Make Your Own Power Plan
Windows laptops include a few preset power plans for maximizing battery life, but you can also customize your operating system’s power-management features (in Windows XP, under Power Options in the Control Panel; in Vista, under Mobile PC in the Control Panel). Setting aggressive targets for when the display turns off and when the machine goes into sleep or hibernate mode will help your battery last longer.
Limit Your Connection
When you aren’t actively using your notebook’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WWAN, or other wireless connections, turn the radios off (via the hard switch, if your PC has one, or using the appropriate utility), so they don’t run down the battery while they keep searching for a signal. Also, use USB-attached devices sparingly while you’re mobile.
Track it down
Thousands of laptops are reported stolen every year. Our advice? Prepare for the worst by investing in tracking software like Absolute Software’s Lojack for Laptops, CyberAngel Security, or the freeTheLaptopLock. These utilities can pinpoint a registered notebook’s location once it connects to the Web, increasing your chances of recovering your system.
Dim the display
A laptop’s biggest battery-life-sucking component is its LCD display. To eke out more juice when you’re off the plug, turn down your panel’s brightness to the lowest level your eyes can stand. Most notebooks have a Function key combo—or even a dedicated hot key—for a quick crank-down. (You can also adjust brightness in Display Settings under Control Panel.)
Keep It Cool
Thanks to their small, cramped cases and tiny vents, laptops are prone to overheating. Unfortunately, using your notebook on your lap—or on top of a blanket that protects your lap from your scalding-hot notebook—can seriously stifle ventilation and make matters worse. To help keep temperatures in check, opt for a lap desk or a laptop cooling pad that won’t conduct heat or block your laptop’s vents.
Back Up Everything
Constant movement puts computer components at risk, and because of their portability, laptops suffer a lot more wear and tear than desktops. All of that on-the-go use increases the risk of hard drive failure, so make sure you back up the data on your laptop to an external hard drive, thumb drive, or home server on a regular basis. Portable hard drives like the Western Digital Passport Elite make it easy to back up your data on the road.
Cover Your Keyboard
Keep liquids away from laptops at all times. That rule often gets broken, of course, and accidents happen. Should that accident end up on your laptop’s keyboard, however, you could end up with more than just a mess: Liquids that seep through your notebook’s keys can fry its components. Protect your notebook from spills with a custom-built, plastic keyboard cover from ProtecT Laptop Covers.
Buy a Bag
If you plan to carry your notebook with you, the most useful accessory you can buy is a laptop bag. They’re available in a number of styles and prices; for maximum protection, we recommend investing in a model with a built-in padded sleeve. If you want something less conspicuous (thieves have been known to target obvious-looking laptop bags), cover your laptop in stand-alone sleeve and stow it in your backpack or briefcase.
Let It Accumulate
When you move your laptop from a cold to a warm environment, and vice versa, don’t boot up until your system reaches room temperature. Sudden temperature changes can cause condensation to build up inside the notebook case; turn it on too quickly, and the moisture could damage your system’s inner components.