A: Absolutely. After several hundred charges, the battery will not be as strong as on the day you bought the laptop. It typically degrades, with users feeling this "wear level" about two or three years down the road. To check if and how much your battery has degraded, follow these simple steps:
If you use Windows XP, Vista, or 7, check out the free tool BatteryBar 1.3 (http://osirisdevelopment.com/BatteryBar/index.html). Upon installation, make sure that you select the BatteryBar Toolbar. Launch the program, and mouse over the battery icon that is displayed on your desktop. It will tell you not only the current charge status but also the wear level of your battery. A wear level of more than 30 per cent indicates that it's time to replace the battery; your laptop vendor can tell you where to get new batteries for your machine.
Although BatteryBar works with Windows 7, Microsoft's newest operating system comes with a built-in tool that checks the wear level of your laptop's battery. Here's how to start it:
1. Click on the Start menu, and enter "cmd". The entry "cmd" will then appear at the top of the menu. Right-click on it, select "Run as administrator," and click on "Yes." In the next window, type in "powercfg -energy" and hit Return again.
2. This will create an energy efficiency report. After 60 seconds, you can close the window. To check out this report, open up the folder "Windows\System32\" and double-click on the file "energy-report.html."
3. Scroll all the way down to the section titled "Battery: Battery Information." Under "Design Capacity," you will find the original capacity of your laptop's battery, and under "Last Full Charge," you will find the current capacity. Again, if these numbers greatly differ, it's time for a battery replacement.