My new Windows PC is supposed to have a 10 hour battery but it runs out after just 5-6 hours. Frustrating! How can I figure out what apps and programs are using so much battery in Win10?
Battery ratings always seem to be highly optimistic, even more than EPA fuel efficiency from car manufacturers seem to have little relationship to the mileage you actually get! I have similar issues with my device batteries too, so I feel your pain. When I first get a laptop, phone or tablet, all is good, but over time the battery seems to diminish in frustrating ways. Fortunately Microsoft has been listening to our complaints and in the system control panel for power, you can actually learn quite a bit about what apps and programs are using the most power.
What does it mean to use the most power? Generally that they have the highest processor demands. What’s surprising is that it’s not necessarily the programs you might think; sure, an animation rendering program is going to be CPU heavy, but what about a word search or solitaire game?
Let’s find out! To start, just do a Cortana search for ‘battery’:
If you look on the left side there are quite a few battery related options to check out, but the default is exactly what we want for this particular task: Battery saver settings.
Click or tap on the right side to launch the Battery System Setting:
In this overview you can see that my battery is currently at 36% and that having my brightness at 100% is adversely affecting battery life. Turns out that one of the single greatest drains on battery life is screen brightness (and that’s true on mobile phones too) so turning it down even 10% can be quite helpful.
But notice what’s below the bar graph indicating power remaining, text that says “See which apps are affecting your battery life”. That’s the link!
Click or tap on “See which apps are affecting your battery life” and you’ll be quite fascinated by the results:
To notice above are the time period and specifications of which apps to show. In this instance, it’s only showing apps that are using the battery (e.g., those running) and only in the last six hours of time. Yes, Windows keeps a history of app usage and corresponding battery or power demands. Considering it’s such a simple program, it’s surprising that “Simple Word Search” is accounting for 17% of my battery usage in the last few hours, for example. Perhaps it’s not very well written?
You can also check on apps to see if they’re using any battery power even though they’re not running. Choose “All apps” for a full list and you can see that Amazon Assistant is using 0% since I haven’t launched it:
What about if I cast a wider metaphorical net and look for the programs and apps I’ve run over the last week? I’ll switch back to “Apps with usage” to show too, and suddenly VLC shows up as 9% of battery consumption in that time period:
Given that I watched a few movies with VLC, it’s no surprise it required some power along the way. If you see apps that you don’t think should be using power, however, it’s worth trying to understand what’s actually going on.
For example, what is the deal with Simple Word Search? A click on the app and more information appears:
In the above you can see that the program continues to run and use processor resources even when I’m not playing the game. Yes, it’s small with < 1% background, but why isn’t that zero? It should just sit and wait for me to return and go back to hunting for words in the grid.
Fortunately Windows 10 lets me tame this app by simply checking “Let Windows decide when this app can run in the background“. Easily done.
What about VLC? It’s a much better behaved program:
Nothing to do here.
Interestingly, Microsoft Solitaire Collection seems to be doing quite a bit, by contrast, though at least you can control what happens:
I really like the “Allow the app to run background tasks” and though it might not be obvious, because that box isn’t checked that means it doesn’t have permission to run tasks in the background. Why would a solitaire game need to do that? Weird.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot you can do to understand – and control – which programs are using up all your battery. Turn down your display a little bit, turn off bluetooth if you’re not using it and use Battery System Settings to get a handle on things, and hopefully you’ll get better battery life starting immediately!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Windows for over a decade, and there are hundreds of free Windows tutorials here on the site. Please do check ’em out while you’re here.