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Notebook / Laptop Tweak Guide - Speed Up Your Notebook Before Giving Up Hope

Posted: September 8, 2003
Written By: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy


I'm so glad I've started writing this guide that all I can start with is: "It's about damn time we posted a notebook tweak guide!"

Notebooks are very common now, as they're much more affordable than they have been in the past. Well equipped 'books from companies like Dell start in the $700 to $1000 range if you shop around and look for discounts. But no matter what you pay for a notebook, you'll likely have the same complaints as most other notebook owners. Your notebook drains its battery like you never thought possible and you can't figure out why it's so sluggish compared to a similarly-equipped PC. Don't worry, young grasshopper, there is hope yet. After following a few steps, your notebook will be faster, more useful, last longer, and do so much more than you imagined it could.

Make That Battery Last Longer

Prolong your mobile experience, naturally!

A notebook's internal battery has a huge list of tasks to handle. It's operating a full-on PC (albeit on a much smaller scale), including a high-resolution LCD screen. One battery manages to operate the system, hard drive(s), accessories, cooling, sound, screen and external devices for two or more hours. And we're complaining about this -- sounds a bit greedy, doesn't it, considering much slower computers in the 1960s took thousands of dollars to run every day?

But this isn't the 1960s. These days, we're allowed to be greedy. Technology is on our side, so why can't our batteries last at least an extra 30 or so minutes? They can! We just need to tweak a few things...

First, when using battery power, set the brightness as low as you can tolerate. You may need to adjust the screen's angle slightly for a clear picture. Most notebooks have either a brightness adjustment on the case itself or via a shortcut key on the keyboard (on my Inspiron 5100 it's "Fn" and the up arrow). Set the brightness higher when you're plugged in if your notebook doesn't set it higher automatically. Modern notebooks should automatically change to a different power profile when plugged in.

Next, get used to using the touchpad or the other included pointing device. Don't rely on a mouse when you're using batteries unless you absolutely have to use one. An external mouse, especially an optical mouse, will use considerable extra power. On a related note, don't leave any devices plugged in that you do not require. For example, if you're not using a wireless network connection, don't leave your 802.11b PCMCIA card plugged in. Why waste the power if you don't need it? Now that the easy steps are out of the way, let's move on to something a little less obvious.

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