We've all been there. You're an hour into the flight and Ross Geller is about to say the wrong name at his wedding, Bruce Willis is about to find that his shirt is blood-stained, or the guy in the black cape is about to bypass the need for a Skywalker family DNA test. But you don't know any of these things yet, and, because your laptop just died and became little more than an expensive TV dinner tray, you’re going to have to wait until you get to a power socket to see just how Rachel will react to this startling development in her love life.
There is another way. Follow some of these simple tips, and you should be never be left the wrong side of cliff-hanger again. Or, more likely, you might be able to answer your email and delete some of the 200 spam messages that have arrived in the last 30 minutes. Be the first to reply to that disenfranchised Nigerian who "has most trust with you", and you will be soon 20 million(s) dollars/pounds richer. Oh boy!
- Only run what you need. Keeping programs running in the background will require more system resources, and use more of the precious battery juice. There's a reason that some programs load slower than others, and that's because they need more system resources. Try to keep as few programs as possible open, and avoid programs that slow your computer down even at the best of times.
- Kill extraneous process. It was thoughtful of Epson to install a little tray icon for you, and being able to turn your monitor display around 90 degrees is a useful feature of that ATI program that runs all day, every day, but chances are you can survive without them when on the move. Run msconfig and kill off some start-up options, and prune processes on task manager. If you haven't got a net connection and aren't planning to run unmarked EXEs from floppies given to you by strangers, chances are you can survive without your virus protection for the next few hours – turn it off as well.
- Be gentle. If you need to use your pc for emails, writing or reading, don't start your travels with a DVD or a video or a quick game of Counter-Strike – these and other high-drain applications will reduce your productivity dramatically, unless of course you intend to reply to your clients via the postal service.
- Adjust your screen brightness. Let's face it, a bright screen isn't going to top up your tan that much - turn down the brightness on your display to the lowest level you can manage; this will make a massive difference to your power consumption.
- Disable built-in hardware features you don't need. Your laptop will have shipped with all sorts of 'useful' features turned on by default. This is fine, because usually you don't stray more than a few feet from a power outlet. But when you are forced to, it's time to start with the tough love. If there's no wireless connection, you don't need your wi-fi turned on, and come to that, you don't need Bluetooth enabled either. Check for other built-in components that you could disable to conserve power.
- Be careful with the external peripherals too. Unplug USB devices, PCMCIA devices and any other crazy things you've got plugged in, because your system uses power to interact with them, and because they draw power themselves to, you know, work. If you're nowhere near a power outlet, now is not the time to power up iTunes and update your iPod.
- Use power saving features carefully. Yep, this tip is basic, but there is a fundamental point to remember above the obvious – that standby mode still uses power. If your laptop supports it, use hibernate instead. This loads the contents of memory into a file on the hard drive, and then turns the system off. When you turn it back on again, the contents of your memory are restored, good as new.
- Monitor operating temperature. Your battery is a lot less efficient when not within its standard operating temperature range, so if it's sweltering and you can do what you need to do later, power the machine off and you will have more power in the long run.
- Maintain the condition of your battery. Older nickel-based batteries work better if they are fully drained regularly, and all batteries have ideal charging patterns you can follow. Know the situation with your battery and, Defrag your hard drive. Even once you have turned everything off and got yourself a bare-bones system, you can't avoid using the hard drive. But you can make it more efficient – defrag the drive so that read/write accesses are quicker. In particular, faster disk accesses mean that swap file memory will be more efficient, and quicker generally.