Laptop Batteries: Replace or Revive?

Category: Laptops

Sooner or later, you will need to replace your laptop battery. Every battery degrades with use, even rechargeable ones. When your laptop battery no longer keeps a charge or the battery life is too short, there are several things you can do...

Can I Revive My Laptop Battery?

Laptop batteries are not forever. You can expect them to last up to 5 years, or roughly 1000 charging cycles. Why? Well first you have to understand that a charged battery is not in its natural state. Charging a battery is like filling up a tire with air. Both the battery and the tire want to return to their natural discharged (deflated) state. Secondly, the chemical reactions that happen inside a laptop battery slowly degrade over time, reducing the ability to fully charge, as well as the maximum run time.

In some cases, you can try to revive or revitalize your laptop battery. There's a story floating around that freezing a NiCd or NiMH laptop battery overnight in a refrigerator freezer will restore its ability to absorb and hold a nearly full charge. It's important, say those who have tried this technique, to let a recently used and hot battery cool down to room temperature before putting it in the freezer in a sealed plastic bag. It is equally critical, they say, to let the battery thaw and warm up to room temperature fully before attempting to charge or use it again. After fully charging, run your laptop until the battery is drained, then repeat this cycle a few times for maximum effectiveness.
Replace Laptop Battery

I haven't personally tried this technique, and there are those who say it's a myth. But if your battery is at the point where it will only hold a charge for a few minutes, it can't hurt to try it before buying a replacement laptop battery. Note that this applies only to the older style NiCd or NiMh batteries, and NOT the newer lithium batteries. Lithium batteries can actually be damaged by freezing, so don't leave your laptop in a cold car overnight.

I've also read stories about people who have taken apart their battery packs, and tried to replace the internal circuit board and/or the lithium cells. I can't say strongly enough what a BAD idea this is. If a lithium cell explodes, you don't want to be anywhere near it, trust me. You should only attempt this if you are a trained electronics technician and you have all the necessary safety gear to protect your eyes, face, hands and other body parts you want to keep.

Another helpful thing you can do is occasionally re-calibrate your laptop battery. Sometimes the power meter on your laptop gets out of sync with the battery, and your computer will shut down prematurely. See my related article Calibrate Laptop Battery for more info on how that works.

Buying a New Laptop Battery

Should you buy an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) battery, or a third-party aftermarket battery? OEM laptop batteries are painfully expensive. There is really nothing terribly proprietary about a battery except the shape of its case. If it supplies the right voltage and current to your laptop, any maker's laptop battery should be satisfactory. But there are unscrupulous aftermarket manufacturers who sell batteries that tend to leak, don't take a full charge, or don't last as long as they should. Aftermarket batteries are an unknown gamble but much cheaper, often half the cost of OEM batteries. Research an aftermarket brand carefully to see what customers have to say about its longevity, performance, and the vendor's service.

Also, know the difference between recycled and refurbished batteries. A recycled replacement laptop battery is one that has been salvaged from a discarded laptop. It's used, and there's no telling how much life is left in it. A refurbished replacement laptop battery has been taken apart, had its chemical cells replaced with new ones, and restored to OEM specifications. Some refurbished batteries even last longer than OEM batteries of older model laptops, because their chemical cells are of newer technology that holds more charge. Unfortunately, you can't tell a recycled battery from a refurbished one by sight; so again, check the maker's reputation with a Google search before buying.

Oh, and before you spend your money on a new battery for your laptop, check to see if your battery is still under warranty, or if there are any recalls for it. A shiny new free battery from the manufacturer beats paying for one any day of the week! And of course, don't throw that toxic battery in the trash. Most stores that sell batteries or electronics will accept them for recycling.

Laptop Battery Longevity Tips

You can make your laptop battery last longer by following a few simple energy conservation tips:

  • Don't let your battery drain completely. Old NiCad batteries needed to be "deep discharged" now and then to maintain their capacity. But modern lithium batteries area actually harmed by deep discharge. Lithium batteries in laptops, mobile phones and tablets perform best when they are topped-up frequently.
  • Recharge your battery fully. If a battery is repeatedly only partially recharged before being used, it may never again be able to hold a full charge.
  • Use appropriate power management profiles. The power management features of modern laptops and operating systems give you great control over the power consumption of a laptop's display; audio system; networking adapters; disk drives, even CPU clock speed. Become familiar with the power management features of both your operating system and the laptop's BIOS (basic input/output system). Tweak these settings to optimize performance versus battery life.
  • Play DVD movies from your hard drive, or even better, a USB flash drive. It takes more battery power to spin a DVD disc drive than a hard drive, and a USB drive is more energy efficient than either. Rip your DVD discs to other media using free ripping software like Handbrake for Mac, Linux, or Windows.
  • See my related article Extend Laptop Battery Life for more tips on squeezing extra run time from your battery.

If your laptop spends most of the time plugged into an AC power outlet, here's what I recommend for lithium batteries. Charge the battery to about half full, then remove it from tha laptop. Every month or so, reinstall the battery, and run the laptop on battery power until it's ready for recharge. Recharge fully, then allow it to drain back to half, and repeat the process.

Do you have a comment or question about replacing a laptop battery? Post your thoughts below...

 
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This article was posted by on 12 Apr 2012


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Most recent comments on "Laptop Batteries: Replace or Revive?"

Posted by:

Gary
12 Apr 2012

I've had a good experience with after market laptop battery supplier Laptopmate for my HP notebook. http://www.laptopmate.com

Their batteries are guaranteed for one year from purchase date and their service and support are great. I exchanged free of charge a battery that wasn't recharging properly near the end of my guaranty year.

Batteries can be purchased direct or through Amazon.com.


Posted by:

Michael
12 Apr 2012

I'd be interested to hear your take on the technique of using an external power supply, of slightly higher voltage than the laptop battery, to revive the battery's ability to take a charge. Many Youtube videos about this for laptops and cordless power tool batteries.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I have not heard about this before. Any one here try it?


Posted by:

Stuart Berg
12 Apr 2012

I noticed, when reading about the latest hybrid vehicles, that car manufacturers are not allowing the lithium-ion batteries now being used in some hybrids to go below a 30% charge as a way to extend the life of the batteries. Consequently, I set the low-battery warning on my Windows 7 notebook PC (with a lithium-ion battery) to warn me when it reaches a 30% charge level. It's just a suggestion, but I think it could be helpful.


Posted by:

InLionSk8r
12 Apr 2012

Some batteries, such as Sony's, have a proprietary chip in them that communicates with their computer for MORE than just the charge state. Put any battery into a Vaio computer that's not an authentic Sony and you may just find, like I did, that the computer will not charge it. Thinking this was a bug of some kind, I did some research and found that this is NOT a bug. It is a Sony "FEATURE" to insure that we only buy quality batteries when needed [read: Sony ONLY!] There are three work-arounds to this: 1) Some battery mfrs. include a disk with a program that they tell you will "update" the bios to "recognize" the alien battery and charge it. (This did NOT work for mine.) 2) Buy an external charger and slap the battery into it as needed. (Oh good... one MORE thing to remember to do. No thank you.) 3) Pull the new cells out of an alien battery pack (or purchase loose cells) and install them into the old Sony battery case containing their proprietary chip. (I am a computer troubleshooter and have done extensive delicate soldering through the years - so using the proper precautions, I chose this method). [See Bob's warning: Amateurs should NOT go there.] Note - I only bothered to go this route after I found that the battery company had zero customer support, so I figured I'd never get a refund if I tried to return it. The take-away on this: The rebuilt battery pack was deceased after 7 months. It certainly wasn't worth the aggravation and effort. Needless to say, the next battery I bought was an expensive Sony. So far, it has lasted 10 months and shown no signs of dying... yet.


Posted by:

Al Stevenson
12 Apr 2012

My desktop computer is getting very slow, and I have thought of replacing it with a laptop or notebook or whatever smalled units are available. reading this article about batteries, I wondered if I have to have a battery-operated unit. If I get a smaller system, I still plan on using it maily on my desk at home.


Posted by:

Jonathan Plutchok
12 Apr 2012

I have used the freezer technique to revive NiCad and NiMH batteries that came with 5- or 6-year-old ThinkPads that I bought used. The batteries were just about totally dead, lasting maybe 5 minutes. After freezing overnight, the batteries could go 30 minutes or more. This is not very useful, but still pretty good for ancient batteries that probably had been abused by their previous owners.


Posted by:

Daniel
12 Apr 2012

I was intrigued by the paragraph re what to do when your laptop stays plugged into the AC most of the time. This makes it sound like running on AC for a long time somehow damages or weakens the battery. Am I reading too much into it? One of the advantages I have at the office is quickly unplugging the laptop so I can take it into a meeting. But, I spend probably 85-90 % of the time on AC. How much harm am I actually doing?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't have any hard data to back that up, but it makes sense that a hot battery doing essentially nothing will degrade a certain amount. I do know that lithium batteries perform best when they are topped up often, and a laptop that's always on AC power will have a battery with 100% charge all the time. Remember what I said about a fully charged battery being in an unnatural state?


Posted by:

Michael
12 Apr 2012

Excellent atricle. In the old days they had a switch that you could switch the battery out and run on AC on various electical equipment. That way the AC would not have any afecct on the batterys. Laptop makers should use this technolgy. I am sure that laptop makers have a detecting system in the units that can tell when batteries reach full charge and swithes out the AC. That would be common sense. Constant charge would knock a battery out. Overheating! Also I am surprise that their is not a site out there that would post the various experinces the good and bad and also with costs of solutions that laptop owners have with their batteries. Sorta like a Angies List. But make it free. With our technolgy we are only a key stoke away and ther must be million laptop users and cell phones not to mention Ipads. Every thing needing batteries. I would think a good site would be vital.


Posted by:

Don Trotman
13 Apr 2012

I have an Acer Travelmate 244LC, bought second hand, probably around six or seven years old.Only used, once a week, for a couple of hours, for pp presentations. Battery is nearly pooped, but I run it on AC, with no problems. Congratulations on your excellent, nitty gritty articles. Don.


Posted by:

Doctor Jack
13 Apr 2012

The battery in my 6 year old laptop is completely dead. Should I remove it? Or leave it IN the computer?


Posted by:

Ron
14 Apr 2012

Heat is an enemy of all batteries. Laptops are hot when in use. Therefore, when the laptop is using AC power take the battery out to get it away from the heat. I read that laptop batteries should be stored with about 40% charge in them.

To the person with the dead battery, why would you want to keep a dead battery? Your laptop will run fine on AC without a battery installed.


Posted by:

Judy
17 May 2012

I have an HP Mini 311 laptop. It's only 2 1/2 years old, but hasn't been used for at least a year or so. The battery was left inside. Now I cannot get it to come on or charge. Is the computer shot or do I just need a new battery perhaps?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Even if the battery is dead, you should be able to run it on AC (wall plug) power. Remove the battery, and see if it will power on while plugged in. If so, you need a new battery. If not, you may need a repair.


Posted by:

Harold
22 Jun 2012

After 6 yrs. my Dell Inspiron's battery gave out. Dell wanted $140. Batteries Plus wanted around $85 and I went to eBay and purchased one for $20. It is working just great. Actually had a specified capacity just slightly more than the original. Will it last another 6 yrs. Who know? Who cares? I won't have the laptop anywhere near that long.


Posted by:

Duncan
23 Jun 2012

I recently bought a new laptop (an Acer) running Windows 7 against my older laptop running XP and it spends most of its time on the desk permanently connected to the mains. I noticed that it appears to actively manage recharging the battery when on AC so it isn't constantly holding the battery at 100%. It seems to let the battery run down a little before recharging it. I don't know if that is a Windows 7 feature or an Acer feature but I wonder if that is designed to reduce degradation when on AC most of the time.


Posted by:

Herb
23 Jun 2012

My initial reaction to Bob's excellent information is the tips probably apply equally to power tool batteries as for laptop batteries. However, I am also well aware of the breakdown of the word, ass-u-me, so maybe it's a good idea to ask about that.


Posted by:

Matthew
24 Jun 2012

I am beginning to think that laptop batteries, like the machines they run, may have their own personalities. It seems nearly everyone who has a laptop has a different story to tell. My HP laptop, usually used as a desktop, is nearly four years old, and the battery has been at 65% for about a year.

I never remove the battery for any reason, except to clean the contacts once or twice a year, summertime especially, because over time those little metal tabs can get a thin film on them. It sort of works like cleaning the battery posts on a vehicle occasionally. My machine is entirely turned off for at least 10 minutes first. Experience talking there.

Heat and humidity have a way of destroying all electronics's, and to keep my PC from getting too hot, I use a double-fan cooling station to set my PC on - all the time. It never gets hot. Maybe that's the reason the battery is still working so well? Beats me - it just works.


Posted by:

john
21 Nov 2013

Obviously my 2004 NC6220 is going to require a replacement battery at some time, which will force me to replace the computer. I have yet to meet a person whose battery gave up the ghost, ever. Yet 8 people I know including myself have all lost their display screen, just in 2013. So I bought 19 inch t.v. and that is doing the job for now.
So what is with these screens? Best regards, john.


Posted by:

Sally Reeder
22 Nov 2013

Just wanted to say that one of the things I'm thankful for all year long is Ask Bob Rankin. You make it easy for me to have a safe, clean and interesting computer experience. And I've been able to help others using the knowledge I've gained. Have a joyous Thanksgiving!


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