Laptop Batteries: Replace or Revive?
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Apr 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Laptop Batteries: Replace or Revive? (Posted: 12 Apr 2012)
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Most recent comments on "Laptop Batteries: Replace or Revive?"(See all 21 comments for this article.)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
13 Apr 2012
The battery in my 6 year old laptop is completely dead. Should I remove it? Or leave it IN the computer?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
11 May 2015
i froze my alienware m14x r2 battery which held 0 charge and let it thaw 3 hours and now i get a full 4 hour charge again so anyone wondering if this works it does a pretty good job my battery is lithium ion and holds 97 percent charge now so freezing batterys that are rechargeable works
19 Dec 2017
When I retired I was given a very high end Canon 5D camera system with a lot of lenses. (refurbished, or returned). Because I use a LOT of batteries I had my pack filled with extras. The salesman virtually ripped them out - and said USE ONLY CANON BATTERY PACKS. He took a cheap one out of my old T-90 and showed me a couple of tiny leaks-- then showed me a few more in the carton I stored them in -- He DID mention that they don't ALL leak, but even a tiny leak can destroy a camera in a day or less. The owner came out and I got the same lecture - but he sent me away with six batteries for my T-90 and 4 battery packs for my 5D series camera that was my retirement present from faculty, staff, and students.
Upon reflection I had to admit that I DID notice a difference between the T-90 batteries and F-1 batteries that were low-end 'generic' - and the real canon batteries. They lasted more than a day between charges. The 5D packs would run gigs of RAW photos all day long without any problem.
I went back to the shop to tell them, and this time they weren't as busy, and showed me all the pretty little crystals that had built up around the battery pack and the compartment and connections which held them. He pointed out that the F-1, and T-90 both needed about a $25 cleaning (which he did for free) and showed me the very START of corrosion on my 5D that was probably the same cost, but took them about 5 minutes to 'cure' and 'clean' and coat the couplings with a pass-through paste that would help preserve them even longer.
I'm not saying that cheap batteries are not a good idea, I used them for YEARS on my F-1 and T-90 - but some would run out in the middle of a shoot (wildlife/landscape), some would never really pick up a charge again, and, yeah, some would show that beautiful blue-green that everyone loves the color of, but no one wants inside their camera.
I'm presuming that cameras run about the same way as a computer; and took the scolding seriously since i'd never be able to afford the body, let alone the lenses that were given to me as a present. As a matter of fact, my Camera Bags always carried a couple of plastic tubes of the lithium grease looking material to put onto the end of my batteries, or put over the plugs to keep shorting and what ever happens inside when I can see (is the battery alive or dead?) -- and until the cameras were stolen, I paid attention to the owner of the shop - not that I paid HUGE amounts of difference between the two batteries, maybe a couple of dollars a pack - but like the owner said: why take a chance to ruin a $5K body to save $3 on a battery pack? Made sense to me.
Now I'd never do that to cheaper electronic devices - and he DID make clear that I didn't need 'cannon' batteries for my F-1 or T-90, just high end (Sony, Panasonic, Kodak) lithium rechargeable, but for the 5D I DID need to get canon battery packs.
I'm sure I've told the story here a couple of times over the years - here I am responding to a 2013 posted article at the very end of 2017 - but when I saw the microscopic pitting and build-up (with one degree in Micro) it did make me sit up and pay attention.
Part of that can be that it was the Basins and Ranges - so winter in the back of the tuck can get down to close to 0°F and in summer in the cab up in the 120°F range but that was also what I exposed my poor choice of a Toshiba lap-top to and it gave me nothing but trouble while my Lonovo exposed to the same gave me little trouble (nope, no connection to either canon, toshiba, or lonovo - or to what ever cheap battery I found on e-bay before Amazon was HUGE).
Just what the owner of a store in the near middle of the desert told me with such passion that his techs ripped out all my batteries and replaced them with brand name - though a step or two below brand name would have been fine. Don't expect to get the same quality for $40 that I found in the 10 batteries for $20, or a $50 battery pack that I could get 2 (or 3) for $50 including shipping.
There's a line there somewhere - but he never told me where it was except for the 'brand name' batteries for my older cameras, and Camera Name Battery for my new camera -- though he did have a particular warning about the cheap 'made in China' batteries - "you can't ever tell, some are all exceptional, but others are 20% acceptable and I'd not put a battery that could be part of the 80% 'bad battery' into a $5K camera.
I generally agree 99% or so with Bob, but after my lecture, and a close inspection of the damage a bad battery can do to a CAMERA I have a hard time believing that a cheap battery is just as likely to be 'up to standard' as a brand-name battery. And understand that computers can use heavier more durable parts -- even down to battery contacts or battery isolation chambers than fraction of an ounce difference camera body or connections.
If I got sets of brand new free 'brand name' batteries to replace the ones the camera shop took away from me - I figured there must be some kind of 'truth' behind he 'myth' of 'All batteries are created equal'.
PERSONALLY I'd give a computer a TAD more leeway since connections can be stronger, thicker, and not as delicate as camera connections - but not a LOT more leeway.
20 Dec 2017
Re: the lengthy posting of "DOC". I have used Canon cameras for over 12 years as a pro. I assure you that from my own experience Canon batteries are superior to cheap imports. I now only purchase original Canon batteries. Yes, they are more expensive but what good is it if your cheap batteries have shorter lives and die just at the wrong time and place? You better be next door to B&H in NYC when they are open! Not funny. Not only that but cheap batteries do not last over the year(s.) Thinking you are "saving" money is misleading.
Happy Holidays to all, and particularly to Bob!