery installed to preserve it.
Only if you’re willing to take a power-blip as an automatic reboot or plug it in via an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). My battery keeps my notebook up through power blips that would otherwise trigger a reboot.
Is it OK to run a Notebook 24/7 with the battery in it.
Probably. Mine comes close to 24/7 with the battery in it!
Pay attention to how much heat the notebook puts out, which really isn’t a battery issue. Also, be sure to have your power-savings functions turned on, especially for the LCD screen.
WARNING: During mid-2006, there were reported problems where Lithium Ion batteries spontaneously burst into flame. Sony recalled a huge number of Lithium Ion batteries that they had supplied to a number of different manufacturers.
If you use your notebook for every day use, you may wish to remove your battery and plug your notebook into a UPS, the same way you would protect a desktop computer.
LCD screens use small fluorescent tubes, usually three (top, center and bottom) with reflectors, to light the liquid crystal display from behind. LCD’s (the electronic component, not the coloquial term for the LCD monitor) do not emit light themselves — the allow varying amounts of varying light wavelengths to pass through the liquid crystal.
So, what happens if you leave the LCD display running all the time? Just like a regular monitor or even a light bulb, it becomes more dim over time.
If you do some searching, you’ll see that there have been some product recalls on batteries and power bricks. If I left it on 24/7, I would not want to have it under load (running Seti@Home for example) — let it do a normal powersave when it hasn’t been used in a while.
Finally, some people recommend removing the notebook battery if you’re going to be using the notebook on AC power for a long time. Apparently, or at least this is what they believe, the Li-Ion battery will lose capacity if it stays plugged in. Personally, I count on the notebook’s charging circuitry to stop charging (my Dell’s do a good job of this when the battery is fully charged, the charging light goes out).
Another good reason to leave the battery in is that the battery acts as a UPS. If I pulled out the battery, I would be subject to power blips and brown-outs, or I would have to plug the battery-less notebook into a UPS to avoid them. Leaving the battery installed is a much more effective solution for me.