Notebook battery life is often used as a sales pitch to distinguish one model, or brand, from the other. In reality the battery life is not just dependent on the hardware, what kind of software they run is equally important. But wait, thatís easy enough, donít most notebooks run a version of Windows XP? Well yes, but thatís only part of the software that is usually installed. Most notebook manufacturers are notorious for shipping their notebooks with a whole slew of installed applications, many of which load at startup. The majority of these applications are simply sitting in your taskbar and do nothing but wait for your input, whilst consuming precious processor clock cycles at the same time. This eats into your battery life, more so than youíll probably realize, it is another prime example of how small things can quickly start to add up.
Iíve never quite understood why manufacturers ship their notebooks with all of these applications installed. Why not simply supply a notebook with a basic installation of Windows XP and ship it with an applications disk so the consumer can choose for himself whether he, or she, wants to install them? Furthermore, Iím quite sure that the battery life that is listed for the notebook is often not measured with all of the applications that the manufacturer chooses to ship it with and load at startup. And Iím not just talking about the 3rd party applications installed on the notebook, the same goes for many of the drivers for onboard devices, for example, wireless networking, Bluetooth, fire wire and other communication ports. Why not simple switch all of these devices off when running from the battery and only turn them back on when theyíre needed?
Actually, if you look at the power saving features of Windows XP all you see are basic features that havenít changed that much over the past few years. With the popularity of Intelís Centrino concept taken into account, why not up the bar on the software side as well? I mean, of course the fact that the Pentium-M can dynamically adjust clockspeed to system load will save battery life, but what if you had less load to begin with? This can be accomplished by only allowing those applications to load that are essential for the notebook to run and turning off devices you donít need. A wireless network card that keeps searching for a network that isnít there is simply consuming power and clock cycles for no good reason.
To be honest, with the strong notebook sales weíve seen in the past years, I think it is about time that software developers started to take a good hard look at the efficiency of their software and implement power saving features for the notebook user. Wireless network cards, for example, could be told to go into a sleep mode if no network is found after a few tries. The notebook could ask you what applications youíd like to keep running in the system tray when switching to battery power, a virus scanner and internet firewall are useless if youíre not connected to the net, etc. etc. So next time you boot up your notebook, take a good hard look at whatís being loaded at startup, by trimming these down to just the essentials you can add valuable minutes to your battery life.