June 12, 2009, 3:14 AM — Notebook Battery daily maintenance FAQ
Note that these steps correspond with decision points on the flowchart and are reached directly by clicking on the diamond symbols. The text below cannot be read sequentially.
Needs AC Adapter to boot? The first step in troubleshooting your inspiron e1705 battery is determining whether it can hold enough charge to boot the notebook. Will the laptop power up and run on the battery, or does the AC adapter which doubles as the laptop battery charger need to be plugged in? Modern notebooks usually have a whole array of status LEDs that will tell you if the laptop senses good power coming from the battery charger and whether or not the battery is charging. Unfortunately, there's no universal standard for these LEDs, their colors or their actions. Note also that we're using the term "boot" rather loosely here. If the laptop powers up on battery, you can hear the fans and the drives, your troubleshooting problem lies elsewhere.
Life Of Battery Too Short? This is the main problem laptop owners complain about, and often for good cause. Older laptops using Ni-Cad and early Ni-MH inspiron 6400 batteries often ran for 2.5 to 3.5 hours when brand new, but within a month or so, would barely keep the notebook powered up for an hour. Newer laptops using Ni-MH and Li-ION batteries are much better, often holding onto a three hour life through hundreds of charge and discharge cycles. The first line of defense against complaints about battery life by the manufacturers is always, "Did you charge and operate the battery according to the manual?" Unfortunately, different laptop manufacturers seem to disagree over how to best treat batteries of the same technology, and I wouldn't be surprised if the differences extend to different models from the same manufacturer.
If the laptop's Dell D610 battery life has been slowly degrading over time, it's probably operating more or less in accordance with plan, but if you find the operating life shortened by more than 15% or 20% within the first few months, there's probably something wrong. Batteries of all technologies can be "trained" to perform poorly through non-ideal usage patterns, but the Li-ION battery technology is pretty resistant, and as long as you run them all the way down once a month or so, you can probably prevent any serious charging memory issues.
Is Battery New? Purchasers of brand-new laptops are often surprised to find the battery is dead, or runs down very quickly. Even if the battery was fully charged when the laptop was boxed for shipment, that box may have been sitting in a warehouse for six months or a year before you purchased it in a store, more than enough time for a notebook battery to self discharge to an appreciable degree, even if it's not being drawn upon. If the battery isn't new, and you just received the laptop as a hand-me-down or purchased it second hand, there's no reason to expect that a short Ibook G4 battery life is due to anything other than an aged battery. You can try to recondition the battery (see the laptop manufacturer website for for software that may be available), but odds are the battery simply can't hold a charge the way it did when it was new.
User Condition Powerbook G4 Battery? Some manufacturers may condition the battery before installation in the laptop, others expect you to read the owners manual instructions and do it yourself in the first few days you own the laptop. The most general procedure is to charge the battery fully before use (leaving it on the AC battery charger overnight is best), and then to run exclusively on battery until the battery is discharged. Some brands suggest you run until the operating system warns of low battery life remaining, which could be anywhere from 10% to 3% remaining on standard settings. Others recommend that you run the laptop until it shuts itself down. This doesn't mean that you have to sit there working for three or four hours, you can run the battery down over multiple sessions over multiple days. The important thing is not to plug the AC power adapter back in and start recharging the battery until it is completely run down. The condition process generally requires you to go through this cycle three times in a row.
Runs Always With battery? If the owners manual for your notebook suggests removing the battery when plugged in for prolonged periods, doing so may greatly prolong the battery life in terms of both charge cycles and years. Personally, I tend to be lazy and just leave the battery in all the time, despite the fact I almost always work plugged in. The battery life on the first couple Toshiba's I owned dropped down to a half hour or so of running time within a few months my buying them, so it may have been my fault. Li-ION battery are much more friendly to poor power management habits, but you should run them down to empty once a month to keep them from developing a memory.
Battery conditioning means training the individual Macbook Pro battery battery cells into a pattern of giving as much power as they can and accepting the largest charge that they can. It would take an advanced chemistry text and a person much smarter than I to describe the underlying reasons for battery memory, and the techniques for best charging and storing batteries sometimes contradict one another. Once a laptop battery pack is conditioned, you may still need to run it all the way down once a month for best performance, especially if you normally work with the laptop plugged in. It's important to read the owners manual section on battery life, because different models ship with different battery technologies, and the best practices to extend the battery life may not be the same.