Here’s whether it’s bad to use a laptop while charging:
It’s fine to plug in your computer and use it while the battery charges.
However, every time a battery is recharged, its lifespan drops a little.
Modern devices use electronic controllers that stop charging the battery when it’s full, though. The current bypasses the battery and runs the computer directly.
If you want to learn all about whether it’s bad to use a laptop while charging, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- How Does a Laptop Battery Charge?
- What Can You Do to Speed up Charging Your Laptop?
- Does Charging Hurt the Laptop Battery’s Lifespan?
- Can You Overcharge Laptop Batteries?
- Should You Remove the Laptop Battery?
- What Does It Mean to Cycle a Laptop Battery?
- How Does Heat Affect the Laptop Battery?
- When Should You Leave the Laptop Plugged In?
How Does a Laptop Battery Charge?
When you’re using a laptop, there is nothing worse than a battery that drains too quickly.
At that point, you have to leave it plugged in all the time, and it might as well be a desktop.
That brings up an interesting question. Is it bad to use a laptop while it’s charging?
You already know that the battery charges when you plug in the charging cable, but what actually happens?
The laptop is what draws power through the cable to the battery.
To do that, the electricity has to run through a complicated circuit, and that causes a few different things to happen.
Your outlet has more than enough electricity to power everything the laptop is doing and charge the battery at the same time.
The circuitry in the laptop also allows for the current to skip the battery and directly run the laptop.
To keep things simple, we can say that three things happen simultaneously when you use a plugged-in laptop.
First, the juice flowing to the computer charges the battery.
Second, the electricity directly powers the computer that is in use.
Third, some of the electricity that goes through the battery then runs the computer. That third instance is what adds a wrinkle to the original question.
What Can You Do to Speed up Charging Your Laptop?
Before we get into battery life and health, we first need to discuss how computer usage affects charging.
It will come into play later, but we can put this in terms of making the battery charge faster.
Basically, the battery charges fastest when the computer does the least amount of work.
If the computer is off, the battery will charge at the fastest rate.
If the computer is on but not doing much, the battery will charge a little slower. As you add tasks (like web browsing, video playback, gaming, etc.), you increase the time needed to charge the battery fully.
This is because of how the electric current splits along the computer’s circuitry.
As you add tasks, some of the power will pull from the battery, even if it isn’t fully charged.
This means the battery is losing juice while being charged, and that makes the whole process take longer.
Does Charging Hurt the Laptop Battery’s Lifespan?
Now, we need to talk about how charging impacts the battery.
Every time a battery is recharged, its lifespan drops a little.
This is just part of the chemical process that takes place inside a battery.
No matter how advanced your battery may be, this still happens.
That said, modern batteries are designed for thousands of recharges before they start to suffer.
So, don’t feel bad when you drain the battery and have to charge it. It can do this tons of times without any noticeable changes occurring.
But, when you use the laptop while it’s plugged in, you’re instigating what was mentioned above.
The battery is being drained a little bit while it is charging.
This causes the total amount of chemical change inside the battery to increase because you’re extending the process.
This causes stress on the battery and does shorten its life.
With modern batteries, the total amount of stress you cause by running your computer all day like this is still pretty minimal.
Technically speaking, leaving the laptop plugged in all day will shorten the battery’s lifespan, but you have to do it for weeks on end before you will notice any changes.
In general, it’s fine to use your laptop while it’s plugged in.
You just want to avoid doing it excessively. The next section expands on why.
Can You Overcharge Laptop Batteries?
It’s important to understand that a battery can be overcharged.
Basically, when you plug in a laptop while the battery is full, it keeps trying to charge the battery.
This accelerates the chemical change that happens when you charge a battery, and it can shorten the life of the battery dramatically.
This was especially a problem before lithium-ion batteries were the norm.
Overcharging is much less of an issue with modern devices.
They use electronic controllers that stop charging the battery when it’s full.
The current then bypasses the battery and runs the computer directly.
This smart design means that you aren’t really drawing power from your full battery.
That means the stress on the battery is pretty small, and it’s why you have to run your laptop while plugged in for hundreds of hours to notice any difference.
With a modern setup, the real issue is the trickle charge.
While the battery is plugged in, it very slowly releases electricity into the computer’s circuitry.
If it’s plugged in while it does this, those microscopic releases of electricity are immediately recharged.
This is what actually causes the stress that hurts your battery.
But, because it all happens in microscopic bits, the damage accumulates extremely slowly.
In essence, this is why it’s fine to use a plugged-in laptop.
Should You Remove the Laptop Battery?
We’ve established that constantly running your computer while it’s plugged in can hurt the battery over a long period of time.
There’s a simple solution that can help you completely avoid the small stresses that eventually cause problems.
With most laptops, you can remove the battery.
If you regularly use your laptop while it’s plugged in, this is a great way to preserve battery life for when you actually need it.
If you want to remove the battery, turn the computer all the way off and unplug it.
Flip it over, and you will see two release points on the battery (they are plastic and will slide).
When you slide both releases to the open position, the battery will pop free, and you can remove it.
Keep in mind that some models of laptops do not have removable batteries.
When you pop the battery, you can spare it stress and simply pop it back into place when you need to take the device mobile.
What Does It Mean to Cycle a Laptop Battery?
If you have ever talked to an IT pro about battery life, they might have mentioned cycling the battery.
This is a technique that was designed for older batteries. They would benefit from being completely drained and then fully recharged.
Doing this every other month or so would dramatically increase the lifespan of the battery.
With lithium-ion batteries, this isn’t necessary, and the vast majority of modern laptops use lithium-ion batteries.
There is still a small benefit to cycling your battery every few months. When you do this, it forces the sensors to recalibrate.
Since they help control the flow of power throughout the laptop, this recalibration can help everything run a little more efficiently.
How Does Heat Affect the Laptop Battery?
We have covered most of the original question, but there is a caveat that has to be addressed.
Using your computer while it’s charging is mostly fine, but it’s important to understand the role of heat in all of this.
Laptops generate a lot of heat. They have built-in cooling systems that help to manage the heat, but those systems don’t always do the job well.
If your computer gets too hot, it can become uncomfortable to use and even sustain damage.
What does your battery have to do with all of this? The process of charging a battery creates heat.
If your computer is already running hot, the addition of charging heat can push it over the edge and create issues.
If your computer ever feels hot while in use, look for the vents on the side or bottom.
Make sure they are clear so the computer can shed heat. Unplugging the computer can help it run a little bit cooler.
If things stay too hot, it’s often best to shut down the laptop and try again after it has completely cooled.
When Should You Leave the Laptop Plugged In?
If you’ve made it this far, you might feel like the answer has ping-ponged back and forth.
It’s fine to use a laptop while it’s charging, but it also hurts the battery. So what’s the final verdict?
The goal for laptop use is to use it in a way that minimizes stress on the system.
There’s a golden rule that can help you think about what to do with your battery.
In general, if you know that you will completely drain your battery in a single session on the computer, plug it in.
The stress of the trickle charge is less than the stress of completely draining the battery multiple times in a day.
To give you an idea, computer use that is heavy on video and graphics performance will fit these criteria the most.
That means that gaming, video editing, and intense Netflix binges are common activities that stress the battery.
If you’re doing any of these, leave the plug in place.
If you’re doing light use that won’t drain the battery in a single go, it’s better to unplug, as long as there’s enough juice in the battery to finish your tasks.