Imagine that you’re on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. You pop a DVD into your notebook to watch a movie. After the credits roll, you take a look at the battery meter in Windows’ taskbar and are shocked to see:
What is going on here? Your notebook is supposed to run for five hours straight! Apparently, something is draining your battery faster than usual. Maybe it’s a setting, a device, or a background program that causes tons of activity on your system. Don’t worry. This blog post will help you find out what’s eating up your battery and how you can resolve this issue.
Using the Windows 7 energy-tracking feature
Microsoft introduced a new feature in Windows 7, called the “Energy Efficiency Report”. We mentioned this feature in our PDC 2009 conference coverage. It’s a tool that analyzes your system’s behavior, settings, devices, and processes and generates a very detailed report on what’s wrong with the energy output of your notebook. This time, we’ll go into more detail, find out how to run it, and how to react on the results of this energy efficiency report.
- To generate this report, simply click on the Start Orb, type “cmd” into the search field and right-click on the “cmd” entry. Select “Run as administrator”.
- The command prompt opens up. Now, type in “powercfg /energy -output C:\Energy.html”:
- Once you hit “Enter” on your keyboard, Windows 7 will analyze your notebook for 60 seconds and observe all settings and circumstances that might be affecting your battery life.
Once it’s done, you will find the energy efficiency report on your C: drive.
Easily interpret the Energy Efficiency Report
Once you’ve opened the Energy Efficiency Report in your browser, you will probably see a lot of red and yellow entries. They tell you exactly why your notebook is running out of battery. However, the solutions are a bit cryptic—so let’s go through them step by step.
All settings beginning with “Power Policy” can easily be changed under the Power Options control panel. To learn how, simply follow our advice in our TuneUp Blog Diary: Extend Your Laptop’s Battery Life (Part One) and Part Two blog posts. In our example above, the Energy Efficiency Report mentions “Power Policy: Disk idle is disabled (On Battery)”. The solution here is to allow the disk to sleep after a certain amount of inactivity. Follow Step 4 and set “Turn off hard disk after” to a value between five and ten minutes.
System Availability Requests
Watch out for these entries. They specifically mention programs that prevent your computer from going to sleep or turning off the display—both crucial features for saving power when you’re not sitting in front of your notebook. In this example, “mpc-hc.exe” orders the notebook to not turn off the display, which is quite alright, given that it’s Media Player Classic Home Cinema. After all, who wants to look at a blank display after watching 15 minutes of a movie?
However, if you see a file or folder name that you have never seen before, be careful. It may be an insignificant background process that is preventing these energy features. Search Google for it, find out what it is, and try to disable or uninstall the program.
In some cases, a device might also prevent the computer from going to sleep:
If that’s the case, there is only one thing to do: update the driver. If even that doesn’t help, we’re sorry to say, you’re probably out of luck as the device might be faulty.
In this case, the USB port (or a device plugged into it) might prevent your notebook from going to sleep. Here’s the solution: click on the Start Orb, right-click on “Computer” and select “Properties.” Open “Device Manager” and then the “Universal Serial Bus controllers” category. Now, double-click on each entry you see here and go to the “Power Management” tab. Make sure that “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power” is checked for all the entries you see:
If your laptop’s processor is running on full steam (usually between 30% and 99%), it is no surprise that the battery dies way too quickly. So if you see this entry, watch out for renegade processes that use a lot of your notebook’s power. How? Well, just scroll down a bit in your Energy Efficiency Report and look out for these entries:
All processes that cause a high CPU utilization are specifically mentioned here. In the example above, PowerDVD 10 used about 7%–8% of the CPU which is nothing to worry about since we played a video. But if you see a process that you’re not actively using, you should do something:
- Check your computer for viruses and spyware. These kinds of malware are usually running in the background, producing a high CPU usage. I personally recommend using Microsoft Security Essentials to check for any sorts of malicious software.
- Update the software: If the process you see here belongs to a program that is running in the background and that you may need (for example, a printer software), try to find an update for it. It’s definitely not usual for a background process to cause permanent CPU usage.
- Uninstall the program: If the process that’s causing this belongs to a program that you don’t need at all, get rid of it!
Battery: Battery Information
Last but not least, check the status of your battery. Maybe the root cause for your notebook dying early is an aging battery. After several hundreds or thousands of charges, even the most modern battery cannot provide the energy it used to—and, of course, this results in your notebook powering out earlier. So make sure to check the “Design Capacity” (the original charge capacity of your battery) and the “Last Full Charge” entries. In our example, the notebook’s battery is quite OK: it used to be 55 milliwatt (mW) hours, now it’s down to 52 mw hours. Not too bad, considering that the notebook we used is about a year old and was recharged daily. However, if the “Last Full Charge” is less than 50% of its original value, I strongly suggest replacing the battery.
One Last Piece of Advice
So now that you’ve optimized all energy settings, sorted driver issues, and revolved programs that caused high CPU utilization, we have one last, but very important, piece of advice. Make sure that your system is fully optimized. We’re not kidding—optimize your PC and notebook for maximum performance by cleaning out junk, disabling unnecessary services, getting rid of startup programs, and defragging your hard disk. The more optimized your notebook is, the longer its battery will last. So make sure to follow all the advices we give on our TuneUp Blog!