Print 34 comment(s) - last by adrift02.. on Feb 10 at 1:44 PM

Microsoft claims that there's no problems with its "Consider replacing your battery." warnings, which it defended in a lengthy blog post. Many customers say otherwise, complaining that the OS is reporting brand new batteries to be failing.  (Source: Microsoft)
Users unsatisfied with Microsoft's response

Laptops now outnumber desktops in sales and that trend is only set to broaden in coming years.  With the majority of customers now using laptops, anything on an operating system level that affects laptop users is becoming increasingly important.  Thus, when reports popped up that Windows 7 was erroneously telling users to replace their batteries on perfectly healthy notebooks, many took note.

Microsoft's Windows President, Steven Sinofksy, has fired back in a long post in which he defends how things currently work, stating that his staff have found no bugs.  He writes, "One of the most obvious components of PC battery life (the runtime you get on battery power) is the battery itself. PC batteries inherently degrade in their ability to hold a charge and provide power (as is the case for all rechargeable batteries). The cause of this is complex and includes irreversible changes in battery chemistry, and increased internal resistance among other things and those in turn are dependent on the design and manufacturing of the battery. This degradation translates into less battery life for the user over the life of the battery in the PC.  Ultimately, batteries must be replaced to restore an acceptable battery life."

Mr. Sinofsky says that it warns users to change their battery whenever it is operating at less than 60 percent of its original capacity in watt hours.  He explains how this works, writing:

PC batteries expose information about battery capacity and health through the system firmware (or BIOS).  There is a detailed specification for the firmware interface (ACPI), but at the most basic level, the hardware platform and firmware provide a number of read-only fields that describe the battery and its status.  The firmware provides information on the battery including manufacturer, serial number, design capacity and last full charge capacity.  The last two pieces of information—design capacity and last full charge capacity—are the information Windows 7 uses to determine how much the battery has naturally degraded.   This information is read-only and there is no way for Windows 7 or any other OS to write, set or configure battery status information.  In fact all of the battery actions of charging and discharging are completely controlled by the battery hardware.  Windows only reports the battery information it reads from the system firmware. Some reports erroneously claimed Windows was modifying this information, which is definitely not possible.

Despite this assurance, though, many customers still say Windows 7 is saying they need to replace their battery on new machines or machines with little battery wear.  The response section of the blog was inundated with angry replies from users experiencing such issues.  

Among the models that reportedly have had this problem are the Asus Eee PC and certain Acer Aspire models.  Some users have reported that Windows 7 is shutting down their computers when they still have battery life remaining.  And other users have noted that they can take the "failed" battery and put it in a non-Windows 7 machine and it will charge just fine.

Given the amount of complaints and uncertainty, Microsoft hopefully is investigating this issue further, however, it clearly appears to currently feel that there's no issue at all, despite its customers' testimonies.

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A interesting side note
By kylebilenki on 2/9/2010 8:59:14 AM , Rating: 3
While I'm not discounting a potential Windows bug that's misinterpreting the information received from the BIOS. I would be interesting to get a list of all the laptops that have been affected by this issue, and see how many of them share the same BIOS chip/manufacturer. The issue seems to be hardware related. Especially when users admit that when the battery is in another laptop it charges just fine.

RE: A interesting side note
By CubicleDilbert on 2/9/10, Rating: -1
RE: A interesting side note
By nvalhalla on 2/9/2010 9:22:55 AM , Rating: 4
Odd, I've got an old T43 that's had Windows 7 since Oct. and it hasn't had battery problems.

RE: A interesting side note
By Souka on 2/9/2010 11:28:01 AM , Rating: 3
older T41/T42/T60/61's here at my work, all running Windows 7 enterprise or battery problems here.

Newer T400/500 series running fine also

I'd imagine the problem is software based...some Thinkpad firmware had issues where it wouldnt' charge the battery anymore...on AC it kept the charge at current percentage.
Eventually it was fixed by an update.

Anyhow.. I like to see a system dual-booted..win7 and XP
If Win7 says battery is dead and won't charge, but XP gets more than %50 run time....then Win7 is the problem.


RE: A interesting side note
By Cypherdude1 on 2/9/2010 7:56:58 PM , Rating: 1
Windows 7 has only been out for a few months. Don't expect everything to work smoothly during the first year. Expect teething problems during this initial period. I'm sure they'll fix this and other problems they encounter.

Windows XP, which I currently use, was released in 2001. They've had 9 years to fix most of the bugs. Believe it or not, XP and their other older O/S's still have bugs in it. DailyTech recently reported on 1 bug which M$ decided to finally fix.

RE: A interesting side note
By filotti on 2/9/2010 9:33:12 AM , Rating: 3
No offense, but I don't think you have enough information to make the assumption that Windows 7 was the culprit.

The batteries were old and probably shorted out by themselves.

RE: A interesting side note
By Desslok on 2/9/2010 9:44:18 AM , Rating: 3
NO, It HAS to be MSFT fault!

RE: A interesting side note
By porkpie on 2/9/2010 9:55:17 AM , Rating: 3
Reminds me of the guy who blamed a certain software maker (not MS) for his monitor dying, because the screen cracked just as he first loaded the software.

True story...

RE: A interesting side note
By Taft12 on 2/9/2010 10:28:40 AM , Rating: 1
You scoff, but it is certainly possible to damage a CRT monitor by using inappropriate frequency ranges in your XFree86 config file!

RE: A interesting side note
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/9/2010 10:32:51 AM , Rating: 2
not CRACK it....ffs

RE: A interesting side note
By sprockkets on 2/9/2010 1:49:31 PM , Rating: 3
Just about every CRT monitor on the planet from the past 15 years will just say out of range and no harm will be done.

RE: A interesting side note
By Cypherdude1 on 2/10/2010 1:11:41 PM , Rating: 1
That's true. In Jan 1997, I bought a Panasonic S17 17" CRT monitor for $529. At 800x600, its maximum refresh rate was 75 Hz. I was uncomfortable with that so I increased it to 85 Hz and ran it like that for 9 years with no problems.

BTW, $529 for a 17" CRT monitor was the standard price for a good quality monitor in 1997. There were even more expensive models available.

RE: A interesting side note
By porkpie on 2/9/2010 9:55:17 AM , Rating: 2
Reminds me of the guy who blamed a certain software maker (not MS) for his monitor dying, because the screen cracked just as he first loaded the software.

True story...

RE: A interesting side note
By Luticus on 2/9/2010 9:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
I use an hp which originally had windows vista on it and has been wiped and reloaded with 7 utl x86 and the battery in it appears to work just fine.

the real test would be to take a laptop that is having the problems and load it with 7, then get a second hard drive and load it with xp (not vista) then swap them out and test the battery in the laptop with the SAME hardware minus the HDD's of course. That'll tell you everything you need to know right there. Heck I'd even say dual partition/dual boot just so you could have the same HDD. I'm defiantly thinking hardware/BIOS issue for sure. the MOST windows could do is simply have it's standards set too high for battery life and how it reports it as being in need of change. It is as Microsoft says: like every other operating system out there, Windows doesn't write battery information, it only reports it. Seriously, why would windows write any battery information anyway?... that doesn't even make sense! Thats like saying Windows can write temperature information to the thermometer output... how logical is that?

RE: A interesting side note
By Drag0nFire on 2/9/2010 10:09:22 AM , Rating: 2
Well, I can theoretically imagine a software issue that could cripple a battery. My T43 (XP) has a Lenovo utility that lets me control the battery recharge threshold. Thus, to maximize my battery life and minimize recharge cycles, I can set it to only start recharging when the battery reaches 80% rather than the default 95%. If I plug the laptop in at 85%, it will run on AC power without recharging the battery; if I plug it in at 75%, it fully recharges the battery. If Win7 did the opposite (ie. set a high threshold), then I could imagine it destroying batteries through excessive charge cycling.

I'm not suggesting this is the case, as I have no experience with Win7 on a laptop. However, I do think this should be a user-controllable feature on all laptops. Those of us who want the battery to last a few years should be able to set a low re-charge threshold, whereas those who need their battery fully charged all time time should be able to set a high threshold.

RE: A interesting side note
By jonmcc33 on 2/9/2010 12:15:11 PM , Rating: 3
I've seen plenty of Dells that ran Windows XP have the same issue. Guess what? Batteries only have a 1 year warranty for a reason. The more you use them the less charge they hold. This is a fact on every laptop regardless of the OS.

RE: A interesting side note
By bim27142 on 2/9/2010 2:26:44 PM , Rating: 2
coincidence or not, i installed windows 7 on my acer travelmate 6291, and a few days after, my battery (6 cell) died! though it was already a 2yr old laptop, i don't think my battery will die just all of a sudden. when it was still on vista, i still get about an hour on balanced power and about 45 minutes on high performance.

oh well...

RE: A interesting side note
By OCedHrt on 2/9/2010 3:05:07 PM , Rating: 2
I have a LG P310 which is relatively new with the same problem. Windows 7 reports an incorrect designed capacity for the battery. It is possible that the BIOS is showing the wrong information.

Regardless, Windows 7 is acting on this information and that is causing problems:
-When the replace your battery state is triggered, Windows 7 turns off charging on the battery. What this means is that the battery continues to drain.
-When the designed capacity is reported arbitrarily high, Windows 7 may shutdown the system early.
-When the designed capacity is reported arbitrarily low, Windows 7 stops charging the battery before it is full.

So, while Windows cannot write to these values, the control it has over whether a battery is charged or not does affect battery life.

RE: A interesting side note
By OCedHrt on 2/9/2010 3:06:21 PM , Rating: 2
Fortunately for me, I can simply unplug and replug the AC adapter repeatedly until the "Replace battery" state is reset and charging starts. Once charging starts, Windows does not stop it even if the "Replace battery" state returns.

RE: A interesting side note
By Cypherdude1 on 2/10/2010 1:01:36 PM , Rating: 1
I use on old T42 Thinkpad (pentium M), have put on Windows 7 two weeks ago. Now two batteries which were still good for about 2h each are dead. Zero. Nada. Electronics refuses to charge. it stopped at 69% rest capacitiy and does not charge. Windows 7 tells me, the battery is dead.
The effective lifespan of a rechargeable battery is 5 years. If you're running over that, you should consider it a gift. Perhaps you could've run your old laptop using an older O/S, perhaps not. Either way, you still need to replace your battery.

This is why it is so important that makers of all rechargeable products allow the user to replace the battery and not force the user to send it in to the manufacturer. Forcing users to send our products in costs twice as much since we must pay labor in addition to the actual battery (not to mention shipping and handling both ways). This also kills the third party battery market which are typically less expensive than the manufacturer-branded models. To many rechargeable products today are no longer user replaceable. Most Apple products and the Amazon Kindles do not have user replaceable batteries.

RE: A interesting side note
By NesuD on 2/9/2010 12:50:31 PM , Rating: 2
Right there is no way the OS can affect the battery charging circuitry if the unit is turned off. Battery charging is purely a function of hardware and doesn't even require the system to be turned on.

RE: A interesting side note
By eddieroolz on 2/9/2010 2:59:15 PM , Rating: 2
I'm on a HP dv4-1117ca laptop that I received a year ago.

I've been using Windows 7 exclusively on this laptop; ever since the 6801 days, in fact.

My battery used to last about 2+ hours on a single charge under 7000 and 7100. Since I installed 7600, the battery has in fact been acting oddly.

For example, when I unplug the AC for a quick trip around the house, the battery level drops immediately to ~75%. Then it goes irregular after that, with the level going up sometimes and in other times, dropping like a stone to 10% after <1min. Currently, my battery will not last for more than 10sec at a time, so I have to daisy chain extension cords to get around the house.

The battery is by no means excessively old. It's only been used for just over a year, which I think is reasonable. However, I am not quite sure if Windows 7 is the culprit, since many other friends of mine run on their battery perfectly fine.

RE: A interesting side note
By MatthiasF on 2/9/2010 3:45:31 PM , Rating: 2
Why don't you do us a favor and share with us the make and model of the battery in your laptop, as well as the BIOS version?

According to HP, should be a 6-cell lithium and Intel Mobile GM45 chipset family with the ICH9M Southbridge.

If Microsoft (or the rest of us) are to figure out what's going on, we need to find a pattern.

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