Microsoft Denies Windows 7 Battery Problems Due To OS


Microsoft has been exploring complaints of poor battery life for some laptops running Windows 7, and claims that in every case the operating system is not at fault

Microsoft’s engineers have been exploring the alleged battery-life issues associated with Windows 7 running on laptops, and report that the operating system is not causing those batteries to prematurely fail. In every case, claimed an official Microsoft blog posting on Feb. 8, Windows 7 correctly evaluated that the battery in question was on the threshold was failing, and posted a message to that effect.

However, this contrasts with the experiences of certain online commenters, who have claimed to experience power issues even with new or nearly-new laptop batteries.

“Every single indication we have regarding the reports we’ve seen are simply Windows 7 reporting the state of the battery using this new feature and we’re simply seeing batteries that are not performing above the designated threshold,” read that 8 Feb. posting on the Engineering Windows 7 blog. “It should stand to reason that some customers would be surprised to see this warning after upgrading a PC that was previously operating fine. Essentially the battery was degrading but it was not evident to the customer until Windows 7 made this information available.”

Apparently, Windows 7 monitors the integrity of the laptop’s battery and sets a threshold of 60 percent degradation for displaying the “change battery” warning, a new feature to the Windows franchise. Microsoft asserted it has been unable to “identify… reproducible cases” where new or nearly-new batteries spontaneously failed while powering laptops with Windows 7, a situation reported by some readers of Microsoft Watch.

Microsoft had announced at several points over the last week that it was investigating those users complaints associated with the battery life of laptops running Windows 7, which seemed primarily to affect the systems of users upgrading to Windows 7 from either Windows Vista or Windows XP. In some cases, it seemed as if the upgrade shortened their device’s battery life to as short as 15 minutes.

“Microsoft has been made aware that some computers running Windows 7 receive a warning that the battery needs to be replaced when the battery is new or in good health,” a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK in a 3 Feb. e-mail. “In conjunction with our hardware partners, we are investigating this issue.”

The 8 Feb. posting on the Engineering Windows 7 blog suggested that OEM engineers had concurred with Microsoft on the issue: “Our OEM partners have utilized their telemetry (call center, support forums, etc.) and have let us know that they are seeing no activity beyond what they expect. It is worth noting that PC manufacturers work through battery issues with customers and have a clear view of what is to be expected both in general and with respect to specific models, timelines and batteries.”

However, eWEEK’s separate conversations with OEMs made it seem as if the investigation was still ongoing.

“Some of our customers running Windows 7 have reported different battery run times depending on their model, usage, PC settings and more,” a Lenovo spokesperson told eWEEK in an 8 Feb. email. “We are working with Microsoft to investigate this.”

On the Microsoft Watch discussion forum, a commenter claiming to be from the Microsoft Windows Client Team wrote in an 8 Feb. posting that the battery-life issue “appears to be related to system firmware.” That post came hours before Microsoft’s official blog posting.

The Windows 7-related battery criticism extends back to June on the TechNet forum, with the issue apparently occurring on a number of laptop models. On the Microsoft Watch blog, a number of readers have complained about how the issue affected them.

“Upgrading to Windows 7 my 6 cell battery that used to last about 2 hours when unplugged when I had Vista, not lasts less than 10 minutes,” wrote one poster on Feb. 5.

“After I upgraded my Toshiba Satellite P-305 from Vista to Windows 7, my battery life went down to about 25 minutes, and asked me to replace my battery,” wrote another on the same date. “I bought a 9 cell replacement battery but the message persists and the new battery will not hold a charge.”

“Got my Acer notebook 5 month ago and update it to Windows 7 Home Premium from Windows Vista. Now with Windows 7, my notebook battery can only last about 40 min even with Acer Powersmart on instead of 3 hours in Windows Vista with Acer Powersmart on,” wrote another poster on 6 Feb.

According to Microsoft’s Feb. 8 blog posting, mainstream laptop batteries’ warranties generally extend about 12 months, “which is about the length of time when statistically we expect to see noticeable degradation.” Some of the commenters’ laptops fall well within the theoretically “safe” part of that 12-month window.

Given that Microsoft recently announced some 60 million Windows 7 licenses had been sold since the operating system’s release on 22 Oct, the percentage of users experiencing this battery-life issue is by all indications relatively small; Microsoft claims to have received 12 incident reports through its own channels, plus another eight through “various forums,” all of which apparently showed “degraded batteries.” A few commenters on Microsoft Watch and other forums have also made a point of saying they experienced no such battery issues when upgrading.

“I’ve got a pre-release candidate of Windows 7 running,” wrote one poster on the Microsoft Watch forum, “and my battery life seems to have improved since I used Vista.”

Some commenters on TechNet suggested that the battery-life issues could be related to a buggy driver, something that Microsoft’s engineering team attempted to dispel in their 8 Feb. blog posting: “While the information regarding battery status is provided read-only to the operating system through ACPI, we performed a thorough code-review and verified that there exists no code that is capable of modifying battery status information.”

Those experiencing power issues with Windows 7 despite a new battery are encouraged to reach out to the engineering team either through the TechNet forum, via the Engineering Windows 7 blog, or else the Microsoft Answers Forum.

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