Does It Matter if Your Laptop Is Always Plugged In?

Does It Matter if Your Laptop Is Always Plugged In? Should You Leave Your Laptop Plugged in All the Time? Is it bad to leave your laptop plugged in all day while working from home? Proper battery care is important, especially if you’re treating your laptop as a desktop.

Is it better to keep your laptop plugged in, or use it on battery power? Turns out, the answer isn’t entirely straightforward. The appeal of a laptop is its portability and convenience, which makes it ideal for working on the go and on business trips. Laptops are only as good as their batteries, however, and proper care of your battery is essential to making sure it retains a long life and charge.

Leaving your laptop plugged in constantly is not bad for your battery, but you will need to be careful of other factors, such as heat, to prevent your battery from damages. At one point or another, all laptop users find themselves pondering the same question: is it bad to leave your laptop plugged in all the time?

What happens when I leave my laptop plugged in?

Instead of continuing to suck up power when at full capacity, the battery in your laptop should be bypassed even if it remains plugged in. This means that power coming from an external source is used directly to power the laptop instead of it first passing through the battery.

Have you noticed when charging your laptop that there’s an excess of heat coming off of the bottom? This is a normal byproduct of charging, but if the temperature gets too high or remains elevated for too long, serious damage can occur.

Battery University is an awesome resource that can teach a lot about batteries, with one subject focusing on the effects of heat on Lithium-based batteries.

Battery University

In this chart, we can see that keeping a battery at a certain charge and at a certain temperature over the course of a year can significantly diminish its overall capacity. If your laptop already has a hard time keeping cool, leaving it plugged in and at 100 percent charge is probably a bad idea.

If you’re lucky enough to have a modern laptop with a removable battery — some is still offering this feature — consider taking it out and relying solely on the charging cable.

Understanding the battery in your laptop

There are two main types of batteries used in laptops: lithium-ion and lithium-polymer. Although they are different technologies, they function in broadly the same way, generating power through the movement of electrons. This constant flow is also needed to help keep the battery healthy.

For both types of batteries, the following statements are true (at least as far as modern laptops are concerned):

  • A battery cannot be overcharged. There’s no danger of overcharging a battery if you leave it plugged in all the time, even 24/7. As soon as it hits 100 percent, it will cease charging and won’t start again until the voltage falls below a certain level.
  • Fully discharging a battery will damage it. Allowing the battery to become completely empty for an extended period can put it into a deep discharge state. This can be fatal—you might never be able to charge it again.

What Are The Things That Damage Lithium Batteries?

The truth about lithium-based batteries is that they are inherently unstable. They begin to lose capacity from the moment they are produced, and numerous factors hasten their decline. These include:

  • Charge/discharge cycles. Every battery has a finite number of times it can be charged and discharged.
  • Voltage level. The higher the charge level (measured in volts per cell), the shorter the battery’s life.
  • High temperature, over 30 degrees celsius. This can cause irreparable damage.

Should You Remove the Battery from your laptop?

If heat is such a danger, it begs another question. Should you remove the battery altogether when using your laptop on AC power? Obviously, this isn’t possible on the growing number of laptops that sport sealed batteries.

Where they are replaceable, the answer seems to vary from one manufacturer to the next. Acer, for instance, says you don’t have to remove the battery on AC power, but should remove it if you aren’t going to use it for several days. When Apple produced laptops with removable batteries, it advised against ever taking them out.

It all comes down to the power management setup in the laptop. Some may reduce the power when a battery isn’t present, just as some do when the battery level gets low. This could leave you with subpar performance.

If you do choose to remove the battery, ensure that you store it properly. This usually means being charged between 40 percent and 80 percent and kept at room temperature.

Should You Keep Your Laptop Plugged In?

Does leaving your laptop plugged in ruin the battery? Yes, it does. But then so does charging it every day.

Curiously, the industry as a whole doesn’t seem to have settled on a single answer for the question about whether to use your laptop on AC or battery power.

We’ve seen that Acer recommends removing the battery when you aren’t using it. Asus says you should drain the battery to at least 50 percent every two weeks. But Dell says there’s no problem leaving the laptop plugged in at all times.

Apple’s advice is no longer on its website, but you can still read it online. The company recommends against leaving a laptop plugged in all the time. Instead, it suggests:

“An ideal user would be a commuter who uses her notebook on the train, then plugs it in at the office to charge. This keeps the battery juices flowing…”

Why isn’t my battery gauge giving an accurate reading?

If you’ve been using your laptop for a few months (or a few years), you might notice that the battery gauge in the bottom-right corner is no longer giving an accurate reading. You might see that you have two hours left, but 30 minutes into your movie, it powers down.

A recalibration can likely solve this problem. I’ve already written a guide on the steps required, and the entire process shouldn’t take long.

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