Should I Keep My Gaming Laptop Plugged in At All Times?


The main advantage of portable devices, such as gaming laptops, is that they contain their own power source independent of the power grid, the battery. No matter how advanced these batteries are, they still have a finite lifespan. Normal operations of discharging and recharging slowly decrease their capacity over time due to the nature of chemical reactions that happen inside of them. 

Keeping your gaming laptop plugged in at all times is actually a good thing to do. Modern gaming laptops have sophisticated power circuitry that manages power consumption, and when it’s plugged in it draws electricity from the power brick, not from the battery. This way the use of the battery is decreased, and its life prolonged. 

To understand why this is so, you need to understand what is going on inside your laptop when it is plugged in. 

How Gaming Laptops Work When Plugged in

Any battery at any moment can do only one of three possible things. It can be discharging, when it is powering your device, it can be charging, or it can be doing nothing, for example when your device is turned off. This applies to your gaming laptop’s battery too. When you connect the power brick, power control circuitry will automatically switch which power source your laptop is using. 

It will start drawing power from the wall instead of the battery. In case that the battery is not at full capacity, it will also start charging it. Once the battery is fully charged, the controller will just stop charging it. This has a beneficial effect on the longevity of the battery, because the normal use of them, charging and discharging, slowly decreases their maximum capacity. 

All batteries produce electric energy from chemical reactions that happen on their anode and cathode. Ions and cations combine with free electrons or fall apart releasing electrons. But during every charging cycle, a certain number of molecules in them combine to create a molecule that is stable and can’t release electrons anymore. This decreases the maximum capacity of batteries over time. 

This effect of charging limits the number of charging cycles they can go through before they are unable to hold the minimal amount of charge needed to power your device. To prolong the life of your battery you should avoid charging them too often or when they do not necessarily need to be charged. 

Though it is counterintuitive, if you plug in your laptop when the battery is at full capacity, it will not charge. Because of the nature of the chemical reaction in batteries that produces electricity, laptops are unable to charge and discharge the battery at the same time, so when they are plugged in the external power source is always used. 

This also has a positive impact on the performance of your laptop, as your wall socket can supply more power than any battery small enough to fit in a laptop. 

Battery Chemistry & Cycles

Batteries are simple devices that provide electric power from a chemical reaction that happens inside of them. They consist of a negatively charged anode and a positively charged cathode. When they are in use the electrons from the anode flow to the cathode, producing the electric current and powering your device. When they are charging, electrons absorbed by the cathode are released and flow back to the anode. 

The exact chemical reaction that happens during these two cycles depends on the exact chemical composition of batteries. A common behavior is that free electrons flow through the external circuit, which is a fancy term for your device or battery charger, whether the battery is charging or discharging determines the direction in which they flow. 

The important thing to know is that electrons at a certain time can flow only in one direction, so a battery at any moment can do only one of three things, discharging, recharging, or nothing. Contrary to the popular belief, when a laptop is plugged in electricity doesn’t flow into the battery and then to other components. The laws of physic do not allow it. 

What Makes Batteries Deteriorate

Over time, every time you charge the laptop’s battery it loses a small fraction of its capacity. This is a normal thing that happens. Because of this you should avoid needlessly recharging it. Battery manufacturers are well aware of this fact, and because of it, they make their products with a slightly higher maximum capacity than the nominal. 

Still, it is a smart thing to be conscious of things that make the batteries deteriorate and try to avoid them. 

Recharging 

As the battery loses a fraction of maximum capacity every time you charge it, you should avoid doing it when there is no need. If your battery is at some 40-50% of the charge you shouldn’t be running to the nearest power outlet. It’s better to wait until it drops below 10%. By doing so you will get the most of its lifespan from your battery. 

In case that you are planning a longer playing session, it’s actually better to keep the laptop plugged in the whole time. Because playing games have a high-power demand, it will quickly drain the battery. Thus, you could recharge several times during the session if you are unplugging it every time the battery reaches full capacity. 

If you keep it plugged, the battery will actually charge just once, and your laptop will continue drawing power from the wall once the battery is full. 

Heat 

All batteries store and release electricity because of the chemical reactions that happen in them. Special chemical compounds break apart and combine to release electrons. But as a normal part of this process, those molecules combine in such a way that they can’t recombine anymore, and thus can’t release electrons which decreases the capacity of the battery. 

Heat always works as a catalyst of chemical reactions, making this loss of capacity happen quicker and at a higher rate. Keeping your laptop as cool as possible, and the battery as well, will prevent it from deteriorating faster than it should. You should avoid placing it on soft surfaces in which it can sink and block the cooling vents. 

For the best results, you should think about purchasing a cooling pad. Additionally, because of the way the modern high-end CPUs that are in gaming laptops manage performance, heat, and power draw; the cooling pad will do its work and delay thermal throttling which will impact the performance of your laptop. A cooler CPU will allow it to boost higher and for longer. 

Leaving Laptop Plugged in When Not In Use

Many people have a habit of leaving their laptops plugged in when they are not in use. This practice is not very good for the health of the battery. Over time, even when not in use, batteries slowly lose their charge, and if left plugged in while the laptop is not powered on it will start recharging. 

If you plan to not use your gaming laptop for a longer time, it’s better to leave it unplugged, that way you will be certain to get the most from the lifespan of its batteries. 

Leaving your gaming laptop plugged in during your gaming sessions can decrease the frequency of recharging its batteries, thus helping to get the most from them. All batteries have a limited number of times they can be recharged, so avoiding it when not needed will prolong their life. 

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