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Extending battery life on the Aspire One A150

I love my little Acer Aspire One laptop. It’s small, light, has a decent keyboard and because I picked it up for just £150 I’m quite happy to lug it around the world protected by only a jiffy bag and / or rolled up in a jacket. And, since I put Windows 7 on it, it runs all the software I need for work quite happily.

There’s one problem, though: the battery. The A110 and A150 models shipped with a tiny 2200mAh three-cell battery that, in my experience, runs Windows 7 for around 90 minutes. And so, this week, I upgraded to a new, seven-hour battery life. Here’s how.

1) Fit a bigger battery

First, and most obviously, you need a bigger battery. Although it’s possible to squeeze more life from the three-cell model, for a full working day you’ll need more juice. Various third-party batteries are available, but having written about how lithium-ion technology works, and being in possession of a very real fear of explosions, I picked up the standard Acer 6-cell part. This costs £95 all-in from the Acer Store and holds 5800mAh.

2) Disable Windows Aero

Next, fix the Windows power settings. The key thing here is to turn off Aero graphics off and set reasonable periods for display timeout and sleep. If you’re using the laptop for stuff like word processing, this alone will make a difference to the battery life even without the larger battery pack.

3) Fix the brightness settings in the BIOS

Finally, you need sort the brightness settings. This is the tricky one. The Aspire One was designed for ten levels of screen brightness, but later BIOS revisions prevent the use of the lower ones, leaving the screen stuck on around 40% or more. This was done for a reason – some displays are faulty, and flicker at low brightness – but the “fix” applies to all models.

If your Aspire One has ten levels of brightness control, then you’re all set. If it has only a few it is possible to fix the problem, but you may find that some lower levels cause flickering (mine’s just fine on all settings). Also you may brick your laptop or invalidate your Windows license, so beware.

To restore all ten brightness levels you need to install a BIOS meant for one of the Aspire One clones made by Packard Bell and Gateway. Instructions, and the necessary BIOS files, can be found on this excellent blog. A further word of warning, though: I found that installing the Packard Bell BIOS necessitated a complete reinstall of all drivers (Windows 7 handled this automatically) and voided my Windows 7 license (fixed by phoning the authentication line).

And that’s that. Armed with the six cell battery, lowered Windows power settings and a new BIOS that allows for the display to be dimmed, my little Aspire One’s happily chugging away after six hours away from the mains, connected to Wifi, with more power to spare – and for far less than the cost of a new six-cell netbook.

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