Friday, 6 November 2015

Improve Battery Life on your Linux Mint/Ubuntu Laptop



Linux in itself is pretty power efficient on laptops. Firstly, if you're facing significant battery drain, I would recommend updating your drivers from the "Driver Manager" present in the Linux Mint menu. Once all your drivers are all up to date, there are a few simple tips and tricks to follow which can help you improve your battery life. We will be covering some very common tips and some slightly more uncommon tips to help you in your endeavor to squeeze as much as you can out of your battery without having to dig deep into Linux's configurations.

1. Reduce Screen Brightness

Although most users are aware of this, one can never stress this point enough. Your screen requires a significant amount of power to run. Almost 50% of your total power consumption is attributed to your screen. Reducing brightness can drastically improve battery life. You can get around an hour more of juice by just reducing your brightness to as low as you can bear. Brightness can be reduced quite simply by clicking on the battery icon on the lower right of your screen.

2. Turn Off and/or Unplug Unused Devices

Laptops these days have built-in Bluetooth, Wi-fi, and sometimes even Infrared. All of these adapters require power to run. Bluetooth and Infrared in particular are known to consume a considerable amount of power. If you aren't using them, turn them off. Same rule applies for Wi-fi: if you're not using it, turn it off. It is quite easy to turn it back on whenever you need it. Leaving it on all the time wastes away your battery, as it keeps looking for networks to connect to.

All external USB devices connected to your laptop also use power. Hard drives in particular require a lot of power to run. If you are working on data present on an external hard drive, consider copying it to your internal hard drive while working, and then disconnect your external hard drive. You can connect it later on to copy your updated data back. A hard drive has a spinning disc and a movable head inside it. Both components require a lot of power to run. Similarly, using your optical drive (CD/DVD/BR Drive) also requires a lot of power. That being said, mice and flash drives require negligible power to run, so these can be left connected.  Also, avoid charging your smartphone using your laptop if you're running on battery power.

3. Avoid Rebooting Frequently

Booting a computer requires a tremendous amount of power. Even if your boot time is less than 10 seconds, the power draw could reduce about 15 to 20 minutes of your battery power. If you feel you will be using your laptop at intervals of 2 or 3 hours (or less), then consider using "Suspend". Suspend puts your laptop in an ultra low power state. Although it still draws power from your battery, the drain is incredibly low. Turning your laptop back on from suspend state also requires far less power than a full boot.

The "Hibernate" option can be used if you're leaving your laptop turned off for over 3 hours. Hibernate saves your laptop's working state (everything present in the RAM) to the hard drive and then shuts down your computer. This way, Linux does not need to fetch and load all system processes and components when it boots, hence saving a lot of CPU cycles. Hibernate probably won't give you a significant boost in battery life, but it is certainly more efficient than booting from a complete system shut down. I would still recommend a proper reboot or shut down after updating your system because it's essential for some system changes to be applied.

4. Install TLP

TLP is a simple power management tool for Linux which runs in the background and automatically optimises your system for efficient power consumption. It changes the way your devices behave depending on whether you are plugged in or on battery power. There are a lot of advanced customisation options available for advanced users, but the default settings work perfectly for most users. 

Installing TLP requires using the terminal. I will try to make the steps as simple as possible to follow.
  1. First, you need to open a terminal window by pressing "Ctrl + T".
  2. Then simply copy the following lines, paste them in the terminal window (to paste something in a terminal, you need to press "Ctrl + Shift + V") and press enter.


Note: If you are using a Lenovo Thinkpad then you will also have to copy and paste the following line in the terminal after the above process is complete.



This installs TLP on your system. Now simply reboot your computer to have it up and running.

If you want to make any changes to the configuration or perform diagnostics, you can visit the official website here (advanced users only). All installation and configuration options have been defined well.

Conclusion

There are various more tricks I can discuss here, but they are mostly for advanced users. If you're feeling up to it, you could try updating your kernel or manually turning off devices from the BIOS itself. If not, the above tips could tremendously improve your battery life if you haven't already been following them.

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