Fix Sticky Keyboard Keys

Step 1:Cleaning the Keys

Before you begin, unplug the keyboard or remove the batteries. If using a laptop, shut it down and unplug it. Pick a can up from an office supply store and spray around the base of each stuck key to dislodge dust and debris. If you don’t have compressed air, turn the keyboard upside down and tap the back while shaking gently. Dampen a cotton swab or clean cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Run it around the edge of each key to remove grease and dried liquid. Some people have reported success with baby oil, but it can remain in your keyboard, so use at your own risk. If you can see the debris underneath the key, use the toothpick or straightened paper clip to dislodge it.

Step 2:Cleaning Under the Keys

If you need to remove more than a few keys, take a photograph first so you remember which key goes where. Before you continue, unplug the keyboard, Most laptops have keys that are difficult or impossible to remove. In these cases, you’ll need a guide or advice specific to your laptop model, or you’ll need to have your laptop professionally repaired. On desktop keyboards, the outer key covering can usually be pried up easily with a flat-head screwdriver. Most debris is found in the letters and numbers. Other keys tend to be less dirty and more difficult to replace after removal, especially the space bar. Use compressed air to remove exposed dust and debris, and a cloth dampened with isopropyl alcohol to remove stickiness and stains. For laptop keyboards and other keyboards with delicate internal parts, use gentle swabbing only. If the underside of your keys are discolored or dirty, put them in a colander and run water over them, or rub them in a bucket of soapy water. Let them air dry completely on a paper towel.Try this technique if your laptop key raises or lowers extra slowly. After removing the key, look for a square plastic object around the button. Remove this gently by pushing the corners sideways with a toothpick. Rinse this in water to clean the hinge, then let air dry. On a Macbook, the catch that holds these hinges in place are on the lower left and right.Let all the keys dry, then push them down over the buttons to reattach them. Let the keyboard dry overnight before you use it.

Step 3:Fixing Hardware and Software Issues

If you only have keyboard problems when using a single application, you’ll need to look for help fixing that software issue.Inconsistent results from keystrokes can be caused by low battery power. USB keyboards work best when plugged directly into the computer, not into a hub, keylogger, or other device.Keyboards with a circular, six-pin PS/2 plug sometimes encounter errors if they are connected while the computer is on. Shut down the computer, disconnect the keyboard, and reconnect it again.If some of your laptop keys don’t register when pressed, there could be a loose internal connection. Unless you have a guide for your model and are comfortable disassembling your laptop yourself, you should take it to a professional.


Fix Sticky Keyboard Keys

Step 1:Cleaning the Keys

Before you begin, unplug the keyboard or remove the batteries. If using a laptop, shut it down and unplug it. Pick a can up from an office supply store and spray around the base of each stuck key to dislodge dust and debris. If you don’t have compressed air, turn the keyboard upside down and tap the back while shaking gently. Dampen a cotton swab or clean cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Run it around the edge of each key to remove grease and dried liquid. Some people have reported success with baby oil, but it can remain in your keyboard, so use at your own risk. If you can see the debris underneath the key, use the toothpick or straightened paper clip to dislodge it.

Step 2:Cleaning Under the Keys

If you need to remove more than a few keys, take a photograph first so you remember which key goes where. Before you continue, unplug the keyboard, Most laptops have keys that are difficult or impossible to remove. In these cases, you’ll need a guide or advice specific to your laptop model, or you’ll need to have your laptop professionally repaired. On desktop keyboards, the outer key covering can usually be pried up easily with a flat-head screwdriver. Most debris is found in the letters and numbers. Other keys tend to be less dirty and more difficult to replace after removal, especially the space bar. Use compressed air to remove exposed dust and debris, and a cloth dampened with isopropyl alcohol to remove stickiness and stains. For laptop keyboards and other keyboards with delicate internal parts, use gentle swabbing only. If the underside of your keys are discolored or dirty, put them in a colander and run water over them, or rub them in a bucket of soapy water. Let them air dry completely on a paper towel.Try this technique if your laptop key raises or lowers extra slowly. After removing the key, look for a square plastic object around the button. Remove this gently by pushing the corners sideways with a toothpick. Rinse this in water to clean the hinge, then let air dry. On a Macbook, the catch that holds these hinges in place are on the lower left and right.Let all the keys dry, then push them down over the buttons to reattach them. Let the keyboard dry overnight before you use it.

Step 3:Fixing Hardware and Software Issues

If you only have keyboard problems when using a single application, you’ll need to look for help fixing that software issue.Inconsistent results from keystrokes can be caused by low battery power. USB keyboards work best when plugged directly into the computer, not into a hub, keylogger, or other device.Keyboards with a circular, six-pin PS/2 plug sometimes encounter errors if they are connected while the computer is on. Shut down the computer, disconnect the keyboard, and reconnect it again.If some of your laptop keys don’t register when pressed, there could be a loose internal connection. Unless you have a guide for your model and are comfortable disassembling your laptop yourself, you should take it to a professional.


How to Keep Your Mac Keyboard and Mouse Clean

The day you unpacked and started working with your new Mac was special; it marked the day when your Mac’s keyboard and mouse were working at their best. From that day forward, little bits of grime, dust, and dirt have been building up on these often-used peripherals. The buildup of gunk will slowly cause your mouse to feel less responsive, and may even cause your keyboard to miss a key click or two now and then.

Luckily, it’s fairly easy to restore a keyboard and mouse to like-new condition. All that’s needed is a bit of cleaning and attention.

Cleaning Suggestions

Start by turning off your Mac and unplugging your mouse and keyboard. If your keyboard or mouse is battery powered, remove the batteries as well.

Have the following items on hand:

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Can of pressurized air
  • Clean water (It doesn’t need to be purified, distilled, or anything else special; just clean.)
  • Cotton swabs or similar cleaning products
  • Toothpicks or similar items

Cleaning Your Mac’s Mouse

Wipe the mouse body with the microfiber cloth. This should be enough to remove any oils, such as fingerprints. For stubborn spots, dip the cloth in the clean water and rub the mouse gently. Don’t apply water directly to the mouse because it may drip into the mouse’s inner workings, where sensitive electronics reside.

Don’t be afraid to use a little pressure to scrub off really dirty spots on the mouse.

Just as long as your not applying pressure near any scroll wheel, cover, or tracking system.

Mighty Mouse

If you have an Apple Mighty Mouse, the scroll ball also needs to be cleaned. Slightly dampen the microfiber cloth and roll the scroll ball against the cloth. You can also try using the cotton swabs to help clean the scroll ball.

Once the scroll ball is clean, use the can of pressurized air to blow out dust and dirt from inside the well the scroll ball sits in. This also serves to dry the scroll ball after you’ve cleaned it.

Magic Mouse

If you have an Apple Magic Mouse, cleaning is vastly simplified. You can clean the touch surface with a wet or dry microfiber cloth, and run the microfiber cloth along the two guide rails on the bottom of the Magic Mouse.

If your Magic Mouse seems to have tracking errors, that is, the mouse pointer stalls or jumps about, use the can of pressurized air to clean around the tracking sensor on the bottom of the Magic Mouse.

Other Mice

If you have a third-party mouse, follow the manufacturer’s suggested cleaning instructions, or take a look at How to Clean a Mouse by Tim Fisher, a fellow Lifewire expert who really knows his way around a PC. In general, use a microfiber cloth to clean the exterior of the mouse. If the mouse has a scroll wheel, you may find that it routinely becomes clogged with gunk. Use cotton swabs to clean the scroll wheel and the can of pressurized air to clean around the scroll wheel.

In the worst cases, you may need to open up the mouse to access the optical sensor in the scroll wheel system.

Not all mice are easily opened up, and some are very difficult to put back together once opened. I don’t recommend performing mouse surgery unless you already have a replacement mouse available, and don’t mind ending up with leftover mouse parts, or looking for that little spring that sailed across the room.

Cleaning Your Keyboard

Clean your keyboard surface using a microfiber cloth. For stubborn surfaces, dampen the cloth with clean water. Wrap a toothpick with a single layer of the microfiber cloth to clean between the keys.

Use the can of pressurized air to blow out any additional debris from around the keys.

Cleaning a Keyboard After a Spill

Spilling a beverage onto a keyboard is probably the most common cause of keyboard death. However, depending on the liquid, and how fast you react, it is possible to save a keyboard that has undergone a spillage.

Water and other clear liquids

Clear and semi-clear beverages, such as water, black coffee, and tea, are the easiest to recover from, with water offering the best chances, of course. When a spill occurs, quickly unplug the keyboard from your Mac, or quickly turn it off and remove its batteries. Don’t wait to shut down your Mac; disconnect the keyboard or remove its batteries as quickly as possible.

If the liquid was plain water, wait 24 hours to allow the water to dry before reconnecting the keyboard or replacing its batteries. With any luck, your keyboard will power back up and you’ll be ready to go.

Coffee and Tea

Coffee or tea spills are slightly more problematic, because of the acid levels in these beverages. Depending on the keyboard design, these beverages can cause very small signal wires within the keyboard to be etched over time and stop working. Many sources suggest flooding the keyboard with clean water, in the hope of diluting the acid levels, and then letting the keyboard dry out for 24 hours, to see if it still works. I’ve tried this method a few times, but it has failed more often than not. On the other hand, what have you got to lose?

Soda, Beer, and Wine

Carbonated beverages, beer, wine, and other hot or cold beverages are death sentences to most keyboards.

Of course, it depends on how much was spilled. A drop or two can usually be cleaned up quickly, with little or no lasting damage. If the spill was larger, and the liquid got inside the keyboard, well, you can always try the water submersion method, but don’t get your hopes up.

No matter what type of spill occurs, the key to possibly salvaging a keyboard is to disconnect it from any electrical source (batteries, USB) as quickly as possible and allow it to completely dry out before you try using it again.

Disasemble the keyboard

You can improve the chances of the keyboard recovering by removing the individual keys. The process is different for each keyboard model but in general, a small flat blade screwdriver can be used to pop the keys off. The larger keys such as shift, return, space bar, will sometimes have retaining clips or multiple connection points. Be especially careful when removing those keys.

With the keys removed, you may notice stains, puddled liquids, or other indications of specific areas on the keyboard that need attention. Use a slightly damp cloth to clean any stains and to soak up any standing liquids still present. You can also try using the can of pressurized air to dry areas where evidence indicates the liquid has gotten into the key mechanism.

Don’t forget to make a map of where each key goes to allow you to replace all of the keys. You may think you know where each key belongs, but when it comes time to reassemble the keyboard, a map may be just the guide you need.​

I can’t tell you how many keyboards we have around our office that work just fine, except for one or two keys, all of which were killed by spillage.

On a brighter note, I’ve never heard of a keyboard spillage causing damage beyond the keyboard itself.


Qualcomm Claims Its New Chip Will Triple Battery Life on Wireless Headphones

There are currently two major annoyances with wireless headphones: the Bluetooth can cut out in areas with a lot of signal noise, and battery life is mostly terrible. Qualcomm thinks it’s packed a better solution to both of those issues into a new chip.

“It’s a big step forward in the hearable category,” Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Qualcomm’s Voice & Music business unit, told Gizmodo.

According to Murray, the QCC5100 Low Power Bluetooth SoC reduces power consumption by 65 percent. This in turn gives headphones nearly three times the playback time compared to headphones with previous SoCs.

Murray also said the Qcc5100 has significantly better transmit power, which should reduce the number of times headphones cut out when you’re riding a packed subway or moving through a hellishly crowded airport. The chip supports Bluetooth 5, which was only announced in 2016, and just began to appear in devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Apple iPhone X, last year.

Besides these improvements, the minuscule chip has double the processing capability of Qualcomm’s former solution, which was found in popular headphones like the Jabra Sport Elite and Bose Free Sport.

This means that the chip can provide much more robust active noise cancelling and hearing assistance. For example, it would allow for some conditional sound changes like making sound softer when your headphones detect that an announcement is being made on a train. “We see this as becoming a general requirement,” Murray said. And if you look at the wide range of earbuds in the marketplace right now, and their multitude of auditory bionic features, you might be compelled to agree.

Currently there are no earbud makers who have declared they’re using the new QCC5100, but Qualcomm says it is working with a number of major manufacturers, and as its previous SoC was featured in the best earbuds of 2017, there’s a good reason to get excited for what the future of bionic buds holds.


Introduction to Computer Network Adapters

A network adapter allows an electronic device to interface with a local computer network.

Types of Network Adapters

A network adapter is a unit of computer hardware. Several types of hardware adapters exist:

  • Many new computers contain integrated (built in) wireless network adapter chips
  • A USB network adapter plugs into a standard USB port to enable computer network connections (typically Wi-Fi or Ethernet)
  • A wireless game adapter (sometimes called a “media adapter”) connects to an Xbox or Playstation game console or other home entertainment product, providing a bridge to Wi-Fi wireless capability.
  • On older PCs,a PCI adapter (often called a NIC) was a type of add-in card installed inside a desktop personal computer. A variant PCI adapter called “PC Card” (also known as PCMCIA cards) inserted into the side of a notebook computer to provide similar capability.

Adapters are a required component to include when building a network. Every common adapter supports either Wi-Fi (wireless) or Ethernet (wired) standards. Special-purpose adapters that support very specialized network protocols also exist, but these are not found in homes or most business networks.

Determine Whether a Network Adapter Is Present

Newer computers often include a network adapter when sold. Determine whether a computer already possesses a network adapter as follows:

  • In desktop computers. look for an RJ-45 jack on the back of the computer. The RJ-45 jack appears similar to a phone line jack but is slightly larger.
  • In notebook computers, look for a thin, removable metal device roughly the size of credit card, but thicker.
  • For notebook computers running Windows that may contain integrated adapter chips, open the Windows Device Manager. Device Manager can be accessed from the Hardware tab of the System Properties section of Windows Control Panel
  • In any type of computing device, look for a small external device with LED lights connected to a USB port

Purchasing a Network Adapter

A network adapter can be purchased separately from most manufacturers that supply routers and other forms of networking equipment. When purchasing a network adapter, some prefer to choose the brand of adapter that matches their router. To accommodate this, manufacturers sometimes sell one or two network adapters together with a router in a bundle called a home network kit. Technically, however, network adapters all offer very similar functionality according to the Ethernet or Wi-Fi standard they support.

Installing a Network Adapter

Installing any network adapter hardware involves two steps:

  1. Connecting the adapter hardware to the computer
  2. Installing any required software associated with the adapter

For PCI adapters, first power down the computer and unplug its power cord before proceeding with the installation. A PCI adapter is a card that fits into a long, narrow slot inside the computer. The computer’s case must be opened and the card firmly inserted into this slot.

Other types of network adapter devices can be attached while a computer is running normally.

Modern computer operating systems automatically detect newly connected hardware and complete the basic software installation required.

Some network adapters, however, additionally require custom software installation. Such an adapter will often be accompanied by a CD-ROM containing the installation media. Alternatively, the necessary software can be downloaded for free from the manufacturer’s Web site.

Software installed with a network adapter includes a device driver that allows the operating system to communicate with the hardware. In addition, a software management utility may also be supplied that provides a user interface for advanced configuration and troubleshooting of the hardware.

These utilities are most commonly associated with Wi-Fi wireless network adapters.

Network adapters can normally be disabled through their software. Disabling an adapter provides a convenient alternative to installing and uninstalling it. Wireless network adapters are best disabled when not in use, for security reasons.

Virtual Network Adapters

Certain types of network adapters have no hardware component but rather consist of software only. These are often called virtual adapters in contrast to a physical adapter. Virtual adapters are commonly found in virtual private networks (VPNs). A virtual adapter may also be used with research computers or IT servers that run virtual machine technology.

Summary

The network adapter is an essential component in both wired and wireless computer networking. Adapters interface a computing device (including computers, print servers, and game consoles) to the communication network. Most network adapters are small pieces of physical hardware, although software-only virtual adapters also exist. Sometimes a network adapter must be purchased separately, but often the adapter is built into a computing device, especially newer devices. Installing a network adapter is not difficult and often is a simple “plug and play” feature of the computer operating system.


Cold Weather Can Mess With Your Phone. Here’s How to Protect It

Apple says its iPhones are made to operate in temperatures above 32 degrees. Much of the country won’t even creep above that mark until the second week of January – and tens of millions of Americans are enduring lows in the negative double digits.

In conditions like these, many smartphones will be start experiencing problems like shutting off, shortened battery life, display problems or even the glass shattering. Most smartphone batteries are lithium-ion, which can stop discharging electricity in extremely cold temperatures, Roger Gurney, owner of Arctic Tech Solutions, explained to USA Today. Here are a few tricks you can use to keep your phone working in Arctic temperatures.

Keep it in your your pocket

Even something as simple as keeping your phone in your pocket or bag can help shield it from icy temperatures. Keeping your phone in your pocket will also allow it to benefit from your body heat to help keep it close to optimal temperatures.

Smartphones are most vulnerable when left out in the cold or without heat for extended periods of time – so avoid leaving them in parked cars.

Use a special case

If you absolutely need to keep your phone out in the cold weather, there are a few cases that are specially designed to keep phones warm. Makers include ClimateCase, Burton Antifreeze and Salt Cases.

ClimateCase uses insulated neoprene to keep the cold out. It also comes with an extra pocket for storage and it’s machine washable. Burton’s case also uses insulation to keep phones warm and offers an extra pocket for cards or cash you may want on hand. Salt Cases are insulated against the cold, but use more traditional phone case style that can be kept on during use. They also have laptop and tablet designs.

Wait to charge your phone

While most performance issues related to cold weather are temporary, Apple warns that charging iOS devices in extreme temperatures can damage the devices further.

Turn your phone off

iPhones, iPads, iPods and Apple Watches all have a working temperature range of about 32 to 95 degrees. However, when not in use the safe range increases to -4 to 113 degrees.


Acer’s Chromebook 11 brings USB-C charging to entry-level laptops

Acer’s hiding a quiet revolution in its mainstream Chromebook 11: two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) Type-C ports, which work for connectivity and for charging. Don’t run in a panic to the dongle store—you still get two USB 3.0 Type-A ports (whew!). But USB-C has remained rare in entry-level machines like the Chromebook 11. This tells us the tide is turning, and all the benefits of USB-C will soon be available even at budget levels.

Chromebook 11 specs and features

The Chromebook 11 CB311-8HT and CB311-8H, announced Saturday at CES and due to ship in April, otherwise represent a simple refresh of the company’s longstanding and popular product line. The pricing will start at $249. Here are the specs and features we know.

CPU: Intel Celeron (part numbers were not specified)

RAM: 4GB is the only amount offered.

Display: 11.6-inch, 1366×768 IPS in touch (CB311-8HT) or non-touch (CB311-8H)

Storage: 16GB or 32GB eMMC

HDR webcam (high dynamic range, which should deliver better image quality) with integrated microphone

Connectivity:

  • Ÿ Two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C ports
  • Ÿ Two USB 3.0 Type-A ports
  • Ÿ One microSD card reader

Weight: 2.43 pounds

Thickness: 0.71 inch (no other dimensions were provided)

Battery life: Up to 10 hours

As with other recent Chromebooks, the Chromebook 11 supports the Google Play Store, so you get access to all the Android apps you could possibly want. Google’s still working on making these apps more Chromebook-friendly, but their simple availability has increased the usefulness of Chromebooks beyond education and basic web browsing.

Acer’s Chromebook 11 is so mainstream you might overlook it. This year, with Android app support and especially USB-C, it’s a sign that the average computing experience is moving forward—but gently, so you’re not shut out of your precious USB-A peripherals  just yet.


Not us! Android makers say they never slow phones over battery problems

Android phone makers are responding to Apple’s recent public relations nightmare, after it was revealed the company slowed older iPhone models down to compensate for aging batteries, and to avoid any problems that may occur due to them. Samsung, LG, HTC, and Motorola have all made statements saying they do not use similar tactics.

Motorola does not throttle processors inside its phones when the battery gets old, the company told The Verge, while HTC said something very similar. LG was even more forthcoming, saying it never has, and never will slow down processors inside its devices, because it, “cares what our customers think.”

Samsung issued a longer statement, saying that in addition to not slowing processors over time, it uses software and built-in safety features to “govern the battery-charging current and charging duration.” This suggests Samsung prefers to manage the battery as it starts to age, rather than temper the processor to reduce strain. We have contacted Huawei and OnePlus for comment, and will update when both respond.

While many will be pleased their Android phones won’t hit an artificial speed limit in the future, this doesn’t mean Android phones are immune to problems. The iPhone uses the same battery technology as every Android phone — therefore it degrades in the same way — and replacing the battery inside almost all flagship Android phones today is an equally awkward process, as well.

Reports of long-term system slowdown for Android phones aren’t rare either, and are usually caused by lack of storage space, memory fragmentation, or other system issues. Huawei is one company that has acknowledged this, and the company has made it very clear how it addresses the problem. Introduced in EMUI 5.0, it used machine learning to understand how you use your phone, then allocate resources intelligently to speed things up, along with new processes to manage memory. It promises EMUI 5 and above-equipped phones will remain fast even after 18 months of use.

Apple has responded to criticism by lowering the price of a replacement battery for the iPhone, which resolves any device throttling. Apple also went into detail about why it implemented these measures in the first place.


All the Sensors in Your Smartphone, and How They Work

Your smartphone is a remarkable feat of engineering. It’s half a dozen or more gadgets packed into a single slab. Much of it’s coolest feats are accomplished with a wide range of sensors — but what are they and what do they all actually do?

How does your phone count your steps and replace your fitness tracker? Does GPS use up your data? Which sensors should you make sure are in your next handset?

Here’s all you need to know.

Accelerometer

Accelerometers handle axis-based motion sensing and can be found in fitness trackers as well as phones—they’re the reason why your smartphone can track your steps even if you haven’t bought a separate wearable.

They also tell the phone’s software which way the handset is pointing, something that’s becoming increasingly important with the arrival of augmented reality apps.

As the name kind of gives away, accelerometers measure acceleration, so the map inside Snapchat can put a cute toy car around your bitmoji when you’re driving, plus a host of other actually useful applications.

The sensor is itself made up of other sensors, including microscopic crystal structures that become stressed due to accelerative forces. The accelerometer then interprets the voltage coming from the crystals to figure out how fast your phone is moving and which direction it’s pointing in.

From switching apps from portrait to landscape, to showing your current speed in a driving app, the accelerometer is one of your phone’s most important sensors.

Gyroscope

The gyroscope helps the accelerometer out with understanding which way your phone is orientated— it adds another level of precision so those 360-degree photo spheres really look as impressive as possible.

Whenever you play a racing game on your phone and tilt the screen to steer, the gyroscope rather than the accelerometer is sensing what you’re doing, because you’re only applying small turns to the phone and not actually moving through space.

Gyroscopes aren’t exclusive to phones. They’re used in altimeters inside aircraft to determine altitude and position, for example, and to keep cameras steady on the move.

The gyroscopes inside phones don’t use wheels and gimbals like the traditional mechanical ones you might find in an old plane—instead they’re MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) gyroscopes, a smaller version of the concept embedded on an electronics board so it can fit inside a phone.

The first time MEMS gyroscopes really hit it big was with the iPhone 4 in 2010. Back then, it was incredibly novel to have a phone that could detect orientation with such accuracy—nowadays, we take it for granted.

Magnetometer

Completing the triumvirate of sensors responsible for working out where a phone is in physical space is the magnetometer. Again the name gives it away—it measures magnetic fields and can thus tell you which way is north by varying its voltage output to the phone.

When you go in and out of compass mode in Apple Maps or Google Maps, that’s the magnetometer kicking in to work out which way up the map should be. It also powers standalone compass apps.

Magnetometers are found in metal detectors as well, as they can detect magnetic metals, which is why you can get metal detector apps for your smartphone.

However, the sensor doesn’t work alone for its primary purpose, which is inside mapping apps—it operates in tandem with the data coming from the phone’s accelerometer and GPS unit to figure out whereabouts you are in the world, and which way you’re pointing (very handy for those detailed navigation routes).

GPS

Ah, GPS—Global Positioning System technology—where would we be without you? Probably in a remote, muddy field, cursing the day we ditched our paper maps for the electronic equivalents.

GPS units inside phones gets a ping from a satellite up in space to figure out which part of the planet you’re standing on (or driving through). They don’t actually use any of your phone’s data, which is why you can still see your location when your phone has lost signal, even if the map tiles themselves are a blurry, low-res mess.

In fact, it connects with multiple satellites then calculates where you are based on the angles of intersection. If no satellites can be found—you’re indoors or the cloud cover is heavy—then you won’t be able to get a lock.

And while GPS doesn’t use up data, all this communicating and calculating can be a drain on your battery, which is why most battery-saving guides recommend switching GPS off. Smaller gadgets like most smartwatches don’t include it for the same reason.

GPS isn’t the only way your phone can work out where it is—distance to cell towers can also be used as a rough approximation, as Serial taught us—but if you’ve got some serious navigating to do then it’s essential. Modern-day GPS units inside smartphones actually combine GPS signals with other data, like cell signal strength, to get more accurate location readings.

The best of the rest

You’ve got plenty more sensors in your handset, though they’re perhaps not all as important as the four we’ve just mentioned. Many phones, including the iPhone, have a barometer that measures air pressure: it’s useful for everything from detecting weather changes to calculating the altitude you’re at.

The proximity sensor usually sits up near the top speaker and combines an infrared LED and light detector to work out when you have the phone up to your ear, so that screen can be switched off. The sensor emits a beam of light that gets bounced back, though it’s invisible to the human eye.

Meanwhile the ambient light sensor does exactly what you would expect, taking a measuring of the light in the room and adjusting your screen’s brightness accordingly (if indeed it’s set to auto-adjust).

Like the rest of the tech packed inside your handset, these sensors are getting smaller, smarter, and less power-hungry all the time, so just because phones five years apart both have GPS doesn’t mean they’re both going to be as accurate. Add in software tweaks and optimizations too and it’s more reason to upgrade your handset on a regular basis, even if you’ll almost never see these sensors listed on a specs sheet.


6 ways to improve your laptop’s battery life on Windows 10

Don’t let your portable PC run out of power. Follow these tips and you’ll get a lot more battery life out of your Windows 10 machine.

Battery life is always a crucial part of any PC, whether it’s old or brand new.

We’ve already explained some techniques to preserve power on Windows 7 but what about Microsoft’s latest addition Windows 10? Thankfully if you’re using the new operating system, there are a number of simple tips that will help you save on power so you can continue using your PC that little bit longer. Watch the video below to see some of the tips in action and follow our guide for more details.

Tip 1: Turn off wi-fi and Bluetooth

Windows 10’s new Action Center makes it easier to switch off connectivity options such as wi-fi and Bluetooth which can drain battery life.

If you don’t need or Bluetooth on all the time, go to the Action Center by clicking the small square icon near the time in the bottom right, and click on Bluetooth to deactivate them so that they’re no longer lit. Older machines may not have Bluetooth, in which case you won’t see that option.

Wi-fi is usually used a lot of the time, but if you don’t need to be online for a while (perhaps if you’re writing a letter using a word processor) you can always click the Wi-fi icon to turn it off, which will save some battery as well.

Alternatively, if you want to switch all connectivity options off for a certain period of time, click Airplane mode and it’ll cut off all connections for you. When you want them back, simply click Airplane mode again.

Tip 2: Turn on Battery Saver

For laptops that aren’t plugged in to a power source, Windows 10’s new Battery Saver is a great way to preserve some of your machine’s juice.

Battery Saver does what its name suggests by reducing screen brightness, stopping push notifications and preventing apps from running in in the background.

Battery Saver is automatically set to kick in whenever your battery falls below 20%, but you can switch it on at any time (if mains power is not connected) from the Action Center.

You can also set Battery Saver to start automatically a bit earlier or later too, by going into the settings menu. Simply search for ‘Battery’ in Cortana and select Change battery saver settings at the bottom.

From here you can adjust the point at which Battery Saver will kick in by moving the scrolling bar.

Tip 3: Turn the sound down

Your PC’s speakers use up a decent amount of power, so turning them down even a little bit could help save some of your battery’s life.

Headphones also use less battery than speakers, so if you can opt for a pair instead, all the better.

Tip 4: Turn screen brightness down

The brightness of your screen is another big battery sucker. You can turn it down a notch or two by searching for ‘Brightness’ in Cortana and clicking on Display settings.

Under ‘Adjust brightness level’, move the scrolling bar down – but make sure it’s still bright enough to use.

Tip 5: Adjust power and sleep settings

Leaving your PC idle is a waste of battery, so make sure you’ve got the best screen and sleep options set-up.

Search ‘Power’ in Cortana and select Power & sleep settings.

Here, you can adjust how long your PC should wait before the screen dims or goes into sleep mode. Select a suitable time that you’re comfortable with from each drop down box.

Tip 6: Unplug any peripherals you’re not using

Got a USB stick plugged in all day but not using it? Remove it! Even if you’re not actively using it yourself, your PC will still be powering it.