Optimizing your laptop battery life under Debian Squeeze

Working with a notebook, by default, it might be difficult to work with it on the battery more than two hours. It is not very helpful when you can not plug in to AC power nearby.

There are several ways to optimize your notebook’s battery life. All the tips provided have been tested on a HP Pavilion dm4 Notebook PC running Debian Squeeze 6.0.3. In this part, I will show you three utilities : gnome-power-preferences, xbacklight and xrandr.

gnome-power-preferences is part of the GNOME desktop. It helps you configuring basic actions whether your notebook runs on battery or on AC power. Below are screenshots showing my own settings :

xbacklight may be used as well to control backlight brightness using RandR extension.

To get the actual value :

fool@localhost~:$ xbacklight -get


to dim this value by 50 percent for instance :

fool@localhost:~$xbacklight -dec 50.00

More information : xbacklight -help

Last but not least, here is the well-known xrandr. With this program, we can collect all the information concerning the video outputs of the notebook. Some graphics card may activate all its video outputs by default. For sure, you do not use of all them in the same time. Desactivating the non-used ones may help your battery feel better 🙂

fool@localhost:~$xrandr -q

Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1366 x 768, maximum 8192 x 8192
VGA1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
LVDS1 connected 1366×768+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 309mm x 173mm
   1366×768       60.1*+   40.1  
   1360×768       59.8     60.0  
   1024×768       60.0  
   800×600        60.3     56.2  
   640×480        59.9 

LVDS output stands for your LCD panel. Do not desactivate it. If no cable is connected from your VGA output, desactivate it with the following command :

fool@localhost:~$ xrandr –output VGA –off

These are basic tools to make a better use of your notebook’s battery. In the next parts, a few other tools will be presented with a much better tuning capability.


One thought on “Optimizing your laptop battery life under Debian Squeeze

  1. Thanks for this document. I’m eager to read the next instalment as I’m currently working on battery life optimization on my new Asus laptop (running Debian Squeeze).

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