Weekend Crash Course – Tablet PC Battery Care 101

by Reads (14,604)

To get the most out of your Tablet PC, one of the highest priorities to consider is battery life. Properly caring for your battery will keep it running to its highest capacity avoiding early replacement and will ultimately save you money. It is not uncommon for Tablet PC and notebook computer users to innocently kill a battery long before its intended expiration simply by the way he or she is “using” it. Well using your battery is OK of course, but with a bit of extra knowledge and care, you just might squeeze out several months to even a year of extra use out of your battery. Our simple guide will tell you how!

Part I – New Tablet PC = Calibrate Your Battery

When you purchase a new Tablet PC or notebook it is essential to calibrate and break in your new battery properly.  When you first unbox your new machine, the first place it belongs (after installing the battery) is connected to an AC outlet.  Even if the battery indicator shows a full or near full charge, it is a good idea to keep the unit plugged in for a minimum of 5-7 hours.  After this initial and absolute full charge, unplug it and have your way with it!  Drain that battery until you “force it to shut down” (save your work upon the low battery alert).  Then proceed to charge it up again to 100% (this time just charge it to “full”).  Go ahead and repeat the drain to zero.  After 3 full charge and discharge cycles, your battery is ready for the road. 

This process does 2 things.  First off, it breaks in your new battery right.  Second it calibrates it with your computer to give you a more accurate measurement of charge status from the software’s indicator.  Over time your battery will slip away from calibration, so it is suggested that you repeat one “full charge” and “discharge” every 3 months.  Refer to your owner’s manual if you wish as some manufacturers may recommend a slightly different calibration technique. (Get More Time From Your Tablet PC / Notebook Battery – March 2005)

Part II – How Much Time do I have Doc?

Don’t let your battery “kick the bucket” before its time!

A lithium-ion battery (the type that is in your Tablet PC), has a predetermined lifespan based on the specs. under which it is manufactured. Just as the human lifespan can be estimated in an approximate average of “years”, the lithium-ion type battery has a lifespan that is based on “charge cycles”. A charge cycle is essentially defined as one full charge/discharge of the battery. Most Tablet PC/notebook batteries are rated for between 300-500 charge cycles. If you are a typical “business/student user” and use your mobile computer through one full charge, 5 days per week, then you can expect your battery to deliver acceptable performance for up to two years. That’s right, up to two years of use, but that will only be true IF you take proper care of your battery. (Please note that lithium-ion batteries are limited by shelf life regardless of use – an unused battery will still break down over time).

There are also “casual users” who perhaps leave their mobile computers “plugged in” the majority of the time. These users might “unplug” once every week or so to go to a meeting or travel. For these users a battery will almost inevitably last two years without much special attention. One reason for this is obvious, a battery that is rarely used will by default hold onto the majority of its capacity. The second reason is simply that the battery will be kept in a climate-conditioned environment along with the computer. However, what if I was to tell you that the casual user could possibly pull off three years? With the right care, this is also possible.

Okay, on with it! Assuming you have calibrated your battery as described above, you are ready to use your tablet battery as needed. Please note that it is a good idea to recalibrate your battery as often as once a month to keep it in prime working order.

Part III – Battery Tips to “Save Lives” – Battery Lives Anyway

Tip 1 – Mind the Temperature

Summer temperatures here in Arizona reach over 100 degrees on a daily basis. I could easily run my daily errands and leave my tablet in the car (where it can get twice as hot) for an hour or two. BIG MISTAKE. Talk about frying your battery! Keep your battery/computer with you in the air conditioned or heated environment during summer and winter. Heat will kill your battery’s lifespan the quickest. Allowing the chemicals in your battery to get extremely cold in the winter, then heat back up during use will also contribute to shortening your overall battery life like a rock star shooting smack.

Other recommended temperature friendly practices include avoiding charging (or running) your computer in its case and elevating your tablet/notebook on a stand to ensure proper ventilation during use. Oh and lets not forget, simply leaving your machine running all day (when not in use) on AC power keeps it warm. Over time this will lead to faster deterioration of the battery.

Tip 2 – Storage

Heading to the mountains for a few weeks? Are you one of the lucky few who can leave your electronic anchor behind? To store your battery properly during your trip, simply charge it to about 50% of its capacity. Although it seems like a good idea to leave your battery behind at “full charge”, this is not advisable. The long and slow discharge from 100% to zero while you are gone will cause more deterioration to the cells. Upon your return it is a good idea to recalibrate your battery.

Tip 3 – Charging your Battery

“Topping off” your battery in anticipation of several hours away from an AC outlet is okay. As a matter of  fact its okay to charge your battery from any state/level of discharge to suit your needs. The most important thing to remember in regards to your charging practices is to avoid leaving your battery at 0% charge for longer than 5-7 days. It is a good idea to keep your battery at any level over 10% charge on a regular basis. If you are the “casual user” type we mentioned earlier, and you tend to keep your Tablet PC or notebook plugged in most of the time – it is a good idea to unplug and run your battery down and recharge every 2-4 weeks. This will keep the chemicals inside the battery cells “alive”.

In Summary – Final Thoughts

  • Calibrate a new battery
  • Keep your battery away from heat or extreme cold
  • Properly store your battery when unused
  • Charge your battery regularly
  • Recalibrate your battery regularly or as needed

For more information on battery care (more than you probably want to know), we recommend that visit the expert site by Isidor Buchmann here…



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