Don't Run Your Laptop Battery Down To Empty
Despite what our screen shows, most laptops probably won't allow you to set the critical battery level at 0 percent--and you shouldn't try.
Squeezing every drop of juice out of a lithium ion battery (the type used in today's laptops) strains and weakens it. Doing this once or twice won't kill the battery, but the cumulative effect of frequently emptying your battery will shorten its lifespan.
(There's actually an exception to this rule--a circumstance where you should run down the battery all the way. I'll get to that later.)
The good news: You probably can't run down the battery, anyway--at least not without going to a lot of trouble to do so. Most modern laptops are designed to shut down before the battery is empty.
In fact, Vista and Windows 7 come with a setting for just this purpose. To see it, click Start, type power, and select Power Options. Click any one of the Change plan settings links, then the Change advanced power settings link. In the resulting dialog box, scroll down to and expand the Battery option. Then expand Critical battery level. The setting will probably be about 5 percent, which is a good place to leave it.
XP has no such native setting, although your laptop may have a vendor-supplied tool that does the same job.
Myth: You should never recharge your battery all the way.
There's considerable controversy on this point, and in researching this article I interviewed experts both for and against. But I've come down on the side of recharging all the way. The advantages of leaving home with a fully-charged battery--you can use your PC longer without AC power--are worth the slight risk of doing damage.
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