Can I Leave My Laptop Plugged In And On 24/7?

It is completely fine to leave your laptop plugged in and left on for extended periods. By doing so you won’t risk damaging the battery however you might begin to experience poorer performance as issues that are normally solved by restarting a machine mount up.

Battery wise, as soon as the laptop battery reaches 100% the power is directly utilized to run the laptop instead of being stored in the cells, essentially turning your laptop into a desktop computer with battery backup. So don’t worry, you can’t ‘overcharge’ a modern laptop.

Operating systems can become laggy if left permanently on. Rebooting a laptop flushes the RAM, corrects software glitches and clears memory leakage. Not to mention allows software and firmware updates to be integrated.

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Is leaving my laptop plugged in 24/7 safe?

To understand how leaving the battery plugged in for extended periods is safe, we first must look at the basics. Modern laptops ship with two main types of batteries, these are:

  • Lithium Ion (Li-ion) Batteries
  • Lithium Polymer (LiPo) Batteries

Li-ion batteries are popular these days because they have a pretty good energy-to-weight ratio, low self-discharge rate, a slow loss of charge when not in use, and most importantly they have no memory effect.

The battery memory effect, also sometimes called as lazy battery effect or just memory effect, is a phenomenon that was common in old nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal hydride batteries. This is when a battery lost its usable capacity due to being recharged repeatedly after only being partially discharged.

And this is where the ‘Leaving your laptop plugged in 24/7 will damage your battery’ myth comes from. This advice was true for older generation nickel cadmium or nickel metal hydride batteries.

Nowadays when you leave your laptop plugged in after it has been charged to 100%, you get a phenomenon known as trickle charging.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, once a laptop reaches 100% charge the power is re-routed to directly power your laptop. But this process is not perfect, and when the battery discharges a little naturally, the laptop starts charging the battery again until it reaches 100%.  This is trickle charging, and it was particularly harmful for the older generation of batteries due to the memory effect.

But now since almost all laptops use Li-ion or LiPo batteries that isn’t a concern anymore.

An important thing to note is that leaving your laptop plugged in for months without using your battery could wear out your laptop’s battery. This is because Li-ion needs a constant flow of electrons to stay healthy and if you are plugged in all the time and aren’t really using your laptop battery, it will deteriorate faster over time.

Things that can damage a Lithium ion laptop battery

The first and most important thing to understand is that batteries do degrade over time, no matter how well you care for them. Usually, a laptop battery will last you a good 3 to 4 years before it needs replacement, with some poorly made third party batteries giving up the ghost well before this time.

The following things will wear your battery faster than its designed life:

Battery cycles 

The battery charge cycle is a very important metric to understand the wear on a battery as it goes through charging and discharging. One battery charge cycle is equivalent to completely discharging a battery and then charging to 100%.Every battery is designed to achieve a finite number of these charge cycles. A Li-ion battery is rated for somewhere between 300 – 500 charge cycles. The more you charge and discharge your laptop, the more you ‘wear it out’.

Keeping your laptop plugged whenever possible is a good idea, as it reduces the wear from charging and discharging and prolongs your battery’s life.

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High temperature

Letting your laptop run hot is a big NO NO if you want to preserve your battery’s life. Typically, anything above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30C) is considered high for a battery, but you can operate anywhere below 104 F (40C) without any negative effects. If your battery temperature is above 40 degrees Celsius for extended periods, then it will begin to wear out faster.

According to a study by battery university, a battery stored with 40 percent charge at 40 degrees saw its capacity fall to 85% in a year. When stored at 60 degrees, the capacity fell to 75% in a year. So high temperature is a real threat to your battery life.

How can you preserve your laptop battery?

Let us take a look at some of the steps you can take to reduce the avoidable wear of your battery.

The 20-80 rule for charging

I already talked about how the more battery charge cycles your laptop battery goes through, the faster it wears out. The solution to that is something known as the 20-80 rule. The idea is to keep your battery percentage between 20% and 80%.

Avoid letting your laptop go down to 0%, instead plug it before it reaches 20%. Conversely, don’t charge your laptop battery beyond 80%. Now you may ask, how can you do that and keep your laptop plugged in 24/7 at the same time? Well, most modern laptop models now let you do that.

For example, my Lenovo Legion 5 Pro has an accompanying software called Lenovo Vantage that has an option called battery conservation mode. This stops charging your battery once it reaches 55-60%. After that, it just reroutes the power from the outlet to directly power the laptop.

Similarly, other laptop manufacturers have equivalent features for their laptops. In Dell laptops, it should be in the Command App and Power Manager App. HP laptops have battery care settings in the BIOS that you can use to limit charging on your laptop. Similarly, Microsoft Surface devices also have this feature available through the UEFI setting.

By keeping your laptop charge somewhere between 20% and 80% you can minimize the number of charge cycles your laptop goes through. This will maximize your battery’s life.

Keeping your laptop cool

Protecting your laptop battery from excessive heat can help you prolong your battery’s life.

You can do this by just keeping your laptop cool while it’s running. Make sure your laptop’s air vents are not blocked and are letting in an adequate amount of cool air. You can also use an external cooling pad to help your laptop keep a cooler temperature.

Leaving your laptop in a hot environment, even if it is turned off, reduces your laptop’s battery life. So, make sure even when your laptop is not in use, it is placed in a cool environment.

Discharged batteries 

One sure way to kill your battery is to leave it at 0% for a long time. Li-ion and LiPo batteries stay healthy as long as there is a flow of electrons. So, leaving them at 0% for a long time is totally the opposite of that.

Firstly, you shouldn’t be storing your batteries for a long time. They naturally deteriorate over time.  But if you must store them without using them, then the conventional wisdom is to charge them between 40% to 80% before storing them long term. This can significantly save your battery’s life.

Round up 

Leaving modern laptops plugged in for a long time is perfectly okay these days. Modern laptops have adapted surprisingly well to our current usage patterns and are designed in a way that is convenient for us.

There is no need to worry about things like overcharging as modern laptops automatically divert power to the laptop once the battery is fully charged. Just make sure you save your laptop’s battery from things like heat and excessive charge and discharge cycle.

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