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Help File: Laptop batteries going unused, upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7

Sunday, September 5, 2010; G03

Q: I use my HP laptop only in my living room, so it's plugged into a wall outlet all the time. So I've removed the battery and put it back into the bubble wrap it shipped in. Is that really the best thing to do?

A: Hewlett-Packard's advice on that is to remove the battery if you'll have the laptop shut off or plugged in for more than two weeks. That, HP says, will help prolong its useful life -- batteries wear out after enough discharge and recharge cycles.

For what it's worth, Apple advises against keeping a laptop plugged in all the time. Dell doesn't offer any such warning but does suggest storing batteries separately, with about half a charge, if you won't use them for three or more weeks.

But as Washington-area residents have learned over this stormy summer, you can't count on a plugged-in laptop working all the time. I would keep the battery in place, even if you never take the laptop away from an outlet; this way, you can ride out momentary blips in power and keep working through shorter outages.

For the same reason, I keep my desktop computer at home plugged into an uninterruptible power supply that can keep it running for a few minutes if the power goes out.

Q. I have Windows XP on my computer and want to install Windows 7, but I've heard that can be difficult. I also have a copy of Vista -- should I upgrade to that and then 7?

Yes. Going straight from XP to 7 will wipe out your existing applications, while a two-step upgrade will take more time but preserves those details. Make sure you run Microsoft's free Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor first.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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