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Last post Author Topic: better battery life out of a laptop  (Read 2554 times)

eleman

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better battery life out of a laptop
« on: July 10, 2016, 03:11:09 AM »
I have this huge laptop with a smallish battery and a not-so-mobile cpu. Therefore I get 2-3 hours of use on a single charge. So I'm trying to be creative with increasing battery life with it.

Of course I did all the usual stuff. The screen brightness is as low as I can use. Power settings are very very conservative.

I thought of replacing the hard drive with an SSD, which would consume a tad less power, but apparently the chipset does not like SSDs, so that wouldn't work.

I'm a translator, so my workload is not heavy on the cpu, but every minute or so, the segment I translate gets written to the disk. So the disk never gets to go to sleep; it's always on.

Then, another idea hit me. What if I made a large ramdrive, and worked on that, letting the disk sleep meanwhile, and at the end of the day, copy the ramdrive back to the disk.

Do you think that would help reducing the power consumption significantly? Would it be worth the bother? Or would I be spending 3 hours to configure a system to a much less reliable state, just to get 5 minutes more battery life?
« Last Edit: July 10, 2016, 03:41:58 AM by eleman »

mouser

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2016, 03:17:48 AM »
It's an interesting question, but I would be very cautious about having real work changes not saved to disk for long periods.. I wonder if there are ramdisks that automatically save to real disk every hour or so..

Something worth considering is buying a laptop specifically designed for long battery life.  If you aren't very particular about other features you may be able to get a used one cheap on ebay..
Being able to move to an ssd would be a side benefit.

Ath

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2016, 03:31:00 AM »
+1 on all that mouser said  :Thmbsup:

4wd

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2016, 03:39:08 AM »
You could work from a small RAM drive, copying the contents to a flash drive every so often.  At the end of the day copy the contents of the flash drive to the HDD.

This should give you better security than running purely from a RAM drive, (in the case of a crash), plus allow the HDD to spin down for a greater length of time.

eleman

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2016, 03:40:30 AM »
Something worth considering is buying a laptop specifically designed for long battery life.  If you aren't very particular about other features you may be able to get a used one cheap on ebay..
Being able to move to an ssd would be a side benefit.

Uhh... I'm quite peculiar with my hardware preferences. A huge screen, a large keyboard, win7, and a price cap of $400 (really) were the musts dictating the choice. I'm lucky that newegg gave me this one. And I'd rather stick with it, rather than migrate to a win8+ thingie.

BTW, now that I checked the product page again, I realized it has a built-in card reader. Maybe I can use it like a quasi-ssd, to put the hard drive to sleep after boot.

Ath

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2016, 05:06:06 AM »
Sound like the cpu and mainboard are the next biggest power consumers, after the screen and hdd, so changing only 1 factor is pobably not going to gain very much.

mouser

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2016, 07:44:39 AM »
How can such a modern laptop not support ssd drives?
Reading comments it seems like it does support ssd.

eleman

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2016, 08:40:48 AM »
How can such a modern laptop not support ssd drives?
Reading comments it seems like it does support ssd.

It has SATA 2.0, which has only very crude NCQ support, and no TRIM feature, meaning any SSD I put into the thing would not work fast, and also would wear out much more quickly than otherwise :(

Wasting limited write cycles to non-optimized writes...

IainB

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2016, 10:04:37 AM »
I have this huge laptop with a smallish battery and a not-so-mobile cpu. Therefore I get 2-3 hours of use on a single charge. So I'm trying to be creative with increasing battery life with it. ...

What is the laptop description and model please? Otherwise, you rather leave us in the dark.
As a long-term laptop user who has had to face up to similar challenges over the years, I might be able to offer some assistance/suggestions, but it always helps to know about the laptop one is dealing with first.

tomos

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2016, 11:22:37 AM »
^ that info is hidden away in another post:
this one

. . .
@eleman,
1) I know I *hate* to lose even 15 mins of work, so I would think about the amount of work-time that you could live with losing, and make sure your work gets saved somewhere within every x amount of minutes.

2) Is the battery easily removed? Consider getting a second one?

3) Look at the software on the machine, and what uses up the most CPU and/or RAM -- see can you stop/uninstall some of that.
Tom

xtabber

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2016, 12:00:55 PM »
You can get a 120GB SSD for less than $35 these days and your computer will certainly support it.  TRIM is an OS function and is implemented in Windows 7.  I have SSDs runnning in older systems with SATA II without problems. It may not run as fast as SATA III, but it will still be many times faster and more power efficient than any HDD.  Forget about an SD card - they usually run through a USB 2.0 controller (particularly on cheap systems) and they are much slower than SSDs anyway.

That said, the screen is most likely the major power consumer on that system and I very much doubt that replacing the HDD with an SSD would result in more than a 10-15% difference in battery usage.

Shades

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2016, 01:34:52 PM »
How can such a modern laptop not support ssd drives?
Reading comments it seems like it does support ssd.

It has SATA 2.0, which has only very crude NCQ support, and no TRIM feature, meaning any SSD I put into the thing would not work fast, and also would wear out much more quickly than otherwise :(

Wasting limited write cycles to non-optimized writes...

My old Asus P5QL-EM motherboard only has SATA2 ports and I use a Samsung SSD with it. The software Samsung provides with the SSD does enable TRIM. When a SSD isn't reading or writing, it hardly consumes power, that is true. However, it does consume quite a lot when it is reading/writing. A spinning hard disk is much more of a continuous drain. On average a SSD hard disk isn't much more energy efficient than a spinning disk. The 10% number of xtabber is correct in my experience.

Can't you get a bigger battery (with more cells) for this laptop? Or one or more extra batteries?

If you aren't using the DVD, you could actually disconnect it from the main board in your laptop. All what isn't connected, doesn't leech power from the battery...

Use software like 'ProcessTamer' or 'Process Lasso' to keep only the bare essential processes running. Next to the already extreme power conservation settings you have set, that should gain you some more time. Perhaps reducing the priority of running processes helps as well.

IainB

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2016, 02:12:44 PM »
@tomos: Thanks for the link, it's an:
Acer Laptop Aspire E1 E1-731-4699, with:
  • Intel Pentium 2020M (2.40 GHz)
  • 4 GB Memory
  • 500 GB HDD
  • Intel HD Graphics 17.3"
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit


Quite a nice lugtop!    :D
If reduction of power consumption is an objective, then the sorts of things I would suggest you consider could include are, for example:
  • The CPU and GPU might consume less power if the system was configured for battery-saving rather than performance.

  • Turn OFF (Disable) all superfluous animations as much as possible (this might even improve performance and reduce response times).

  • Go through the Services and prune them as much as you can get away with - e.g., according to Win7-64 (or whatever OS version you have now) settings as per BlackViper: http://www.blackviper.com/

  • Disable any "Green" energy-saving/compliance applications - that is, unless you can establish that it actually does something useful for power-saving.

  • Install f.lux - https://justgetflux.com/faq.html   .  Treat it as a suck-it-and-see exercise. It will improve the ergonomics of the display and might even reduce power consumption (less glare/brightness) during night-time use.

  • Install BattCursor v1.2.0.0 (http://download.cnet...0430_4-75784304.html) and disable existing battery support services. Switch OFF auto-update of BattCursor as there are apparently no newer versions and the author site has gone away, and so update hangs.

  • Increase RAM to 8GB (2 x 4GB is max for this laptop). You can get a check on the correct spec RAM to get for your laptop from (http://www.crucial.com/). Increasing the RAM will generally improve the perceived speed of operation of the laptop, and can enable reduced page-swapping to disk, and make room for a RAM disk - e.g., install Virtual Disk ImDisk (http://reboot.pro/fi.../284-imdisk-toolkit/). A RAMdisk is fast and can make a big difference to performance, and consumes less power than a disk, and will generally be faster than either HDD or SSD.

  • Disable Hibernate function.

  • The 500GB disk is probably a 5400rpm drive. Swap it for a newer, bigger 7200rpm drive. The newer drives are generally more efficient and tend to use the same or maybe even slightly less power, and faster is better for two reasons - the disk is doing more accessing and read/write work in less time, thus consuming less power in total over a given elapsed time, and performance - e.g., as per the WEI (Windows Experience Index) - can be measurably improved. Furthermore, the newer disks tend to create less heat, which can mean reduced cooling fan usage and consequent power drain.

  • Install SpeedFan and see if tweaking the fan usage is possible/useful. Don't let things overheat though.

  • Install BatteryInfoView from NirSoft (http://www.nirsoft.net). It will tell you the status of your battery. If the battery is poor, then get a second battery. If the battery  is good, then, as mentioned above,  consider getting a second one anyway, or a larger one - if available (though that will weigh more).

  • Examine and tune where possible all the major disk-thrashing proggies and utilities that you might have.
    For example:
    • You can reduce disk activity on some file search/indexing software - e.g., Everything - by setting it to minimal unnecessary/unwanted metadata collection of files. This also can make it faster.
    • Do schedule regular defragging - to run if fragmentation gets over (say) 10%, as this can improve disk performance and maintain it that way.
    • Set the TEMP/TMP environment to a Temp folder on the RAMdisk (ImDisk will do this by default).
    • Reduce the frequency of Virus/Malware scans.
    • Set browser cache to the RAMdisk.
    • Set 7zip or other file compression/decompression tools to use TEMP (in RAMdisk).
« Last Edit: July 10, 2016, 03:22:36 PM by IainB »

eleman

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2016, 02:36:02 PM »
  • Go through the Services and prune them as much as you can get away with - e.g., according to Win7-64 (or whatever OS version you have now) settings as per BlackViper: http://www.blackviper.com/
Wow, this site is awesome. Thanks for all the tips, and in particular, for blackviper.

IainB

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2016, 02:51:18 PM »
^^ Yes, BlackViper is an old reliable stand-by. With Win10 though, I don't really need to Disable too many services, just set them from Automatic to Manual.

By the way, I just added a 12th item to my list above.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2016, 03:16:47 PM by IainB »

eleman

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2016, 02:09:23 AM »
Wow, I added 30% to the battery life, without a single hardware change...

Just changed the background of the translation software (which I run full screen) from white-grey to black-blackish. Now the battery lasts roughly 4 hours instead of the previous 3.

Ath

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2016, 04:19:21 AM »
Check this out: blackle

f0dder

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2016, 03:40:53 PM »
Don't even consider running editing on a ramdrive - it's simply too much grief if you lose your work. There's a good chance there will be enough background I/O anyway that your main drive wouldn't spin down... aaaand they don't even use that much power.

Screen is definitely the biggest power drain, especially when you're not running anything compute-intensive - the hardware change that would be most likely to get you more battery life would be, well, the battery :) - especially if the computer is more than a couple of years old. Batteries wear out over time.

A SSD might be a good option - you might not get much extra battery life out of it, but it's a big quality of life thing. Less noise, faster program startup, much reduced vibration (nice if you use the laptop in your lap). And do be careful to check reviews first: in laptop situations (especially when it's been possible to spin down the disk), some brands have actually ended up being more power-hungry than traditional disks. Don't worry about NCQ as you're not doing disk-intensive stuff, and this also means you shouldn't really worry too much about TRIM either (do chipsets really have to support it? I thought it was just pass-through to the drive, and the support was tied to OS).
- carpe noctem

IainB

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2016, 08:22:50 PM »
Wow, I added 30% to the battery life, without a single hardware change...
Just changed the background of the translation software (which I run full screen) from white-grey to black-blackish. Now the battery lasts roughly 4 hours instead of the previous 3.
________________________
That's interesting. Intuitively, that's what one would expect. I do most of my reading in the Bazqux RSS aggregator (on my laptop), with the display set (via NoSquint) to phosphor green on a black background (that's real easy on the eyes, and very easy to read), and those websites that I tend to use the most I have set so they are displayed as black-on-grey background.
So I will probably be reducing power consumption by the screen display, in those cases. I would like to have some data on that, but have no real way of measuring it.

IainB

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #19 on: July 17, 2016, 09:16:39 PM »
1.  ...Don't even consider running editing on a ramdrive - it's simply too much grief if you lose your work. There's a good chance there will be enough background I/O anyway that your main drive wouldn't spin down... aaaand they don't even use that much power.
____________________
Hmm. I think you may find with most RAMdrives nowadays that stability is probably not an issue - unless the OS is unstable, of course.    :D
A good example would be using a dynamic RamDisk with (say) ImDisk Toolkit. I've been trialling that for a few months now, and it has performed superbly. It's a simple set-up-and-forget service, and quite trouble-free.    :Thmbsup:

2. ...Screen is definitely the biggest power drain, especially when you're not running anything compute-intensive
____________________
Yes. I've always assumed this to be likely, though I didn't collect any data to back it up.

3. ...the hardware change that would be most likely to get you more battery life would be, well, the battery :) - especially if the computer is more than a couple of years old. Batteries wear out over time.
____________________
Yes. A failing battery is a PITA. A new/second and/or larger capacity laptop battery is a worthwhile investment and reduces such annoyances. Extends the happy/useful working life of the laptop and the user experience too.    :D

4....A SSD might be a good option - you might not get much extra battery life out of it, but it's a big quality of life thing. Less noise, faster program startup, much reduced vibration (nice if you use the laptop in your lap). And do be careful to check reviews first: in laptop situations (especially when it's been possible to spin down the disk), some brands have actually ended up being more power-hungry than traditional disks.
____________________
Yes, I would intuitively expect shorter start-up times for SSDs, though never having used an SSD I wouldn't know for sure. An improved user experience would probably be the telling factor there.
However, I do wonder what hard disk drives you have had that reduced your QOL by vibrating or being too noisy.    :tellme:
I mean, I have never experienced such problems on a laptop hard drive (even failing drives), over the years. It's generally the fan(s) that will tend to vibrate and/or become too noisy, because the heat-exchanger is clogged-up by bits of airborne fluff and flakes of dead skin to the extent that the waste temperature rises through lack of adequate cooling, so more power is fed to the fans to improve the cooling. Taking apart and thoroughly cleaning the heat-exchanger grill, the fan enclosure (and the fan blades too), and a shot of CRC on the fan spindle usually transforms it into a cool and as-good-as-new state, believe me.    8)

Oh, and for a cool-running, long-lived and more trouble-free laptop, DO NOT rest the laptop on fabric or on your lap! Place it on a smooth surface (e.g., a tray) which is resting on your lap or on some fabric, and place a 1½-inch long pencil eraser in the centre under the back edge of the laptop (try it out). There's minimal restriction to the airflow that way (and see above re fluff, etc.). Be kind to your laptop.    :-*

f0dder

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2016, 08:54:04 AM »
Hmm. I think you may find with most RAMdrives nowadays that stability is probably not an issue - unless the OS is unstable, of course.    :D
Or somebody trips over your power chord, or there's an outage, or if you just happen to be unlucky and get that once-in-a-blue-moon-BSOD. Windows is pretty stable these days, as long as you're running Vista or later, but bad things can happen. I'm not very fond of losing work.

Sure, you can use a ramdisk that flushes to disk at set intervals, but then you still have the drive spinning up and down every now and then. Doing that too often is not good for drive health, and losing 30 minutes of work can be a real bummer.

I do use a flush-to-disk ramdrive myself, but only for %TEMP% and my Firefox profile - and it's backed up with Crashplan. I can live with losing half an hour of browsing history, but not a lot more than that.

2. ...Screen is definitely the biggest power drain, especially when you're not running anything compute-intensive
Yes. I've always assumed this to be likely, though I didn't collect any data to back it up.
I've measured light/dark difference (wall out let level), and it was quite noticable for both CRT and TFT/LED screens. Can't remember just how much it was, but it was enough that it's something you'd consider for a laptop screen - but not enough that I'd be worried about cost using my desktop machine :)

However, I do wonder what hard disk drives you have had that reduced your QOL by vibrating or being too noisy.    :tellme:
I mean, I have never experienced such problems on a laptop hard drive (even failing drives), over the years. It's generally the fan(s) that will tend to vibrate and/or become too noisy, because the heat-exchanger is clogged-up by bits of airborne fluff and flakes of dead skin to the extent that the waste temperature rises through lack of adequate cooling, so more power is fed to the fans to improve the cooling. Taking apart and thoroughly cleaning the heat-exchanger grill, the fan enclosure (and the fan blades too), and a shot of CRC on the fan spindle usually transforms it into a cool and as-good-as-new state, believe me.    8)
For all HDD-based laptops I've used, HDD rotation has produced noticable vibration, and most of them noise as well. Whereas have almost been louder than the HDD spinning noise, the spinning noise is a lot more high-pitched, which is a noise profile that annoys me a lot more than the fan noise. The clicking noise of moving the actuator arm also tends to be louder than the fan, but that noise doesn't really annoy me.

At any rate, swapping your HDD for a SSD reduced both noise and vibration - it's a win/win situation. Will probably also reduce heat, but that one depends a bit on the drive. Last time I did research, most SSDs tend to have a constant (although small) power drain even in idle, whereas HDDs go to about 0 when they're spun down... and some of the faster SSDs could guzzle a lot of juice and get moderately hot.
- carpe noctem

eleman

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2016, 09:45:43 AM »
Do we have a way of checking if the disk has spinned down or not? It is so silent that I can't discern spin-up/down.

mouser

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #22 on: July 18, 2016, 12:56:17 PM »
f0dder's advice all sounds right to me.

very smart changing to white on black color schemes -- i guess it shouldn't be surprising how much power that saves but it still is.  good tip for all of us looking to conserve battery.

IainB

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #23 on: July 19, 2016, 01:49:06 AM »
...Or somebody trips over your power chord, or there's an outage, or if you just happen to be unlucky and get that once-in-a-blue-moon-BSOD. Windows is pretty stable these days, as long as you're running Vista or later, but bad things can happen. I'm not very fond of losing work.
______________________________
My comments were framed in the context of laptops (with batteries included - as per the opening post) ... so, "...somebody trips over your power chord" would probably be unlikely to be an issue.  In fact, that 's one of the things that I got to really appreciate about laptops when, some years back whilst I was working in Manila (Philippines) where they had a horrendously unstable power grid, with brownouts regularly occurring, and normal grid supply was spiky anyway, my trusty laptop was isolated from any such power-supply problems. (Having access to and use of a reliable laptop computer at such times was an essential job requirement.)

The possibility of BSOD events was what I was obliquely referring to with "...unless the OS is unstable, of course." I usually recommend a risk-averse approach. If the system gets regular BSODs then system stability is an issue and a risk, and I would not necessarily recommend using a RAMdisk until that issue/risk had been addressed/mitigated. Similarly, if work that was being done on the laptop was mission-critical and (say) a BSOD event was untenable, then I would generally only recommend a RAMdisk for \Temp (at the very most).
To put things into perspective: Similarly, if work that was mission-critical was being carried out on a laptop, then I would be skeptical of that system being necessarily conducive to passing for a pukka risk-averse approach anyway.

For me, inherent system efficiency and minimal risk of system outage and/or data loss tend to be 2 main criteria for using a laptop. I would be ambivalent towards the idea of what you mention (though personally I would prefer to avoid time-consuming flush intervals and would opt for a hard disk) where you write:
Quote
Sure, you can use a ramdisk that flushes to disk at set intervals, but then you still have the drive spinning up and down every now and then. Doing that too often is not good for drive health, and losing 30 minutes of work can be a real bummer.
______________________________
Similarly, on any computer system, if a loss of some primary data store, for example (say) browser history, is really untenable because it is (say) mission-critical, then I would recommend an auto-logging or syncing of a trailing parallel duplicate/secondary cache - to hard disk or SSD - and regular back-up of both primary and secondary.
My above comment To put things into perspective for laptops would also apply here though, of course, and I would add the need for disk encryption.

My idea of an ideal and risk-averse laptop system would probably be a Tandem Non-Stop laptop (with secondary/backup batteries included!) - if there ever were such a thing.   ;D
I don't expect it would be very energy-efficient though...    :-[
« Last Edit: July 19, 2016, 01:58:38 AM by IainB »

IainB

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Re: better battery life out of a laptop
« Reply #24 on: July 28, 2016, 07:28:52 PM »
Some useful information from Hard Disk Sentinel - laptop disk power requirements displayed on Hard Disk Sentinel Information tab:

26_641x227_7ADA3118.png