One of my favorite utilities on our ThinkPads is our ThinkPad Power Manager. Sadly, this is one of those utilities that people consider “junk in the preload” and do not bother to download and reinstall after they wipe their systems clean and do a scratch reinstall of Windows (another topic for another day).
Many are familiar with ThinkPad Power Manager through the little icon down by their system tray that alternates from showing % charged when plugged into AC power and x:xx minutes left when running on battery power.
This icon alone to me would be worth the hassle of reinstalling this utility. Why? The answer can be summed up in one word. Accuracy. Take the battery status icon found in the system tray (please). This icon is terribly inaccurate. What else would explain why it can tell you that you have 35% of your battery remaining one minute, and the very next minute tell you that your battery level is critical and you need to connect to an AC adapter immediately.
Standard battery utilities are generic. They have to work on all notebooks and can only report status that is given to them by the power management drivers provided. One of the advantages to designing our own notebook PCs is that we have the ability to control and monitor hardware like few other vendors out there. We have two chips in our ThinkPad notebooks designed just for power management functions. One resides in the battery. Another resides on the main systemboard itself. They communicate with each other and dynamically adjust power properties so that you can get the most battery life out of your system possible. One of their functions is to determine based on current system processing load how much time it will either take to charge the battery or how much time you actually have left on battery power. Unlike Windows, they are accurate because they have been specifically designed for our systems.
The way you interface with these power management CPUs is through our ThinkPad Power Manager utility. (Find it on the ThinkVantage entry on the Start Menu or just double click the battery icon in your system tray.) When the utility opens, you’ll see three tabs that will allow you to optimize your system for maximum battery life. For today, I am going to focus on the battery information tab.
The Battery Information tab is a computer geek’s paradise. Not only can you see more detail about your battery than most people ever knew existed, but you can also use the dropdown box to get information on any secondary batteries attached to your system. Clicking the Battery Maintenance button in the upper right hand corner also brings up another settings area in which you can help optimize your battery’s longevity — in terms of months, not hours.
This screen exists because most people do not follow best practices to ensure their batteries will last for the long term. Most people keep their notebooks plugged in all day. They may unplug them at night to go home, but then the first thing they do is dig their AC adapters out of their bags and plug in again. This means that most days the average notebook battery is going from 100% charged to 97% or 98% and then being recharged to 100% again. Done again and again, this “topping off” is TERRIBLE for batteries. It makes them wear out prematurely as each time you do this, you add another cycle to the battery.
I have mine set so that untill my battery drops below 90%, it will never charge the battery. Once it drops below 90%, my system will continue to charge it until it is at 100% capacity. Of course, if you don’t like this, there is an option to turn it off as well so that no matter what, your system always charges to 100%.