Looking to improve your laptop’s battery life? Upgrading hardware is much better than tweaking software to improve energy efficiency. Unfortunately, not all mobile computers offer easy component upgrades. However, most full-size laptops can be upgraded, a process that takes surprisingly little time or effort. Ultrabooks, on the other hand, require a bit more elbow grease to upgrade.

Four components are relatively easy to upgrade:

  • HDD
  • WiFi map
  • Bluetooth module
  • Battery upgrade

I also illustrate where these parts lie in the HP Pavilion 17. The upgrade process usually involves just a few screws and one removable panel for a full-size laptop. Smaller laptops, such as ultrabooks (what is an ultrabook?), may require considerably more effort.

back of laptop

Endlessly reworded software packages

I won’t cover Linux optimizations and/or Windows tooling as they get a lot of coverage. In 2009, Saikat published an up-to-date article on 21 laptop battery life improvements. Most relevant: Decreasing screen brightness and optimizing your laptop’s operating system for power consumption. For Windows 8 Tablets Windows 8 Tablets the process is pretty similar.

Easy hardware upgrade

Solid State Drives

Common myth : all solid state drives ( what is a solid state drive? ) consumes less, than traditional disk-based hard drives. Truth : Some SSDs consume very little, and some spend huge amounts. The same applies to conventional hard drives. On average, SSDs consume less than hard drives. But the number of SSDs will drain substantially more.

Installing a new SSD on most full-sized laptops will require removing the back case cover and disconnecting the hard drive from the SATA connector. It takes me about 5 minutes (actually less) to change the drive. You will also need to either clone the operating system. or reinstall it.

solid state drive example

Anandtech has reduced the power consumption of modern SSDs. They found that Samsung drives typically use less power than OCZ drives, for example. Hard drives consume power in (mostly) two ways — idle or active. Active consumption tends to be higher for spinning HDDs (because they have to literally spin the drive) than for SSDs. On the other hand, solid state drives may suffer from higher idle (and sometimes active) power consumption as it contains the equivalent of a miniature computer (which includes RAM, multi-core processors, and more).

Such hardware requires significant overhead, although that is why SSDs jump ahead of hard drives. Solid state drives tend to live in extreme power consumption conditions. Some of them can burn up to 5 watts per hour when active. Others consume around 1 (or less).

For power consumption, I recommend any Samsung 840 or 850 drive. In theory, the 850 series, which uses a smaller nanometer manufacturing process along with «3D» stacked memory cells, should offer some of the highest power consumption figures. Early reports confirm this, as Anandtech rates the 850 as the third most energy efficient drive.

For more information, see our solid state guide.

solid state drive example

Wireless-AC and Bluetooth 4.0

Fortunately, most modern laptops use a mini-PCI-express (or mPCIe) module for WiFi and Bluetooth access. Most budget mobile computers use older mini-PCIe cards that combine Bluetooth 3 and 802.11n wireless. They consume significantly more than the latest Bluetooth 4 and 802.11ac standards. Both standards require compatible peripherals to obtain power savings.

Azurewave Broadcom BCM9452

Most older and budget laptops include single-band Wireless-N cards. The standard that has replaced Wireless-N is 802.11ac (Wireless-AC), which offers dual-band support and often comes with Bluetooth 4.0.

There are two mini-PCIe AC wireless cards that are readily available for little money. I tried both on Linux (Ubuntu 14.04 LTS) and they worked out of the box:

  • Broadcom Azurewave BCM9452 — $36.99 via Amazon
  • Intel 7620 — $31.85 via Amazon

Before buying, double-check if your laptop supports mini PCIe cards . Also make sure your router can broadcast Wireless-AC and your peripherals support Bluetooth 4.0 with low power consumption ; if they don’t, you won’t get any benefit from the power.

It only takes a few steps to replace an mPCIe card. First you need to remove the back cover of the case and unscrew the mPCIe module from the motherboard, disconnecting the antenna cables. Then you insert the new module, connect cables and screws. After updating the drivers, connect to the 5 GHz band. From now on, you will see pretty good battery life for most browsing. However, the quality of your signal is directly related to the power efficiency of the module. Despite, what technology beamforming 802.11ac improves signal quality, if you’re suffering from a bad connection you won’t see any improvement in battery life.

WiFi MPCIE map update

Alternatively, if you only want to upgrade to Bluetooth 4.0, you can purchase a USB dongle that supports Bluetooth 4.0. The dongles cost less than $10 and offer plug-and-play support on Windows 8.1.

SoundBot SB340


Some laptops offer extended batteries. Since the amount of space inside the battery is limited, manufacturers often use more energy-hungry batteries. A little known secret about full size laptop batteries is that they are actually made up of several smaller batteries. Most common: 18650. 18650s come in a variety of energy densities, often ranging from 1000 to 5000 mAh.

18650 lithium ion battery

Check with your laptop manufacturer to see if higher density packages are available. If not, you can always roll the dice on eBay (although you risk thwarting the laptop if extremely poor quality batteries are used).

laptop battery

Components You Probably Don’t Want to Update

CPU / APU Upgrade

To increase the battery life of the processor, you need to downgrade. In addition, many low-power processors can use the same power as a faster model. Each CPU model offers a socket, there are two types: soldered and socketed. Connector models may vary. Soldered literally glued to the motherboard connector.

Unfortunately, the most efficient Intel processors cannot be replaced because they are of the soldered variety; and upgrading models with connectors will not provide any improvement in battery life. Downgrading is the only option, but you should check on an individual basis with the manufacturer.

Many modern AMD laptops use the upgradeable standard, but as far as I understand, the latest Kaveri architecture ( FP3 ) only supports solder joints, meaning they can’t be upgraded either.

Often laptop processor upgrades require almost complete disassembly of the laptop. Also, laptop processors may cost extra or require the module to be rebuilt from a damaged laptop. In addition, many laptop processors are connected directly to the heatsink, so disassembly entails the possibility of accidental damage to the processor. Finally, each motherboard has its own specific rules for compatible processors — you end up with little battery gain, lost performance, and wasted a lot of time.

2014-03-10 23.15.43

Screen technology

A very small group of laptops can upgrade their screen technology — for example, some 10.1-inch laptops can upgrade to a daylight-readable Pixel Qi screen. These screens use some of the energy of the LCD screen while still providing daylight readability. The company is now producing displays for drones due to a lack of consumer interest.

Otherwise, screen updates (or downgrades) do not exist for most models. Even if you do find one, the payoff will likely not outweigh the amount of effort it takes to replace the screen.


Upgrading the hard drive to a low power SSD (rather than a high power SSD) along with replacing the Bluetooth/Wi-Fi module will greatly improve battery life. My HP Pavilion 17 jumped from four hours of battery life to seven hours after updating all three parts to the latest standard. However, be aware that your browser (doesn’t use Chrome), the number of tabs you have open, and other factors will significantly reduce battery life.

Do you have any other energy saving upgrades? Let us know about it in the comments.

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