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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Battery life in Windows 10

Mike Halsey explores the tips and tricks to make your laptop
or tablet last longer–including several new features
introduced in Microsoft’s latest OS.

Today’s high-DPI screens may
be super-sharp, but they often consume more power than Full HD
panels. A lot of work goes into driving down energy consumption
– Intel’s newest Skylake processors are the company’s most efficient
yet, thanks to the cutting-edge 14nm manufacturing process and
a host of clever energy-saving design tricks.

However, no matter
how advanced our processors and screens become, or whether
or not power-efficient SSD drives and graphics chipsets replace
heavyweight spinning disks and graphics cards, our mobile devices
remain hamstrung by the inescapable issue of battery life.

Battery technology hasn’t changed much over the past couple
of decades. The lithium-ion batteries found in modern laptops and
tablets overcame the “memory effect”, reducing power drain when
a device isn’t being used – but we’re still waiting for an advance in
technology that will significantly extend the amount of charge that
can be stored in a regular cell. Many companies have dedicated
research departments tackling this problem, but currently there’s
nothing on the horizon. This means savings have to be found
elsewhere, which is why companies such as Intel are now focusing on
power-efficiency far more than processing grunt.

Despite their best efforts, you still need to keep your charger close
at hand, even for a brand-new Windows 10 laptop or tablet. But that
doesn’t mean you should squint at a dim screen, or put your device
into flight mode to squeeze as much as possible out of the battery.
With careful tweaking and streamlining of your Windows 10
installation, you can boost your battery life by as much as 30%.

We’ll look at some of the many ways you can extend the battery
life of your Windows 10 laptop, tablet or smartphone – and how
you can harness useful features in Microsoft’s new OS such as the
new battery-saving mode, automatic brightness control and even
the new Office Mobile apps.

                                             Using Group Policy to save power
Using Group Policy to save power

1. An easy way to save battery life – especially if your laptop has a
mechanical disk – is to disable search indexing when running on
battery power, so Windows isn’t constantly accessing the disk.
If you’re using Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise, this is achieved
through the Group Policy editor. Open it by searching for “gpedit”,
and click on the “Edit group policy” link when it appears. Then navigate
to Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | Windows
Components | Search. You’ll see an option entitled “Prevent indexing
when running on battery power to conserve energy” – double-click on
this, select Enabled and click OK. You can read about other power policy

controls in Windows at http://pcpro.link/254power1 .

2. If you’re using Windows 10 Home (or a Home Edition of a previous
Windows version), you won’t have access to the Group Policy
editor – but you can activate the same setting by editing the Registry.
Needless to say, you should do this only if you’re comfortable making this
type of change. However, it isn’t a difficult process. Search for “regedit” to
open the Registry editor, then navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\
SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search. If you
don’t see a folder of that name within the Windows folder, create it.
Then, in the Windows Search folder, create a new DWORD value called
“PreventIndexOnBattery” and give it a value of 1. Restart Windows
to make the new setting take effect.

                                     Six settings to make Windows more power-efficient


Six settings to make Windows more power-efficient

Set the power button to shut down rather than sleep Windows 10 starts
up in less than 20 seconds, so you can afford to shut it down when it isn’t
in use. In the Windows Power Options, click “Choose what the power
buttons do”, and change the “On” battery options for the power button and
lid to “Shut down”. You can also set your screen to turn off when the device

is idle: you’ll find this option in the Settings app under Power & sleep.

Dim the screen The Action Center on any battery-powered Windows 10
device contains a button that allows you to set your screen brightness.
Dropping it to 50% can dramatically improve battery life. If your device
comes with a light sensor, an Automatic option will be available, which
adjusts the setting based on your surroundings: it will use full brightness
only when in direct sunlight.

Use Windows Store apps

Use Windows Store apps Desktop applications use system resources
and, therefore, power – even if you’re not interacting with them directly.
However, Windows Store apps are automatically suspended by the OS
when in the background, so they don’t eat up the battery. This includes
the new Office Mobile apps (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), so switching to
them can save considerable battery life, compared to the desktop suite.

Disable Live Tiles On the subject of using Store apps, it’s a good idea to turn
off any Live Tiles you’re not using in the Start menu. You can do this by
right-clicking each one, as shown above, and selecting “Turn live tile off”
from the menu. Although Tiles use only a small amount of power, it’s still
worth doing. Ideally, you should disable all Live Tiles: when they’re active,
Windows 10 occasionally resumes from sleep so they can be updated.

Run apps in full-screen mode

Run apps in full-screen mode If you have an app running in a window on
the desktop, you’re consuming more power than if you were running a
single app full-screen. That’s because the GPU has to work harder to
keep the screen updated. You can save power on your PC by running apps

in full-screen mode and switching between them as needed.

Manage battery-saver mode and background apps The battery-saver
mode reduces internet and hard disk usage when your battery drops
below 20%. You can control it from the Settings app – the “Battery use” link
shows you the most power-hungry apps on your system. Click the “Change

background app” link to choose which Store apps run in the background.

                                     Disable web extensions and browse more efficiently


Disable web extensions and browse more efficiently

Surfing the web may seem like a fairly simple task – after all, it’s just
looking at pages, right? – but it can place a heavy load on your battery.
Google Chrome, in particular, is a notorious power-hog: running every
tab as an independent process is great for stability, but terribly inefficient
when it comes to computing resources.
One way to reduce the load is to disable extensions you’re not actively
using. Microsoft Edge has an advantage here, since it doesn’t support
extensions at all in its current form – although that capability is coming.
It’s also a Store app, which means it automatically suspends itself when

not in focus.

If you’re using Internet Explorer, you can disable extensions by
clicking Settings and then “Manage add-ons”. Click the add-on you don’t
want running and then click the Disable button to the bottom-right of the
add-ons window. In Chrome, open Settings, then click Extensions in the
left panel. Each running extension will have a Disable link to its right. In
Firefox, click the application menu at the top-right of the program window
and select Add-Ons. Firefox divides these into Extensions, Appearance,
Plugins and Services: click each tab in turn, on the left-hand side of the
page, to review what’s installed, and change the drop-down to “Ask
to Activate” for any plugins you don’t want to start automatically.

                                          The startup items and services you don’t need


You might be surprised by the number of
apps that start up automatically when
your PC boots. The culprits can include
“Helper Utilities” from Apple, Google and
Adobe, as well as bloatware items that come
pre-installed on a new PC. These background
programs may not individually consume
much power, but having lots of them
running at once will inevitably take its toll.
In Windows 10 (and Windows 8), you can
disable unwanted startup items in the

Task Manager. Here’s how:

1. Open the Task Manager by pressing
Shift+Ctrl+Escape – or right-click a blank area
of the Taskbar and select Task Manager from
the menu that appears.

2. If you don’t see a series of tabs along the top
of the Task Manager window, click the “More
details” button in the bottom left to make it visible.

3. Select the Startup tab: you’ll now see a long list
of startup items, along with a “Start-up impact”
rating for each one. Items rated “High” hog your
CPU and hard disk when they start up, but that
doesn’t necessarily translate to battery life:
any process can wear down your battery by
constantly grinding away in the background.

4. To disable a startup app, click its name to select
it, then click the Disable button in the bottom-right
of the Task Manager window. Be bold: it’s
extremely rare that disabling a startup item will
cause a program to stop working, and you can
always re-enable things later if necessary.

It isn’t only third-party applications
that run at startup: Windows itself loads up
dozens of background services, not all of
which you need. Again, disabling these easy:

1. Search for services.

2. Right-click a service you want to disable and
select Properties.

3. Change its “Startup type” to Disabled.

Of course, disabling services can cause
Windows features to stop working: on a
work PC, it might be a bad idea to disable
the BitLocker or Remote Desktop services.
On a personal laptop or tablet, however,
you might choose to do just that.

Other services you may want to
disable include the Windows HomeGroup
Listener and Provider services; the
Encrypting File System; bluetooth handsfree
and support services; the file history;
geo-location; Hyper-V; storage spaces;
sensor services and the various
Xbox services.

If you’re unsure about disabling a
service, try setting its startup type to
Manual. This means it won’t be started
automatically when Windows boots, but
will be enabled if Windows needs it.
 
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