Why a Computer Battery Doesn't Stay Charged for Long

By Scott Cornell

Most laptop batteries start failing within one to two years.
i Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The primary benefits of a laptop computer are its portability and versatility -- the ability to take it and use it just about anywhere -- so there's arguably nothing more frustrating than having a laptop with a battery that won't hold a charge for extended periods of time. The reasons why your laptop battery won't hold a charge vary from user behavior to hardware issues. However, many battery issues can be resolved without having to seek a replacement unit.

Battery Recalibration

To continue to get the best performance out of your battery, you should recalibrate it once every three months. This consists of charging the battery to 100 percent full capacity, allowing it to be depleted to zero percent and then fully charging it again. It's recommended that you take any new computer battery through three charge and discharge cycles as soon as you get it. This properly breaks in the battery and also allows your computer to get an accurate read on how long it will last per charge.

Effects of Age

One explanation to why your computer battery no longer holds a sufficient charge could be its age. It's estimated that most laptop batteries begin to fail in one to two years and only last for about 400 recharge cycles. So if your battery is really on the fritz and lasts only a fraction of its original life, you can either use the available charge time, bypass the battery and plug your computer into the electrical outlet, or contact your computer manufacturer or third-party battery vendor to seek a replacement.

Computing Behavior

Streaming video, playing CDs and DVDs, charging USB devices and running processor-intensive software programs drains your battery more quickly, so if your computing behavior involves extensive use of such applications, that's likely the reason behind your battery problems. Your computer has to work harder to run such applications, therefore it uses more power. So if you're looking to conserve battery power, close programs you're not using and avoid tasks that make heavy use of the hardware.

Battery Conservation Tips

If your battery still isn't meeting expectations, there's a variety of other things you can do to conserve power. One is lowering the brightness of your screen, which is one of the biggest power draws. Another is removing the battery and running the laptop off of AC power until you need to go mobile. This minimizes the battery's wear and tear so it'll keep its charge for longer over its life cycle. Finally, adjusting the power settings so that the computer goes into standby or sleep mode during idle periods is another battery saver.