How to Monitor Battery Usage in a Windows Laptop - dummies

How to Monitor Battery Usage in a Windows Laptop

By Dan Gookin

Most laptops have a battery meter on the laptop’s case. Although such a thing is handy, you need more information, which is why Windows provides you with a software battery meter.

The Windows battery meter is found in the notification area. The tiny icon appears in two ways: one when the laptop is plugged in or charging and another when the battery is being used. In the latter case, the icon drains as the battery is used.


In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, click the Battery/Power Plug icon to display the battery meter. In Windows XP, point the mouse at the battery meter and a pop-up balloon appears, detailing battery life.

The battery meter is supposed to show up in the notification area on all Windows laptops. If you don’t see it, you can twist some arms to get it to show up.

In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, follow these steps to show the battery icon in the notification area:

  1. Right-click the date and time on the far right end of the taskbar.

  2. Choose Properties from the pop-up menu.

    In Windows 7, the System Icons window appears, listing the notification icons that belong to Windows with an On/Off menu button by each item.

    In Windows Vista, the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box appears, with the Notification Area tab forward. The check mark items in the bottom of the dialog box control Windows own notification icons.

  3. Set the Power item to On.

    • In Windows 7, choose On from the menu button by the Power item.

    • In Windows Vista, place a check mark by the Power item.

  4. Click OK.

In Windows XP, obey these directions to make the notification area (well, the system tray) Battery icon appear:

  1. Open the Control Panel’s Power Options icon.

  2. Click the Advanced tab.

  3. Place a check mark by the item Always Show Icon on the Taskbar.

  4. Click OK.

Your laptop may feature, in addition to the hardware battery meter and the teensy Battery icon in the notification area, a third meter. Some laptops feature a manufacturer’s battery meter. It might be a toolbar, an extra icon in the notification area, or another tool or feature.

  • If you’re a fan of the onscreen gadgets in Windows 7 or the Windows Vista Sidebar, various battery-power gadgets are available.

  • Good meters show both battery percentage remaining and time remaining.

  • The length of battery time remaining is an estimate. Don’t bet the bank on it.

  • The battery meter lies. Generally, the meter skews toward being full more than it shows a steady decline representing the battery’s true power. So don’t be surprised when the battery power drops quickly as it gets low; when the meter claims that you have 15 minutes left, you probably have more like 7 minutes until the laptop runs out of juice.