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Is it bad to leave your laptop plugged in all day while working from home?

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Dealing with battery life and maintenance is a reality of our tech-obsessed world. Everyone wants something that can keep up with their device, and most people agree that it's not fair for a battery to wear out sooner than the rest of the hardware. If you've recently moved to working from home, you might have noticed your laptop is being left plugged in. Nowhere to go, so no reason to unplug it from the charger.

Laptops, because of the amount of performance hardware inside, have some relatively beefy batteries. Technology is always improving, and where battery life used to be atrocious, we're now seeing batteries that can last far longer than the eight-hour workday. Just look at something like Samsung's Galaxy Book S, which delivers more than 11 hours of life from a charge.

While in the past it was unwise and even dangerous to leave your laptop plugged into an external power source all the time, new laptops are mostly using either lithium-polymer or lithium-ion batteries that won't take more charge than they can handle. For most people who are constantly moving around with their laptop, leaving it plugged in once in awhile is not a big deal. However, if you're now treating your laptop as a desktop replacement and have it plugged in most of the time, there are some things you should know.

What happens when I leave my laptop plugged in?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Instead of continuing to suck up power when at full capacity, the battery in your laptop should be bypassed even if it remains plugged in. This means that power coming from an external source is used directly to power the laptop instead of it first passing through the battery.

Have you noticed when charging your laptop that there's an excess of heat coming off of the bottom? This is a normal byproduct of charging, but if the temperature gets too high or remains elevated for too long, serious damage can occur.

Battery University is an awesome resource that can teach a lot about batteries, with one subject focusing on the effects of heat on Lithium-based batteries.

Temperature chart courtesy of Battery University

Source: Battery University (Image credit: Source: Battery University)

In this chart, we can see that keeping a battery at a certain charge and at a certain temperature over the course of a year can significantly diminish its overall capacity. If your laptop already has a hard time keeping cool, leaving it plugged in and at 100 percent charge is probably a bad idea.

If you're lucky enough to have a modern laptop with a removable battery — some of Lenovo's ThinkPad line is still offering this feature — consider taking it out and relying solely on the charging cable.

What can I do to prolong the life of my battery?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

No matter what you do to baby your laptop's battery, it's going to naturally see a decline in performance. When you charge a battery to its full potential — which is, in most cases, to about 4.20V per cell in the battery — you can expect to get a set number of charge cycles out of it. Lowering that voltage in each cell, even by a little bit, can potentially prolong the life of your battery, as seen in this chart from Battery University.

Voltage chart courtesy of Battery University

Source: Battery University (Image credit: Source: Battery University)

Many modern laptops have software that helps deal with keeping batteries healthy. This is usually labeled as a "battery charge threshold" or something similar, and will usually include a maximum charge and minimum charge area inside which the battery will draw power.

Lenovo, for example, comes with a Vantage app within which you can set a charge threshold. All you have to do is launch the app, choose Device Settings, and hit the toggle next to Battery Charge Threshold. From there you can set the maximum and minimum battery levels.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Dell's Command app and Power Manager app have similar settings for its laptops. In the latter option — available in PCs like the XPS 13 — you can choose "Primarily AC Use" which automatically lowers the charging threshold.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Most Surface products can be configured with a battery charge limit, though it's not quite as easy as opening an app. It's instead available through UEFI settings, which come standard in new Surface devices like the Laptop 3 and Pro 7. Older devices might require a specific firmware update, available from Microsoft (opens in new tab). The process of enabling the Battery Limit settings requires a boot into UEFI, which is explained in a Microsoft instructional (opens in new tab).

Some HP laptops, depending on the make and BIOS version, have a Battery Care setting that can be tweaked to limit the battery's charge. If you boot into BIOS on your HP laptop and don't see the feature, your PC might not be one of the lucky ones to have it, especially if the BIOS is completely up to date.

If you have a laptop from another major manufacturer and are unsure if it has a battery charge threshold feature, you can always check with the corresponding support forums or go with a quick web search. As for some battery basics to keep in mind if you don't have any fancy software or BIOS options, it's generally recommended to keep your battery somewhere between a 40% and 80% charge and to keep it cool whenever possible.

Why isn't my battery gauge giving an accurate reading?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

If you've been using your laptop for a few months (or a few years), you might notice that the battery gauge in the bottom-right corner is no longer giving an accurate reading. You might see that you have two hours left, but 30 minutes into your movie, it powers down.

A recalibration can likely solve this problem. I've already written a guide on the steps required, and the entire process shouldn't take long.

How to recalibrate the battery in your Windows 10 laptop

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

  • I have a newish laptop, only a couple of months.  Still, I try not to leave it plugged in long.  Usually I only plug it in when I'm using a second display, or a quick charge before spending a few hours on the couch.  I definitely don't leave it plugged in overnight.  I have a Yoga 720, which I knew had so-so battery life before I bought it.  So without a charge, I can quickly drop down to 60% and not even notice.  It's for that reason that I only use max performance mode when I'm plugged in. 
  • @HeyCori, depending on your usage, this may or may not be good for the overall life of the battery. Charging and discharging a battery is the most destructive thing you can do to it (you can even see this is the table above with the total number of charge/discharge cycles before battery death -- at a few hundred, if you upplug it, drain it, and plug it back in to recharge every day, you've got maybe 1.5- 2 years battery life). Further, the more you deplete the battery between charges, the more chemical damage the battery suffers (i.e., draining the battery by 10% before recharging has almost no ill-effect on the battery, but draining it by 90% before recharging takes a real bite out of its life). Aside from the heat problem, keeping it plugged in to run on AC instead of battery is generally a good thing. If keeping it plugged in continuously avoids charge and discharge cycles, then it's probably better than only plugging it in when it needs a charge. On the other hand, if you don't use the computer very often or you're only unplugging it when not in use because you find it gets warm/hot just being plugged in and not in use, than leaving it unplugged most of the time may help.
  • i've owned 3 laptops and i've had all 3 continuously plugged in. It may be bad for the battery but that way you have a free UPS (especially if you live in areas where grid power is unreliable or there are many thunderstorms). I never have to worry about losing data because of a thunder. Laptops are about 300 euros more expensive than comparable desktops but if you buy a desktop plus a very good UPS the combined cost is higher!. So laptops for me even if i don't move at all!.
  • Problem with that is you might have had a 6-8 hr UPS when you bought it. After a year or two of this you may be looking at a 1-2hr UPS.
  • well if you're on a dock for monitors then you kind of have to.
  • Note that some PC's won't actually run at full performance if you remove the battery - they require the battery to take peak loads that the charger cannot handle.  The Surface Book 2 is an example of a laptop that can use more power than the charger can provide (even though you cannot take the battery out in that one).
  • I have a Toshiba laptop that allows you to cap the charge at 80% if you primarily use it while plugged in. I wouldn't want to remove the battery, because that allows your laptop to keep running if your power goes out.
  • Curiously, looks like that make a clean format to Windows lets have more precise battery's readings. At least on my old HP Stream 7 tablet.
  • Battery life is mostly based on cycles (charge and discharge). Any "advice" encouraging increasing the number of cycles, and therefore reducing the health of your battery, is utter horseshit and should be treated as such.
  • I've 2yrs old Dell 5559 which is quite performing good while using Wi-Fi, when charging. But it takes 3-5 minutes to cool down after I unplug the charger.
    All we need to turn on flight mode which can add 1 hour to your battery life.
  • I have a Lenovo that have the software to keep the battery at 60% level, but I'm thinking about moving to a s'surface device soon. Do they have a trick to do so as well?
  • I've had several Surface devices and used all with a Surface Dock. I have never found such a trick, but having the device plugged in days at a time has not affected battery life. MS also says keeping your Surface plugged in is OK, so long as you let the charge run down to under 20% once a month or so.
  • Eventual battery wear is why I prefer laptops with batteries that can be replaced relatively easily (compared to Surface tablets). Just swap in a new one and keep on trucking.
  • I found this informative. Microsoft says re: Surface devices that you can leave them plugged in indefinitely - but that you should let them get down under 20% once a month.
  • What is that for
  • I don't know, but I suspect the battery will be fresher over the long run if it's given some "exercise". In my experience I've had no problems following this rule. Oh, and I checked recently and MS now says "around 10%."
  • So we have a Mac pro(2019) and my son is using it at home for school work. He usually runs it on battery and plugs it when the battery is low. So should he have it plugged in while working at home at all times or continue to do it as he's doing now?
  • This is explained in the article on which you're commenting. Never hurts to let the battery discharge.
  • Samsung also has this feature in their Settings app. They keep the battery at 85%.
  • “Is it bad to leave your laptop plugged in all day while working from home?” Yes, but only when at home. It’s OK to leave it plugged in all day while working at the office. Office power is better. 🙄
  • If the modern laptop uses power directly instead of passing through the battery why would the laptop get hot from charging if its 100% full and plugged in?