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  Controlling notebook battery charge level? 
 
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Sander Sassen Jan 20, 2010, 06:21am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Well, as some of you might know I've been suffering from a few dead notebook batteries after about a year of use due to them being plugged in to the A/C all the time and being trickle charged.

I've bought a new Sony Vaio notebook (FW series) a few months ago that has a very nifty solution, a battery care function, that allows you to set a charge level on the battery so it will never try to top off a already fully charged pack (one of the reasons I bought this notebook). Kudos to Sony for offering this manual control, as it saves us from more chemical waste and having to replace batteries that should've lasted a whole lot longer.

Now my question is whether any software exists that does something similar on notebooks that don't offer a factory installed battery care function? I can manually stop the charging by simply going to the device manager > Batteries > Microsoft ACPI-compliant control method battery : disable and the charging will stop.

How hard can it be to write a little piece of software that simply enables or disables charging with a preset charge level by enabling or disabling this in the registry?

Any suggestions?

Cheers,


Sander Sassen
Editor in Chief - Hardware Analysis
ssassen@hardwareanalysis.com
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john albrich Jan 20, 2010, 09:51am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Jan 20, 2010, 10:03am EST

 
>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?

I'm not so sure the software battery management add-on will make much difference. Will be interesting to revisit after some time has passed.

The reason is that modern lithium battery packs should already have internal integrated over-current/charge-control circuitry that prevents over-charging/over-discharging/over-current conditions. The circuitry is very mature technology.

I think it's entirely possible the pervasive problem of "shortened laptop battery life" is more likely due to poor battery mechanical and chemical design, and manufacturing variations in difficult high-precision process. A lot of manufacturers are trying to maximize run-time, and this comes at the expense of reduced intra-cell insulation integrity (thinner, exotic geometries, etc) and use of new chemistries that may not have the lifespan predicted by models and time-accelerated testing.

We've seen multiple lithium battery manufacturers produce units that end up having to be recalled for various reasons...from causing burns/fire to metal fragments found embedded inside the batteries. It's not at all difficult to consider that similar problematic manufacturing process variations can also be found in the insulation and cell-chemistry/forming manufacturing processes.

I've also read multiple reports of new internal insulation designs contributing to premature cell failure and reduced lifespan due to insulation failure or degradation.


edit:
bit of clarity. apologies for multi-edits

Sander Sassen Jan 20, 2010, 10:00am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
It has nothing to do with overcharging, it has to do with the Lion battery being kept at 100% charge all the time. I detailed the if/when/how/why in the below column a while ago already.

http://www.hardwareanalysis.com/content/article/1882/notebook-...t-to-last/

Point in case is that many manufacturers see the notebook as a portable device (duh!) and as such arrive at the conclusion the battery needs to be topped off all the time so you have better endurance. In my case I rarely use the battery, yet it is being topped off all the time. Lion and LiPo batteries have a far better life expectancy (that's life time, not endurance) when they're being stored at 40 to 60% of nominal charge. It is a chemical process that degrades the battery over time which is accelerated by temperature and needlessly topping off an already full pack.

Cheers,

Sander Sassen
Editor in Chief - Hardware Analysis
ssassen@hardwareanalysis.com
Jan 20, 2010, 10:22am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
I have seen some laptop BIOS' with such a feature built-in, but I don't know of any program that will do it. Would be a nice program, though.

john albrich Jan 20, 2010, 10:25am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Jan 20, 2010, 10:26am EST

 
>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
Sander Sassen said:
...Lion and LiPo batteries have a far better life expectancy (that's life time, not endurance) when they're being stored at 40 to 60% of nominal charge.....


Some take that figure down to 30% for optimum storage life.

It's always a matter of trade-offs. In order to be able to advertise industry-leading run-times, you have to charge the batteries to near 100%. The nature of laptops is that people pick them up and use them at any time, and expect the advertised run-time each time they use it after charging the pack. 100% "anytime" access means keeping the battery topped-off at 100% to meet customer expectations.

They also expect the same long run-time to be sustained over the life of the battery pack, and that simply cannot happen the way most people use their devices. Hence the manufacturers are trying new geometries and chemistries in insulation and the cells and I think some designs simply aren't working out for them.

I've got some laptop and cell-phone and Ham radio lithium packs that I've kept charged at 100% that have lasted over 2 years (some going on 4 years) while maintaining nearly full run-time capacity. I never deplete them below about 10%, and I also rotate them in use so that they all go through charge/discharge cycles at least a few times a month. I do expect some of the older packs to start failing as those models are nearing their specified maximum number of total discharge/charge cycles (300).

john albrich Jan 20, 2010, 10:32am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Jan 20, 2010, 10:35am EST

 
>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?

Should mention that I think it's also possible that in order to advertise longer run-times, some manufacturers probably "tweak" the internal charge-controller circuitry to allow the battery pack to be over-discharged, or at least discharged more than I would consider advisable with lithium cells. Especially at high-current drain conditions which can cause higher temperatures in the lithium cells. Those factors would almost certainly reduce the lifespan of the battery pack.

All done to meet marketing demands (and consumer demands) for longer run-times.

Sander Sassen Jan 20, 2010, 10:38am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
John,

All true, but it would've been nice if the manufacturers offered a utility, either in BIOS or software (the latter obviously being more user friendly), that would allow some user control over the level to which the battery is charged.

That's what prompted me to start this topic really, seeing whether someone has coded something like this up. It would be real simple to just take the ACPI protocol and implement that in a little utility.

In my experience (and I think I've seen quite a bit more notebooks than the average user) many notebooks suffer from the battery losing capacity due to being topped off all the time. If you read up on Lion and LiPo battery chemistry you'll realize that topping them off all the time is hazardous to their health. But yes, as you accurately pointed out, the average user expects to have full capacity at their disposal at all time so all battery packs are topped off by default.

The fact that this kills the battery in the majority of cases, or at least shows a significant decline in capacity over time is often ignored or kept under wraps. Only a few manufacturers (Sony for example) offer a battery care function, for which I feel they should be applauded.

Cheers,

Sander Sassen
Editor in Chief - Hardware Analysis
ssassen@hardwareanalysis.com
john albrich Jan 20, 2010, 11:19am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Jan 20, 2010, 11:25am EST

 
>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?

I think there's more to it than just stopping the charging once it reaches 100%.

Lithium chemistry cells are designed to be used. An unchanging condition of high-charge OR low-charge is ultimately damaging. That's why (as you noted) optimal storage state is at (depending on your specific battery chemistry) somewhere from 30% (or 40%) to 60% of maximum charge.

This is why I believe lifespan is more dependent on ensuring the battery is taken periodically through charge AND discharge cycles. At least once every few weeks and in my opinion ideally a bit more often. Quite a few resources back this up. That doesn't mean you have to deplete it in one go and then charge it back up. It can be a series of moderate discharge and recharge cycles.

That means you will get more life out of a lithium battery pack by using it a bit at least every few days than by leaving it plugged-in or even leaving it not charging but still highly charged.

I also believe it is vitally important that one should never discharge the cells to the limit of the battery's internal controller circuit. The few controller schematics I've examined revealed that they are designed to prevent major damage to the cells, not to optimize lifespan. But, that's not well supported by other resources, just based on my experience with multiple types of lithium battery packs in multiple applications over the years.

Sander Sassen Jan 20, 2010, 11:28am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
John,

Agree totally. On a different note, what's your usage of Lion packs for HAM use? Are you an active HAM?

Cheers,

Sander Sassen
Editor in Chief - Hardware Analysis
ssassen@hardwareanalysis.com
Laptop Willie Jan 20, 2010, 06:48pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
Hey Guys,
Before you go jumping of the deep end. There is a really cheap and simple solution to this problem. If you are going to use the laptop as a desktop, REMOVE THE BATTERY.

You can always reinstall it when needed. :)

Laptop Willie
check out laptopwillie.com
kOrny Jan 20, 2010, 11:19pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
^ thats what i tell everyone too

john albrich Jan 21, 2010, 12:30am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Jan 21, 2010, 12:35am EST

 
>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
Sander Sassen said:
John, Agree totally. On a different note, what's your usage of Lion packs for HAM use? Are you an active HAM? Cheers,

Not very active at all these days. Computer/internet has pretty much supplanted. Lithium packs mostly used for handi-talkies, a mobile rig, and as emergency power source. Can't quite give up those old REACT inclinations. Used to support sherrif's department in emergency communications. Have considered going for my Extra class. Not really any compelling reason...just something to hang on the wall.

Lithium packs definitely better than Pb-acid batts now I'm living in an apartment.

john albrich Jan 28, 2010, 10:33am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 10:34am EST

 
>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
Laptop Willie said:
Hey Guys,
Before you go jumping of the deep end. There is a really cheap and simple solution to this problem. If you are going to use the laptop as a desktop, REMOVE THE BATTERY.
You can always reinstall it when needed. :)


Unfortunately, that isn't a "one-size-fits-all" solution.
That practice can still lead to reduced battery lifespan when dealing with lithium technology rechargeable batteries.

That technique makes a broad assumption on how the person uses the computer and battery. It assumes the person still manages to use the battery often enough and sufficiently long enough to take the battery through at least 1 charge/discharge cycle equivalent (as described in earlier post). Or, it assumes the person partially discharges the battery before removing and setting it aside for a protracted period of time (also as described in earlier post).

As with most things it's all in the details.

IF you use your laptop on battery power every few days or once a week or every couple of weeks, and happen to put it through at least 1 discharge/recharge cycle equivalent every 30 days or so...then that battery removal technique will indeed help optimize the lifespan of the battery.

However, if you do not use your battery enough to create at least 1 full discharge/charge cycle equivalent often enough, or unless you take care to partially discharge the battery before removing ig this is effectively the same as storing the battery with a full charge...which will decrease the lifespan of a lithium technology battery.

Some examples...by not means all inclusive
Example1: People who leave their laptop "plugged-in" pretty much all the time with infrequent portable/on-battery use.
If you use the laptop as your "main" computer but only go on battery power every couple of months (or even less frequently), and you take out a fully charged battery and reinstall it only when needed, the "removal" practice will still end up decreasing the lifespan of the battery.
Example2: People who use their laptop with somewhat frequent but not sufficiently prolonged use of battery.
Let's assume the battery normally provides 3 to 4 hours of run-time for your computer. If you use the laptop on battery power once a week for 30 minutes (each time having charged and removed the battery and set it aside between uses), you've only taken the battery through 1/2 to 2/3 of one full discharge/charge cycle equivalent in the prescribed period of time. So, the "removal" practice will also end up decreasing the lifespan of the battery (although it is better than not discharging/charging the battery at all during that same period of time).

Laptop Willie Jan 28, 2010, 10:52am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
john albrich said:
However, if you do not use your battery enough to create at least 1 full discharge/charge cycle equivalent often enough, or unless you take care to partially discharge the battery before removing ig this is effectively the same as storing the battery with a full charge...which will decrease the lifespan of a lithium technology battery.

John,
I don't claim to be an expert on laptop battery life. but it would appear that in this case, the battery isn't being used as you have describe to increase the life. My thought was if you're not using it, why leave it on trickle charge? By taking it out, You should approximate the shelf life of the battery.

As to the software side of prolonging battery life, I have seen, although I can recall where, a small program that would do what Dell calls recondition the battery. It would take the battery through the drain and recharge steps you describe. Dell, on some models, had such a program in the BIOS. The problem with both of these, is the program isn't automatic. They require user intervention, which in some cases is way to late.

Laptop Willie
check out laptopwillie.com
Laptop Willie Feb 03, 2010, 05:18pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
Sander Sassen said:
Well, as some of you might know I've been suffering from a few dead notebook batteries after about a year of use due to them being plugged in to the A/C all the time and being trickle charged.

I've bought a new Sony Vaio notebook (FW series) a few months ago that has a very nifty solution, a battery care function, that allows you to set a charge level on the battery so it will never try to top off a already fully charged pack (one of the reasons I bought this notebook). Kudos to Sony for offering this manual control, as it saves us from more chemical waste and having to replace batteries that should've lasted a whole lot longer.

Now my question is whether any software exists that does something similar on notebooks that don't offer a factory installed battery care function? I can manually stop the charging by simply going to the device manager > Batteries > Microsoft ACPI-compliant control method battery : disable and the charging will stop.

How hard can it be to write a little piece of software that simply enables or disables charging with a preset charge level by enabling or disabling this in the registry?

Any suggestions?

Cheers,

I found this while looking for something else. This may be just what you're looking for.

<link removed>

I haven't tried it so I can't say one way or the other. Just thought of your problem and thought what could it hurt.

Laptop Willie
check out laptopwillie.com
Sander Sassen Feb 03, 2010, 05:22pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
That's a tool for measuring battery run time and endurance, has nothing to do with limiting charge level etc. Furthermore, clicking on that gets you a truckload of pop-ups and other advertisements, yuck!

Best regards,

Sander Sassen
Editor in Chief - Hardware Analysis
ssassen@hardwareanalysis.com
Laptop Willie Feb 03, 2010, 05:23pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
Sorry.

Laptop Willie
check out laptopwillie.com
Sander Sassen Feb 03, 2010, 05:25pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
You're welcome, appreciate the effort nonetheless.

Best regards,

Sander Sassen
Editor in Chief - Hardware Analysis
ssassen@hardwareanalysis.com
steve s Feb 27, 2010, 01:24pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
>> I can manually stop the charging by simply going to the device manager > Batteries > Microsoft ACPI-compliant control method battery : disable and the charging will stop.

I am interested in writing an app that prevents the battery charging past say 40%, and have tried to repro your findings as above, but it does not seem to work. The EeePC does have a separate charging app though.

Jin Lu Oct 03, 2011, 04:08pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Controlling notebook battery charge level?
Very good information. It has been a while since the discussion started. Have we found a good solution to this problem yet.


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