Laptops are vital tools in today’s digital life, especially because they’re portable and allow us to use them everywhere.
These devices rely on their batteries to give us the freedom and portability we appreciate.
If their batteries can’t work properly, they’re no different than desktop PCs, apart from lower performance.
If your laptop doesn’t work unless you plug it into a power source, you need to find the root cause and eliminate it to enjoy the portability of your device.
Laptop Only Works When Plugged In (Causes, Fixes)
This article presents the possible reasons that may render your battery faulty.
If you can’t find the main cause, you should take your laptop to a service shop immediately since it may be due to a serious issue.
1. Physical Issues
Before looking for software issues that may be difficult to detect and solve, start with simple and tangible factors.
The battery is an important physical component of your laptop, and you can easily check it by physically inspecting it.
That’s particularly important if your laptop battery is new and you don’t expect it to be faulty out of the box.
In such cases, loose connections can be the main culprit.
If the battery is new and removable, you may have improperly seated it.
If the battery is old, it may have come loose due to physical pressure or severe dust buildup.
How To Fix
To physically inspect the laptop battery, flip the device over and remove the battery.
Most laptop batteries have clips on both sides that you can move to detach the battery.
If the battery isn’t removable, you can detach it by removing the screws that attach it to the back panel.
It’s connected to the motherboard through a cable, which is easily removable.
Remember to turn off the laptop and unplug it from the power source.
Then, press and hold the power button for 30 seconds to drain the static charge before trying to remove the battery.
After removing the battery, clean it with a microfiber cloth and carefully check for any debris or dust buildup that prevents the battery contacts from fully touching those on the laptop panel.
Clean the battery case inside the laptop’s back panel and insert the battery back.
Remember to clean the battery contacts gently to avoid damaging these sensitive parts.
Make sure you hear the snap showing the battery is fully inserted.
Then, turn on your laptop and see if it stays on with the battery.
Note. If you’re experiencing a battery issue because the laptop doesn’t recognize it, you need to re-insert the battery while the laptop is plugged in and turned on.
It might be tricky, but you can do it with a little effort.
After inserting the battery, the device will recognize and start recharging it.
2. Low Battery Charge
Low battery may be too obvious, and you may never consider it a possible culprit.
However, since you’re dealing with a hardware component, you need to check every little physical aspect.
Your laptop battery can drain fast without you noticing it, especially if you run demanding apps or keep the PC idle for too long.
How To Fix
If your problem is low battery, you’re in luck since you only need to recharge it.
Take your time to charge it until it’s full, and then use it with the power cords unplugged.
Sometimes the problem is more serious, and you think the battery has been charging for a long time, but it’s drained.
In such cases, your battery has some issues preventing it from fully charging.
You need to physically inspect it to make sure all the metal parts are making contact to create a connection.
In severe cases, you may need to replace your battery.
3. Wrong Power Plan
Devices that work on battery need to optimize their battery usage to keep the charge for longer.
In laptops, power plan settings are responsible for this optimization.
Depending on their power demands and requirements, they have three different power plans to adapt power usage to the apps you run.
Setting the wrong power plan can prevent your laptop from working properly while unplugged.
As a result, it can’t handle the power demands of certain apps and shuts off.
How To Fix
If you’ve changed your laptop’s power plans, it’s advisable to move them back to their default settings.
That’s because changing the power settings may lead to conflicts that prevent the system from adjusting its power requirements to the battery charge.
To access the Power Plan settings, go to Control Panel and select Power Options.
You can find three power settings in the new window:
- Balanced is the recommended setting and automatically manages power consumption based on your hardware and software requirements.
- Power saver reduces the performance in some cases to save power. It saves energy by reducing clock speeds, lowering the display brightness, and automatically putting the device to sleep when idle.
- High performance doesn’t care about saving energy because it favors performance and high screen brightness.
The recommended power plan is Balanced because your system can automatically change power consumption to balance energy consumption and performance.
If you’ve recently changed your power settings, try resetting the plans to their default settings and see if it helps.
After selecting Balanced (Recommended), click Change Plan Settings and select Restore default settings for this plan to ensure everything is running according to your system’s preferred and balanced capabilities.
You can use the command prompt if you want to perform a more automatic process to ensure all settings are set back to default.
Type “command prompt” in the toolbar’s search box and press Enter.
Open a command prompt window and type in powercfg -restoredefaultschemes.
After pressing Enter, your system will automatically change every power plan to its default settings, so you don’t need to check everything individually.
After restarting your laptop, you can check if it works on the battery.
4. Outdated Drivers
Like any other hardware, your laptop battery communicates with your operating system through drivers.
These drivers ensure your operating system can recognize the battery and adjust its performance.
If the drivers are faulty or outdated, you may be unable to run your laptop on battery.
How To Fix
Fixing an outdated driver is pretty straightforward.
You only need to get the latest updates and install them, which you can get Windows to do it automatically.
Type Device Manager in the toolbar’s search box and click on the first result.
Here, you can see a list of all hardware components and their drivers.
Find the battery and expand the dropdown menu next to it.
You can see different battery options inside this menu, including the AC adapter and the battery itself.
It’s advisable to update the drivers for each option.
Right-click on the option and select Update Driver.
Select Search automatically for drivers, and Windows will look for available updates.
After updating all drivers related to the battery and the AC adapter, see if your issue has gone away.
If not, you can try another option within the same menu.
Some users have pointed out that disabling the battery helped them make the system recognize the battery again.
In the Device Manager, under Batteries, right-click Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery, and select Disable device.
This process will disable your battery, as indicated by the battery icon on the toolbar going away.
At this point, your laptop is only running through the AC adapter.
Now, re-enable the battery through the same process by right-clicking the battery and selecting Enable device.
Now, you can see the battery icon again and check if your device works with the battery.
Note. You may want to ensure you have the latest drivers for other related hardware, such as the chipset, which you can find under Processor.
5. Windows Updates
OS updates are a way to ensure everything is in tiptop shape and working properly.
Windows regularly and automatically installs these updates on your PC, without you having to look for and install them in most cases.
However, it may take some time before Windows introduces new updates and pushes them on your system.
Meanwhile, your laptop running on the old Windows version may develop issues only solvable by fixes offered in new updates.
How To Fix
The easy fix to this issue is looking for the latest Windows updates and installing them manually.
And by manually, we mean simply clicking an install button!
To look for new Windows updates, go to System settings by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Settings > Update and Security.
In this window, you can check for and install new updates through different options.
You can see Check for Updates and View optional updates.
Click these buttons one at a time and follow the on-screen instructions to install any forced and optional updates available.
You may also see feature updates, which are the new versions of Windows offered twice a year.
After installing these updates, check your laptop and see if it runs on battery.
Note. If updating your Windows didn’t help, you may want to get a fresh Windows installation.
It will solve your issue if it comes from faulty Windows updates.
6. Faulty Updates
Although driver and Windows updates help your system run smoothly by removing bugs and errors, they can introduce bugs that cause issues in different system components.
These bugs aren’t fixable until addressed by Microsoft or the hardware manufacturer in the next updates.
If your laptop doesn’t run on battery after a recent update, you’ve probably found the culprit.
How To Fix
You can ascertain the updates are behind your battery issue by uninstalling them and rolling back to previous versions.
Whether a new Windows or driver update is at fault, you can easily roll your system back to the previous update through the same process you use for updating.
For Windows updates, go to System > Update & Security > View update history.
In the new window, select Uninstall updates to see a list of all recent Windows updates, their version numbers, and installation dates.
Look at the dates and decide which update caused the issue.
Right-click the update and select Uninstall.
You can uninstall the driver updates in the Device Manager.
Go to the driver, right-click it, and select Properties.
Click Roll Back Driver to install the previously installed driver and see if it solves your issues.
7. Other Solutions
If none of the above methods work, you’re still not out of solutions.
Here are some other things you can try.
A. Run A Troubleshooter
Sometimes you can’t find the main culprit yourself and need help from Windows itself.
Fortunately, Windows has a built-in utility that looks for underlying issues with different system components and either fixes them automatically or suggests solutions.
You can access the troubleshooter via Windows Settings.
After opening the Settings app, click Troubleshoot on the left panel and select Additional troubleshooters.
In the new window, you can find a list of troubleshooters for different system components.
Scroll down to Power and click on it to see the Run the troubleshooter button.
Hit the button to start troubleshooting.
Follow the on-screen instructions to see if Windows can find and fix your issue.
B. Replace The Battery
If your battery is old and doesn’t work properly, you must change it to prevent further damage to your laptop’s power system.
Windows will probably notify you if your battery is dying by giving you warning messages.
You can also look for telling signs of battery damage.
For example, if the battery drains fast, overheats, or takes hours to recharge, it’s faulty.
You can also use third-party software that checks for battery health, such as Battery Eater.
Windows also has a built-in utility that allows you to test your battery life, although it’s a little complicated for the average user.
You can create a Battery Report through Command Prompt and interpret the parameters to ensure your battery is healthy.
To do so, open a command prompt window by typing CMD in the Windows search bar.
Type in powercfg /batteryreport and hit enter.
The system generates a battery health report and saves it on your PC, which you can find through Windows File Explorer.
Go to your user folder in drive C and search for the Battery Report folder as an HTML document.
Here’s a helpful video that shows how to generate the report and use it to gauge your battery life.
That said, to make sure the battery is faulty, the best thing is to replace it with a battery that you’re sure is working.
The only catch is that you must ensure the battery is compatible with your device.
If you’re lucky, you can find the same laptop model as yours among your friends or family members and borrow their batteries.
Alternatively, you could take your laptop to a service shop and ask them to inspect the battery.
If you get convinced that the battery is faulty, you’ll need to replace it.
C. Reset The CMOS Battery
The Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) is a battery that powers your laptop’s BIOS firmware.
It makes sure the BIOS is operational even when the computer is unplugged.
A CMOS battery is more important in laptops because you don’t unplug desktop computers often.
When the laptop is unplugged, the BIOS turns to CMOS for power.
If your CMOS battery is faulty, it can cause issues with the BIOS and other components, preventing the device from running on battery.
You may also experience issues like difficulty booting up, beeping noises from the motherboard, or reset date and time.
You can try resetting the CMOS battery and see if it helps.
However, resetting the CMOS battery involves opening the laptop’s back panel, which can be challenging if you don’t have technical skills.
It’s better to ask a technician to do it for you.
If you decide to perform the task yourself, take safety precautions like draining the static charge by holding the power button and wearing anti-static gloves.
After opening the laptop’s back cover, locate the CMOS battery, which is easy to identify.
It’s like a watch battery, looking like a shiny, smooth coin near the motherboard.
Resetting the CMOS battery involves taking it out, waiting for a few seconds, and putting it back in.
If it doesn’t work, and you’re sure that the CMOS battery is the main culprit, you need to replace it.