For diehard laptop battery min/maxers, there’s a whole suite of OS and third-party tools for monitoring and analyzing your battery usage. These tools, collectively called battery monitoring tools, can show you exactly how your batteries are performing in comparison to each other and earlier benchmarks.
Alas, you’ll have to pony up anywhere from $9-$25+ for a good battery monitoring utility. Most “free” battery utilities will attempt to install toolbars and other unwanted utilities onto your computer.
What a laptop battery monitor can do
With a laptop battery monitor the owner can see a graphic of the battery’s rate of charge and discharge, can see detailed statistics that spell out problems with battery cells, and can measure and compare these ill batteries with the charge that is expected of them. Additionally, a laptop battery monitor will display the computer’s battery discharge point, identify specific battery packs for inventory and tracking, log battery performance, and keep track of the performance of each battery if the owner is using more than one battery.
The primary purpose of a laptop battery monitor is to prevent what is known as deep discharge. This condition is not specific to laptop batteries, but is a crucial issue to those who want to extend their battery’s life. Eight out of ten batteries fail too early in their standard life cycle because of deep discharge issues.
The root cause is build up of sulfur molecules known as sulfation. The deep discharge starts to coat the battery’s lead plates and it dies. Some of the things that send the batteries to their early graves are sitting too long between charges, being stored without any energy input, undercharging of the battery, and exposure to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Sub-zero weather can result in deep discharge as well.
Beyond preventing deep discharge, some laptop battery monitoring utilities also act as theft protection and remote data destruction utilities.
Recommended laptop battery monitoring utilities
Apple MacBook: Battery Health for MacBook
Battery Health’s dialog window shows:
- the current charge level
- total battery capacity (both original and current in mAh)
- the amount of time remaining on battery power at current draw levels and with some typical apps running
- specifications about the battery (age, number of deep cycles, power usage, and temperature)
- ongoing usage
From CNet Review: “The predicted usage is pretty accurate. For example, on our system Battery Health predicted just over 6 hours of battery life playing music, and our MacBook Pro got within 4 percent of that prediction.”
Windows laptops: Battery Meter for Windows
Battery Meter is oftentimes more accurate than Windows’ built in battery life prediction.
- % of remaining power
- time to full charge (if plugged in)
- ttime to full discharge (if unplugged)
- advanced algorithm estimate
- map of charging and discharging times
Monitoring your battery can help you avoid premature expensive battery replacements and get a good feel for expected battery life on a charge.