Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bringing the powerbook battery back to life

For some time now, the battery on my 12-inch powerbook had been behaving erratically. I noticed it first some 4 months ago, when the battery went from 100% charge to dead in about 10 minutes. Initially I thought the battery must be close to dying (it has been close to two years of usage). Last week, I decided to at least tamper with it a little bit. With only a little bit of internet research, I figured that the problem is probably related to the memory problem, and I found two ways people have fixed similar problems. I narrowed down the possible things I could try to fix the laptop to these two: boot up open firmware, and try to reset nvram; and try and completely discharge and recharge the battery a few times.

I didn't know how to boot up in open firmware, and this place had some good information to get me started. Other people had written about how they had fixed battery problems in open firmware too.

Once my powerbook was in open firmware, i reset-nvram, and reset-all -- resulting in the latop restarting. There didn't seem to be any effect. The battery was still draining pretty quickly.

Then I started the process of draining the battery completely. In order to do this quickly, I downloaded BatteryAmnesia, but it didn't work -- it kept reporting that the AC adapter is connected when it wasn't. It probably did its best and there was a problem with the battery I needed to fix, but I was a little disappointed with the software -- as a programmer myself, I expect programs to work when users use them.

So I began the process of letting the battery drain off completely, and then recharging it again. After a couple of these sessions I noticed that the powerbook would start reporting only 1% charge left after about 20 minutes of work, but then would stay on for another hour or so at that level. In some ways, the problem was fixed -- my battery was lasting much longer now than it was earlier.

After a few more sessions of fully draining the battery and recharging it, the battery seems much healthier. It is charging and draining at a much lower rate -- which does seem to indicate a "memory problem" as the root cause.

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