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So you forgot your power cord on your way to an important meeting or the coffee shop. We’ve all been there. There’s nothing you can do to stop your battery drain, but you can do a lot to slow its inevitable demise.

If you’ve got a laptop with a really old battery that drains in a few minutes after a full charge, there’s not much you can do to make that old thing last much longer—you’ll probably want to replace the battery before you do anything else. For everybody else, these tips can help you keep your battery working at peak efficiency…

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What Drains Your Battery?

In order to help maximize your battery life, it’s important to first understand what drains the power from your laptop battery, and in a modern laptop it’s pretty simple—the LCD panel is the biggest culprit by far. Microsoft’s Windows 7 Engineering blog has put together a very useful chart that helps show you exactly what percentage each component will drain, which helps us know where to start when trying to maximize the battery life.

The one thing this chart doesn’t point out are add-on devices like flash drives, USB mice, and especially PC Cards—which are known to kill your battery very quickly. If you’ve got an unpowered hard drive plugged into your laptop through a USB port, it’s going to drain your battery more quickly than if you had a powered one.

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