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Understanding Windows 10 laptop battery reports

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Q: I have a relatively new Windows 10 laptop and I don’t understand why my battery life is so short.

A: Battery life continues to be one of the most common complaints for all of our electronic devices, but understanding some basics can help extend what is a finite usable life of all batteries.

All of today’s devices tend to use Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries, which is a huge improvement over older technologies, but still have a limit to how long they will work.

Charge Cycles

At the root of this finite life is ‘charge cycles’, which will have the biggest impact on how long your battery will hold a reasonable charge.

The age of the laptop really means nothing if you’ve charged and discharged your laptop enough to impact the battery’s current capacity.

Depending upon the quality of your battery, the typical laptop battery will start to degrade after 300-500 charge cycles.

A charge cycle is calculated based on a complete charge that goes from 0% to 100%, so if you plug your charger in when the battery is at 50% and go until it’s 100%, that would be half of a charge cycle.

Get a Battery Report

Knowing how many charge cycles your laptop has gone through is the first step, which can be done by using a hidden command in Windows 10.

Start by typing ‘Powershell’ in the Windows 10 search bar at the bottom left of your screen and open the app, which will generate a command prompt with a blinking cursor.

Type ‘powercfg /batteryreport’ and press enter to generate a report along with the location of report.

You can either navigate to the specified location using the Windows File Explorer or copy and paste the entire location that starts with C:/users to the command prompt and hit Enter.

At the bottom of the ‘Installed batteries’ section, you’ll see an entry for ‘CYCLE COUNT’ along with a number, which represents your current count.

Another important set of numbers to review are the ‘DESIGN CAPACITY’ vs. ‘FULL CHARGE CAPACITY’ which will give you an indication of how much capacity you’ve lost since your device was new.

The farther apart these numbers are, the higher the degradation to your battery and it’s a good thing for anyone that has a new laptop to check as well.

If the numbers are far apart for a new laptop, you should contact the manufacturer for a replacement.

Tips for Extending Battery Life

Understanding the impact of charge cycles, being strategic about how you charge and what you do when you aren’t using your laptop will help extend battery life.

Don’t wait until your laptop is low on power to plug in your charger, especially if you are in a setting where you don’t need to be using the battery. Toppings off the battery regularly vs. letting it drain all the way down every time reduces stress and prolongs battery life according to BatteryUniversity.com.

Heat is another killer of laptop batteries, so avoid direct sunlight or leaving it in a hot car and don’t use it on a soft surface, like a pillow or bedspread that can block the cooling vents.

Your display brightness level is one of the biggest hits to your battery, so get it as low as you can when you’re using battery power.

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