Why it matters
With all of the incredible technological advancements we have these days, it’s a wonder how device battery is still one of the greatest struggles. I dream of a day when we have graphene batteries in all of our devices since they last five times longer than lithium-ion batteries, but we’re not quite there yet.
Luckily, Google has done wonders with Chromebooks, and introduced the world to 10-12 hour battery on a single charge. This is because Chromebooks run on a lightweight operating system (ChromeOS, of course), aren’t as intensive in the tasks they handle, and so on.
Because they’re becoming more and more capable though, the tech giant has had to employ numerous software tricks to squeeze out more time on a single charge, and it’s certainly done a great job of that. With continued advancements in software, machine learning and even artificial intelligence, having your Chromebook’s battery die in the middle of whatever you’re doing is less a likelihood than in the past.
Still, I know that not everyone keeps their device on the charger at all times, or plugs and unplugs it between 20% and 80% charge (even if I did controversially suggest that you should), and doing whatever you can to make it last until you can next plug in is vital, especially on planes without plugs, long vacations, and more.
Today, I’m going to give you five great ways to preserve your Chromebook’s battery, and at the end, I’ll give you one trick to check the health of your battery whenever you wish to see how much you’ve beaten it up over the years and how long you can go before you need to swap it out or get a new Chromebook.
Did you know?
Memory and Energy Saver Modes in Chrome
First and foremost, you should absolutely know about and be utilizing the new ‘Energy Saver mode‘ in Chrome. When Google detects that you have a lot of tabs open, it will ask if you want to enable this at the top-right of the browser. Doing so will limit some background activity and visual effects like smooth scrolling.
Believe it or not, this makes Chrome 30% more efficient when paired with the Memory Saver Mode seen below. Once your battery reaches 20%, Chrome will automatically enable Energy Saver mode, though it can be toggled int he Performance section of the settings, and will work for you to keep you from having to dive over the couch to grab the charger at the last second.
Don’t use max volume and brightness where possible
Back when I worked as a Chromebook Expert in stores, there was plenty of talk about how Chromebook batteries were tested. If we wanted to advertise that a certain device actually got 10-12 hours of battery on a single charge, we had to prove it. Real world usage is vital to customers like yourself who were picking up a new laptop.
So, it became fairly standard knowledge that one should run their Chromebook at half brightness and half battery (or less in certain circumstances like at night or indoors) if they wanted to preserve the battery. It’s no secret that a blazing bright screen and blaring speakers will drain your battery faster than if you tone both down a bit.
If you have the opportunity to, or if it’s comfortable enough (many times it’s more comfortable), I recommend you consider the screen and volume of your Chromebook while you’re on the go. In fact, if you make it a habit to operate at less than 100% for both, your battery will likely reach closer to that 10-12 hour promise from Google since again, that’s how they come up with that number in the factory!
Close unnecessary Chrome tabs
Having a crap ton of tabs open on your Chromebook is yet another way you can unsuspectingly drain your battery. I know, it sounds weird, but hear me out. Each Chrome tab takes RAM, or memory, and each time the memory of the device is called or pinged, it uses more power. That’s an over simplification, but I think you get the point.
You may be asking “Well, I need all of these tabs! What would you have me do?” To that, I have several answers, actually. First, you should consider bookmarking anything that’s meant to be stored long term. If it’s an article you want to read later, Chrome has a ‘Reading list’ you can make use of.
There’s also Tab Search, and my favorite tool of all time – Google Collections, which allows you to “keep” anything you want from around the web for later inspiration or use. Most importantly though, are Chrome’s awesome Tab Groups. Bundle a bunch of relevant tabs together and give them a color, collapse them and use them when you’re ready.
The most recent update finally allows Tab Groups to be removed from view (they’re still visible on your bookmark bar) and called up later – even on other devices! With these tools, you should take some time to radicalize how you use Chrome tabs. There should be virtually no point in time where you let your digital garden become unwieldy, and each time you’re starting or finishing a task, you should consider what Tab Group it goes into or whether a tab should be sent to a Collection, Reading list, or bookmark.
lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the History clusters or “Journeys” (most recently renamed “Groups”) feature will automagically group together tabs that are related so that you can get back to them later. If you’re afraid of losing research, this will make certain you can pick up where you left off without tab hoarding.
Did you know?
Collapsing Chrome’s Tab Groups saves RAM, and has the potential to save you a bit of battery life
Remove or disable extensions
Next up, Chrome extensions. Ah, yes, you didn’t think I’d talk about saving battery without mentioning these, did you? Each extension you add onto Chrome to increase its functionality does, in fact, have the ability to suck a bit of your battery.
I hadn’t thought about this one right away, but after some consideration, I figured I’d add it in. My recommendation here is to only keep extensions that you trust and that you find useful. Additionally, you should be removing unused extensions periodically to cut the clutter and save a bit of juice.
There’s actually a great tactic you can employ in the short term. There’s an extension you can add (ironic, I know) that temporarily disables all of your extensions. So, if you’re out on a long trip and want to try this method to make your Chromebook a bit more performant and last longer, you can Disable All Extensions until you can next cull them. Don’t worry, it has a whitelist for your ad blocker and any other essentials you’d like to keep enabled.
Download apps, music and movies before traveling
Okay, last method for today. This one may seem pretty obvious, but I want to mention it because the last time I took a flight, I forgot to download YouTube Music albums, Google Play Movies, and Books and a few good apps to keep me busy on the plane.
Because of this, I found myself frantically downloading a few things at the airport while I waited to board. Guess what – there was no charger because everyone else was using them! Needless to say, my battery died, and I was left reading a book. That’s okay, I love books.
As you’re aware, pulling data from the web and downloading things is harder on your battery than light web browsing. Do yourself a favor and pre-download your media and entertainment at home on the charger, and before leaving for a trip somewhere. You’ll thank me later.
Checking the health of your Chromebook battery
There you have it! Five great ways to save battery on your Chromebook. Are there any methods I forgot to mention? If so, leave a comment below and tell me how you conserve your laptop’s juice when you’re not in range of a charger.
As promised, here is your one trick to check the actual health and longevity of your Chromebook’s battery. If you press Ctrl + Alt + T on your keyboard, you’ll open what’s called “Crosh”. It’s a terminal for geeks and techies, but don’t worry, we’re just going to type one line in here.
next to the yellow “crosh>”, type “battery_test” without the quotes and hit enter. Instantly, you’ll see the secret that ChromeOS doesn’t tell you when you look at the battery indicator at the bottom-right of your device shelf.
As you can see, the battery charge and battery health are separate and there’s a good reason for this. The Charge is the current amount of juice you have until you need to get to the charger. The health, on the other hand, is the actual longevity of the physical battery in your laptop!
That’s right, if your “battery health” is listed in crosh as something quite low, it means your Chromebook is very old from a hardware perspective, and while you may have some time left with automatic updates before it reaches end of life and no longer gets security patches and features from Google, it may be time to swap out your hardware.
If it’s still under warranty, you can get this done by the manufacturer. Otherwise, you’ll need to go out and buy a new Chromebook! I don’t recommend switching the battery by yourself, unless you’re comfortable with that sort of thing, but knowing exactly what percentage it has left before it gives up the ghost is actually quite useful in the grand scheme of things. I hope this was helpful. As always, let me know if there are any other guides or tips and tricks you would love to have for your Chromebook, and I’d be happy to oblige!