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Maintaining and Troubleshooting Your Laptop Battery

The actual life of a laptop battery will vary with computer usage habits. For most users, it is not uncommon to experience differences in battery life, of anywhere from just under one hour to over two hours in each sitting. If you are experiencing shorter battery life cycles, say 10 to 15 minutes, it may not yet be time to order that new battery.

There are several factors to take into consideration when determining if the time has come to replace your battery. This information may also apply to that new battery that you have recently purchased, that has been giving you fits. The two primary things to consider when troubleshooting battery problems is Usage Habits and Battery Memory. We will cover both in their complexities in just a moment, but first, let us take a look at what you should expect from your battery’s life cycle.

NiMH batteries usually last 1.5 to 2.5 hours. LiION batteries usually last 2.0 to 3.0 hours.

These are average results and the results will vary greatly depending on your system’s conservation settings, the temperature of the room and the climate that you are operating your computer in. As a general rule, your Lithium Ion battery will last much longer than your standard Nickel Metal Hydride battery.

Now let’s take a look at the various usage habits to consider when troubleshooting your laptop’s battery. These processes are very similar to the way that your portable stereo uses batteries.. just think how much faster your stereo eats batteries when you are playing the CD or the tape deck, as opposed to when you are just playing the radio.

The more you use physical devices — which require more electricity to operate — the more of the battery’s power you can expect to consume. The devices that create a larger power drain are the hard drive, the floppy drive and the CD-ROM.

When the computer is able to use its physical memory resources to store information, the computer will use less of the battery’s power, since the process is mostly electrical in nature. However, when the processes you are using exhaust the physical memory resources available to your system, the system will turn to virtual memory to continue the process at hand. Virtual Memory is designed to extend system memory resources by building a memory swap file on the hard drive, and then transfer needed information between the hard drive and the physical memory as required. Since the hard drive is a electricity hog, the use of virtual memory becomes an electricity hog by proxy.

Two other processes that engage virtual memory on your computer are computational programs and the calculation processes used by spreadsheet applications and database programs. Both of these items engage the processor to a greater degree as well, which in itself is a consumer of electricity. Because they both compute and calculate large quantities of information, they will also increase the amount of electricity that your laptop will consume.

Other physical devices that cannot be left out of this discussion are audio and display devices. As far as audio devices are concerned, speakers require electricity to run and the software that is responsible for producing the sound does so by processing information. The display panel consumes electricity as well. In fact, the brighter the screen appears, the more electricity that it is consuming. You may turn down the brightness on the screen, thereby conserving more electricity than you may have considered possible. And when considering the battery drain caused by video devices, don’t forget the effect that graphics programs will have on your system. Video applications can have an intense effect on your electrical needs, due to its usage of computation, calculations and virtual memory.

Battery Memory is an odd little creature. The concept of battery memory is reminiscent of Pavlovian Conditioning. Do you remember the story about Pavlov and his dogs? Pavlov would serve his dogs food and when they realized it was dinner time, he would ring a bell. After some time of conditioning his dogs, all he would have to do to get the dogs to salivate, was to ring the bell. Battery Memory is a lot like that.

Battery memory is where the battery becomes conditioned to run for less time than it is designed to run. Say for example, you run your computer on battery for an hour and then you plug it back in to let it recharge. The battery will become conditioned to run only an hour before it runs out of juice.

To correct Battery Memory problems, you must completely drain the battery and recharge it. To completely drain your battery, you must go into your Windows Control Panel and select Power. Then you must turn Power Management Off. Next, you must go into your BIOS and make sure that if there is a power management setting there, that you turn it off as well. In most cases, once you are inside the BIOS, you will highlight Power Management and press Enter. Then locate the item Hibernation at Critical Battery, and by using the Minus sign, change the setting to Off. Once these steps have been completed, then use your Escape key to return to the top level menu, and select Save Settings and Exit.

Once you have completed turning off the power management in both the BIOS and the Operating System, you must unplug the computer, turn the computer on and let it run until it completely runs out of electricity. Then you should charge the battery for 12 hours. At the end of the charging cycle, then run the computer again until the battery is dead, and then charge the battery for 12 more hours. You should repeat this process four times, before returning the computer to its original power management settings.

As far as battery usage goes, it is recommended that you should use the battery once every two weeks, and keep the battery in the system so that the AC adapter can keep the battery charged at all times. It is also recommended that if you don’t use the battery for more than two weeks, you should completely discharge the battery and store it at room temperature.

How to Install a CPU and Heatsink

The most critical part of building your own computer is knowing how to install a CPU and how to install a heatsink. The CPU is the brain of your computer and is the most delicate part. It’s easy to damage, although most CPUs are designed so that they’re nearly impossible to install incorrectly.

Installing a CPU is one of the most important steps in building a PC

The heatsink cools the CPU and keeps it from frying. Heatsinks are fastened to the top of the CPU and sometimes come with an additional substance called “thermal paste.” This is a thin gel that adds an additional layer of cooling. Let’s look at the basic steps for installing the CPU and heatsink.

1. Locate the Processor Socket

Before you can install a CPU you should find the processor socket on the motherboard. This is the square socket with numerous pinholes in it. Lift the lever to the side of this socket so that you can install a CPU into it.

Look closely at the pin pattern on your CPU socket. Notice that there is a diagonal corner where it appears some pinholes are missing. It might appear as a triangular pattern. This is there to help you properly align the CPU to the CPU socket. Carefully grab the CPU by the sides and turn it over to examine the pins at the bottom.

Compare the alignment of your pins with the pattern on your socket and you’ll see that there is only one correct pattern for alignment. Again, it’s virtually impossible to install the CPU incorrectly unless you force it. Make sure that you have the CPU and socket aligned correctly before proceeding onto the next step.

2. Mount the CPU

Once you are sure that the CPU pins and socket pins holes are matched up correctly, you can insert the CPU into the socket. Again, be sure to use that diagonal pin pattern as your guide.

You might meet some resistance as you are pressing down. This is a delicate procedure – and if you’ve never before learned how to install a CPU, you might think you are doing it incorrectly. However, learning how to install computer components takes practice. The resistance is normal. Again, the socket design and CPU pin patterns are designed to match perfectly.

Press down past the resistance point and then the CPU will slide smoothly into the socket. The CPU may make a snapping sound as it slips into the socket. When you’re sure it’s complete, lower the lever at the side of the socket to lock the CPU into the socket.

Check to see if your particular brand of CPU or cooling solution came with a protection plate. If it did, place it above the CPU as explained in your documentation.

3. Apply the Thermal Compound

Next comes the thermal compound. Some people choose to avoid this step altogether, while others who teach on how to install a heatsink swear by it.

Generally a properly designed heatsink will ensure that you may not need a thermal compound. However it doesn’t hurt to be too safe, especially with CPU processor speeds increasing and generating more and more heat. Thermal paste can usually shave off a few extra degrees of hot temperature off of your CPU.

Apply the thermal paste to the areas of the CPU that will make contact with the CPU. Begin by applying a little bit of the gel to the center of the CPU and then gently spreading outward. Don’t apply too much of thermal compound. A little dab will do you. Be sure to spread an even, thin layer of the gel to ensure that there is complete coverage over your CPU.

4. Install the Heatsink

Now we learn how to install a heatsink. This is a very crucial step. If the heatsink is not installed properly it might come loose. Your CPU will overheat and be toast in no time.

Before we explain how to install a heatsink, check to see if your heatsink has a fan separate from the unit. If it does, you’ll need to attach the fan to the heatsink first before attaching the heatsink to the CPU.

When you’re ready, mount the heatsink over your CPU according to the specifications for your manufacturer. The directions will vary. Some heatsinks are installed by requiring you to clamp down on them with levers and attaching them to metal hooks on the motherboard. With other heatsinks you may have to screw the whole unit into the motherboard.

Whatever the procedure, follow it closely and be very careful. If you need to use a screwdriver to install the heatsink you could very easily slip and damage your system components.

5. Install the Heatsink Fan Header and Configure BIOS

The final step in learning how to install a heatsink involves connecting the power leads from the heatsink to their proper headers on the motherboard.

Locate the header for the CPU fan on the motherboard. Then plug the power cable from the heatsink into the fan header on the motherboard. There will be more than one header on the motherboard, so be sure that you pick the right one. Choose the wrong one and your computer might get a power surge that will fry the processor.

Check the documentation that came with your motherboard to properly locate the correct header. Once installed, be sure that it is securely in place.

Afterwards, assuming that the rest of your computer has been installed properly, you can configure the BIOS. The BIOS will need to detect the type and speed of the computer processor that has been installed. Again, the exact procedure will vary depending on the manufacturer; check the documentation that came with your motherboard.


Learning how to install computer components like a CPU and heatsink might seem like a daunting task to someone who’s never done it. However, it’s not as hard as you think. CPUs and heatsinks being made today were designed to fitly snug together with a minimum of fuss.

You don’t need much in the way of mechanical skill and about the only tool you will need is a screwdriver. Yet this is by far the most delicate operation you will perform on your computer. Once you pass this hurdle, everything else will be a breeze.

How to Install a Primary Hard Drive

How to Install a Primary Hard DriveIn this tutorial we learn how to install a primary hard drive. The primary drive is your main drive, not a secondary drive. Installing a secondary drive is similar but you will have to configure your drive differently. Be sure to have your documentation handy at all times.

Learning how to install computer components like a hard drive is not hard, but proper preparation is the key to making it a smooth experience.

Before beginning you should completely shut down your computer. Also be sure to switch the power supply switch into the off position and pull the AC cord from the wall outlet.

1. Remove the Case and Set Your Drive Jumper

The first order of business is to open your computer case so that you can install the hard drive. The method of doing this varies, but most modern cases use a mini-tower design and have side panels that are screwed onto the chassis.

You will need to find the panel that sits above the motherboard and remove the screws in the back to slide the panel out. If you have an older computer design, you may have to remove all of the screws in the back and then slide the chassis out.

Next you must configure your hard drive. To install hard drive components properly you will need to set your drive jumpers. On the back of your drive you will notice pairs of metal pins pointing to various positions. There will be a jumper over the pins in one of these settings.

Consult your documentation. Basically, if you are installing the first and only drive you will set the jumper to “Cable Select.” (If you were installing more than one drive, you would choose “Master” for the main drive.)

2. Insert the Drive into Case

Once the drive is configured you are ready to insert it into the case. Examine the design of your case to see what your options are here.

Inside your case there is what is known as a drive bay. Some of the new-fangled case designs offer a removable version of this drive bay or cage. If you have that, consider yourself lucky. It’s much easier to know how to install computer components when you don’t have to poke around in the case the whole time.

If you have a removable bay, then remove it now. Align the mounting holes on the drive bay with the mounting holes on your hard drive, and then screw them together. When you are done, insert the drive bay back into the case and screw it back on.

If, however, you don’t have a removable bay, then all is not lost. Just insert the hard drive into the drive bay, align the mounting holes together, and screw it on. It’s not that difficult; it’s just a bit of hand and eye coordination.

3. Attach All Cables

Of course to install hard drive components, or any other components for that matter, you will need to attach cables somewhere. In the case of the hard drive you will need to attach an IDE cable from the motherboard to the motherboard, and then attach the power cable.

First, install the IDE cable to the motherboard. For your added convenience the IDE cable is color-coded for you. It is usually blue at the bottom and also has a red stripe on the side. This cable is to be inserted into the motherboard at the IDE0 (Primary) or IDE1 (Secondary) connector.

As an added check, make sure that the side of the cable with the red stripe lines up with the back of the motherboard labeled “Pin 1.” Once you’re done, connect the other end of this IDE cable to the hard drive. Connect the black controller and be sure that the red stripe is aligned with “Pin 1” on your hard drive.

Finally, plug the four-pin connector from your power supply into the back of your hard drive, and you’re done!

4. Close Up and Power Up

Now it’s time to close up and power up. Restore the case panel you removed earlier or slide the computer chassis back into the computer case.

Screw it back on, flip the power switch to the on position and attach the AC cord. Turn the computer back on.
At this point your system BIOS is going to detect that a new hard drive has been attached.

You may have to configure the BIOS to properly detect the hard drive or at least supply some specific settings. As we always say, consult your documentation and follow their instructions. Much of our tutorials on how to install computer components apply across the board, but you still need to tweak some settings depending on your manufacturer.


Learning to install hard drive units is not hard from a mechanical standpoint. It can be done very easily.

However, it’s more than an installation. The drive unit needs to be properly configured. Jumper settings need to be set properly, and then afterwards the BIOS must detect your new drive. Afterwards, you will then need to format your drive and install your operating system.