Batteries are laptops' Achilles' heels. Many mobile users have been let down by their battery meters, too, which can misjudge or misrepresent how much charge is actually left in your battery. The shortcomings of the built-in Windows meter lead to free tools like BatteryCare. It's a simple utility that displays your laptop battery's status and capacity and the time remaining in its discharge cycle. It monitors and displays CPU and HDD temperatures, too.
BatteryCare has a small but attractive interface that offers a lot more information than the built-in Windows tool, or many other battery meters we've seen, for that matter, with tabs for Basic and Detailed Information; the latter includes entries for battery model, designed capacity, wear level, and more. A system tray icon lets users display and hide the interface and access not only the program's options but also Power Settings and Power Plans. Hovering the cursor over the icon called up a semitransparent window showing battery status and charge but also the temperature of our CPU and primary hard disk drive. BatteryCare has a lot of settings for a simple tool, especially in the Notifications section, which includes not only full, low, and critical battery level warnings but also a configurable remaining time warning and a unique option to configure a warning to replace the battery after a certain number of discharge cycles, which can head off trouble before it catches up to you "in the field." The Power Plans section included selections for running on batteries and plugged in to AC power, as well as an automatic option. The Advanced section showed usage statistics as well as an option of particular interest to Vista users: the ability to run at startup in Administrator mode, which enables temperature monitoring and service pausing even when the bothersome User Account Control is active.
If you rely on your laptop's batteries, we highly recommend a good battery meter like BatteryCare. Even if your laptop stays tethered to a wall wart, though, it can help you ensure that your battery is ready to go, when and if you need it.