February 14, 2012

Batteries - The Achille's heels of your laptop

Last friday night, I unplugged my laptop (Dell Studio 1555 -2 yrs old) to hand it over to my room-mate, and was shocked to see the laptop switch off immediately.

I was fairly amused as I was certain that the battery was fully charged. So I tried powering up the laptop, but it wouldn't. The LED indicator blinked red showing low battery. So I connected the AC adapter and powered it up again.

The LED was blinking red and white alternatively, and I received an error message that "The battery cannot be identified.The system will be unable to charge this battery." It is the first time that I had faced such an error message. Previously I had experienced error messages for incompatible AC adapters. But, this was nothing like it. The laptop would run purely on AC power only.

After an hour of frantic googling on scant network resources (that was the day we switched the internet provider, and were having problems connecting), I was convinced that my battery is dead and nothing could be done to salvage it. I found that there was a newer version of BIOS available for my laptop and hence installed that too. But still on removal of AC Adapter, the laptop switched off.

I was heart broken as this meant an unplanned expenditure of nearly 3k, and still people were pointing out that a new battery may not solve the problem. Anyway, I decided to stay put and postpone the purchase to when I go home. In the back of my mind, I cursed my rough usage of the laptop for extensive downloading and so on. This episode even cost Dell a prospective customer as my roomie who is considering to buy one soon got freaked out at this problem, and especially due the lack of warranty and the notoriety Dell's post warranty service has gained over the internet and among users.

Today I decided to satisfy my curiosity regarding laptop batteries, and had read up some manuals and articles online regarding its operations and maintenance. So, just after finishing my stuff on it and shutting it down, I played around with the batteries, removed them and observed all the readings and connectors inside. I compared my personal laptop's battery with that of my official one and just dusted up both and replaced. Just for curiosity sake I tried powering on my laptop without connecting AC adapter (after all what is there to lose once u are prepared to shell out some bucks). And lo, it booted perfectly. I am wonderstruck even now.

Maybe it was just some dust, or the firmware update combined with a re-attachment of the cells. I haven't figured it out yet. But I am glad that I don't have to shell out the money soon. But the problem of batteries if quite serious and is here to stay. I have to take care of my batteries from here onwards to prolong its life and get a good performance from my laptop. I am reminded at this point of a friend of mine who always advises to perceive laptop as a person and treat them likewise. He has a 7 year old laptop in very good working condition to prove his point.

Adios amigos. Take care of those aging batteries to avoid headaches later on. Happy computing.