What you need to know before upgrading to Windows 8.1

October 19, 2013 By | Add a Comment

Windows 8.1 is now officially released and you may be considering to upgrade your laptop's operating system. This article explains what you need to know before you upgrade to Windows 8.1 so that you will not lose the battery life.

Screen shot: Windows 8.1 setup options

Why upgrade affects battery life?

The primary reason why you lose battery life after upgrade is the power saving features, which was working before the upgrade, is not working after the upgrade. This usually happens because the device drivers installed during upgrade is not power-optimized.

So, let's look at how the device drivers are configured during upgrade. There are two cases depending on how you upgrade. [Note 1]

  • Upgrade from Windows 8 using Windows Store (free upgrade)
  • Upgrade from Windows 8 using upgrade DVD and select “Keep Windows settings, personal files, and apps” option

    In these cases, Windows 8.1 will use the device drivers installed to Windows 8 unless there is any known compatibility issue with the device driver.

    If you are going to take this path, you don't need to worry too much. You should be able to get similar battery life after upgrade.

  • Upgrade from Windows 8 using upgrade DVD and select “Keep personal files only” or “Nothing” option
  • Upgrade from Windows 7 or older operating system using upgrade DVD

    In these cases, upgrade program will create clean Windows 8.1 operating system image. The device drivers installed to the original operating system will not be used by Windows 8.1. Instead, the device drivers included in the DVD will be installed.

    Windows 8.1 upgrade DVD includes variety of device drivers and devices look working fine with them, and when you open device manager, you don't see “yellow bangs”. However, they may not be well power managed. To ensure best battery life, you need to re-install optimal device drivers after the upgrade.

Which device needs to be re-installed?

Following is the list of the devices that usually require optimized device driver for better battery life.

  • Display (graphics) adapter
  • USB device (such as Bluetooth, Fingerprint, Mouse/Keyboard)
  • Network adapter (WiFi, LAN)
  • Audio
  • Storage controller (SATA/AHCI)

On the other hand, you don't need to re-install device drivers for the following devices. The device drivers included in the upgrade DVD will optimally control them.

  • USB (USB 2.0/EHCI, USB 3.0/XHCI) host controller
  • USB hub

Where to find the best device drivers?

  1. PC manufacturer's support site

    The first place to look for the optimal device driver is the PC manufacturer of your laptop. Although most device drivers are developed by the chip manufacturers (such as Intel, AMD, NVIDIA ...), not by the PC manufacturers (HP, Dell, ...), PC manufacturers may make some tweaking for their laptops. Therefore, they are usually the best source of the device drivers.

  2. Chip manufacturer's support site

    If your laptop is old and the PC manufacturer does not provide Windows 8 device drivers for your laptop, the next best place to look for the device driver is chip manufacturer's web site. If you don't know which company it is, you can use Device Manager to determine that (You should check this before you start upgrade). Usually, device name includes manufacturer's name.

Who should NOT upgrade

Before you start the upgrade or pay for the upgrade DVD, please go to the manufacturers' web sites and check if the necessary device drivers are available. If critical device driver, such as graphics adapter device driver, is not available, you may want to stay with current operating system.

If battery life get shorter after upgrading to Windows 8.1

Installing the right device drivers is the first step to create battery life optimized laptop, but it's not everything. Unfortunately there are many other reasons why power saving features stop working and it's impossible to describe all possibilities in this article. If you notice your laptop's battery life is much shorter after the upgrade, please try Battery Life Maximizer. It will, not only check if optimized device driver is installed, but checks if power saving features are actually working for each devices and if not, give you actionable recommendation to fix the problem.

When you use Battery Life Maximizer, please keep in mind that it may take up to 30 minutes in battery mode to complete the analysis. [Note 2].

Other resources


Notes

  1. This does not apply if you are using Volume License or Enterprise edition (which are usually used in large corporate environment) of Windows 8.
  2. This is because:
    1. Battery Life Maximizer checks if each device's power saving features are actually working or not, and
    2. Power saving features usually does not kick in when the laptop is AC powered. It often takes long time and Battery Life Maximizer needs to wait long enough time to see that.

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