The gadgets you love don't always love you back—at least when it comes to battery life. But you can get more from your laptop, your iPod, your phone, and other devices with these 10 techniques.
10. Turn C batteries into Ds with quarters
Only a few things ever need D
9. Keep your iPod "held" and updated
If you haven't hit the "Update" button since you got your iPod, old or new, fire up iTunes and do so—the newest firmware, in many cases, can boost your battery life. Once you've done that, run through Playlist Magazine's battery saving tips, which include keeping backlighting, the equalizer, and Sound Check features off when they're not needed. Also, keeping the "Hold" switch in place when you're not actively using it saves you from accidentally playing your whole collection, and wasting another charge cycle.
8. Get serious rechargeable batteries (and a charger)
It's a help to the environment, and your checking account, to use rechargeable batteries instead of letting your Wii remotes and other gadgets eat through AAs. But the grocery store brands and accessories often don't seem worth the hassle. Blogger Jeff Atwood does know what works, though, and he details the circuit science and recommends the good stuff in the post linked above. If you're stuck with Energizer and Duracell choices, though, here's Gizmodo's faceoff of the big brands.
7. Turn off your digital camera's screen
Having a view of the whole scene you're shooting is one of the
6. Watch movies from hard drives, not DVDs
Simple, sure, but not always obvious. On many planes and trains, laptops serve as little more than portable DVD players with bigger screens, but forcing your laptop to spin the discs and read from them eats up more power than reading a file off a hard disk—or, perhaps even better, a USB drive. How to get there? We recommend HandBrake for most any system, though Adam's got a pretty good thing going with his (Windows-based) one-click DVD ripping solution.
5. Extend your not-so-hot iPhone life
A lot of lists out there offer to help extend your iPhone's battery life. This one's a lot like them, except it's written by our sibling site Gizmodo and based on extensive testing done during the run-up to the iPhone's launch. And it goes so far as to suggest what the others don't—playing games with 3D and vibrate, for example, is a power killer, both in actual juice and in how long you'll end up playing without realizing you've been sucked in. And if you're just checking weather, emailing, and making calls, keep your 3G switched off until it's needed.
4. Stash your gadgets out of your pockets
It's the most natural place in the world for your cellphone or iPod, but the heat your pocket picks up from, well, your hips can decrease the overall life of lithium-ion batteries. Not so much that you absolutely have to get one of those I'm An Important Person belt clips, but if you've got a coat, purse, or other place to put a battery-powered gizmo, consider offering it a little more ventilation than your body-warmed cotton wraps. While you're thinking cool, try stashing your batteries (just your batteries, mind you) in the freezer if you're trying to conserve every last drop while you're away from your charger. Photo by hsiqueira.
3. Get long-term battery life
An inquiring reader asked how to keep his batteries delivering on-the-go power for the long haul, rather than watch his investment be eaten away by age. As is so often the case, our readers came right back with answers. A MetaFilter thread linked by one helpful reader suggests using the battery fully if you're going to use it, then re-charge when it runs down. A Battery University link offers more tips, and Apple's guide to batteries suggests a few tips on what to do with unused or spare batteries—store them in a cool place at about 50 percent charge, for instance.
2. Make your system smarter about power
Windows and Mac OS X both know when you're using a laptop, and presumably want to help you save power. Except, in the case of the Mac, sleeping and hibernating isn't done with remaining battery power in mind, and on Vista, well, all those Aero effects and background processes suck up power too quickly. Enter Vista Battery Saver, which kills the Aero effects, sidebar widgets, and other power sinks, and SmartSleep (OS X), which gradually transitions from sleep, to sleep-and-hibernate, to full-on, session-saving hibernate as you start winding down from 20 percent charge. Both are nearly necessary downloads for road warriors lugging either OS around.