It's happened to many a traveler: you're onboard a flight from, say, New York to Los Angeles, with plans to finish a stack of work along the way. After all, an airplane is often a great place to be productive, thanks to the absence of nagging colleagues, email and ringing phones.
Except you're barely over Minnesota and your computer warns you it's about to "hibernate" as you're battery power is at just five percent. Now how exactly do you plan to finish that sales report before you land?
Energy management has plagued portable computing since its inception, but thanks to more powerful batteries, processors with clever energy management and smarter software, it's getting better all the time.
You can help, too. Aside from lugging a spare battery, the following are a few tips for squeezing more juice out of your laptop.
1. Turn down the brightness of your monitor a great deal as it will help preserve battery life. This can usually be found on your laptop's secondary keyboard commands, such as blue icons that look like little suns and then manually reducing the brightness. On a related note, if you're shopping for a new laptop, keep in mind the bigger the laptop screen the faster the battery drain, in most cases.
2. The battery will drain faster if there's a spinning disc in your optical drive such as a game, music CD or DVD movie. Some games offer you the choice to install it all to the hard drive so choose this option as you'll get more life out of your laptop. Ditto for music and movies. Needless-to-say, your laptop battery will last much longer in programs with little drain on system resources, such as a word processor.
3. Make sure you have no devices plugged into the laptop that can be draining its power, such as a webcam, USB thumbdrive or a 4G stick. Connected peripherals can be a factor in eating away at its battery life, so get used to the touchpad instead of using an external mouse on the plane. Ditto for enabling wireless connectivity, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so be sure these radios are turned off.
4. Windows users can also click on Power Options in the Control Panel to manually reduce the power consumption of your laptop. Some may turn off your monitor when not in use for, say, 3 minutes, but will turn on instantly again when a key is touched. Also, you can also set alarms when the battery is about to die (say, at 5 percent) so you can safely save your information before powering down.
5. While not cheap, you might want to consider a better battery than the one that shipped with your PC. For example, some laptops typically ship with a regular 6-cell battery that can deliver up to four hours of battery life, depending on the application. But you can choose to buy, say, a 12-cell battery that can last up to four times as long.