Mysterious battery light behaviour...
December 9, 2007 8:52 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend has a Dell Inspiron, and the battery light won't stop flashing.

Last night, my girlfriend and I were watching a movie on her Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop computer. The battery was almost dead-- the orange light was flashing-- so we plugged it in. However, since then, the light won't stop flashing, except when the battery is removed, or it is run down. The computer still runs fine, with and without the power supply plugged in. Aside from the flashing, the computer seems to be working, but she's understandably nervous that something is going to go on it and she'll lose all her data. We're trying to figure out what the matter is. The flash pattern is identical to what is described here-- one green, then four orange. I thought I'd ask, though, as there didn't seem to be any conclusion reached on the previous thread, and thought it was worth another shot.

The battery is a little over a year old-- it was replaced on the "exploding battery" recall last year. Is it toast, or is there something else going on? I would have thought it would last longer than that.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
posted by synecdoche to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just had this problem (Inspiron 5150), and the final resolution after talking to Dell was to buy a new battery. It has much better capacity now. Dell said that the life of the battery was almost over, and I noticed decreasing life over time. The very short time you've had it is puzzling though, and I'd call Dell in case the battery is somehow still under warranty. (Batteries may have a short warranty though.)
posted by ALongDecember at 9:04 PM on December 9, 2007

My Dell Precision laptop did this right as the battery went completely dead. How's the life on that battery?
posted by chrisamiller at 9:08 PM on December 9, 2007

Yeah, if the battery is still under warranty, go through the hassle of replacing it.

Otherwise, have you tried taking it out (while the computer is powered down) and re-seating it?

I had a similar problem with my Thinkpad - shutting down the computer, popping the battery out, checking the contacts, replacing the battery (making sure it's seated properly) and making sure it (the battery) doesn't wiggle solved my problem.
posted by porpoise at 9:08 PM on December 9, 2007

The one green/four orange pattern is the code for an overheat. Given that the battery is only a year old I'm suspicious of whether the correct code is being reported--it may simply be that the battery is worn out and can no longer hold a charge.

You can try to condition it by completely depleting it and then recharging several times, but you'll likely need a new battery.
posted by aerotive at 9:14 PM on December 9, 2007

Response by poster: We've tried re-seating the battery. Recently there has been a sharp dip in the battery life, but it is still good for an hour.
posted by synecdoche at 9:19 PM on December 9, 2007

The standard batteries on my Inspiron 600m only take around 300 full charge/discharge cycles before they're useless, so I keep my pluggen in when possible. Is she in the habit of running her's all the way down and then recharging?
posted by dws at 9:22 PM on December 9, 2007

Yeah once those dell batteries die, they die, at least from what I've seen. I'd give Dell a call though.
posted by whoaali at 10:00 PM on December 9, 2007

electrical tape is a good way of "shutting it off" until you find a real fix.
posted by nitsuj at 10:14 PM on December 9, 2007

Answer: Dell batteries suck. They die just days after going off warranty (one year). Dell tells me that there is no way of making the battery last longer, and no battery I can buy that will last longer than this.
posted by rhoticity at 10:37 PM on December 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks. dws: she says that describes her usage to a tee.

We've also found this message board thread and this Dell support page that suggest that the light points to "temporary battery failure"-- can anybody translate that?

Thanks everyone for your feedback so far.
posted by synecdoche at 5:51 AM on December 10, 2007

my advice would be to drop your battery or otherwise innocuously disable it before the warranty is up. It's about as honest as Dell is regarding battery life.
posted by mezamashii at 5:56 AM on December 10, 2007

Is the battery impacted by the battery recall? My work laptop used to inexplicably flash orange until I got a replacement battery from the recall.
posted by at 6:03 AM on December 10, 2007

Since you cited my question, though I'd chime in. My power jack died very shortly after that, basically killing the whole computer. I had to send it out to get a new power jack on it, which didn't make the flashing lights stop, and then less than a year after, it happened again and I had to dump the Dell and got a MacBook instead. So if it isn't overheating, I'm afraid your gf laptop might be going south quickly, back up the data now.
posted by JonahBlack at 7:30 AM on December 10, 2007

I'm assuming windows XP.
Control Panel.
Power options. (may be under "performance and maintenance").
Then click on the "alarms" tab and check the settings.

It's entirely possible that the flashing light is just a low battery alarm (perhaps your alarm is set to go off at 50% or something...) .
Also, you can disable both alarms temporarily and let the battery drain all the way, which (according to popular belief) should allow its internal battery gauge to recalibrate.

On a side note, draining the batteries all the way on a frequent basis seems to accelerate the deterioration of their ability to hold a charge.
Leaving a battery fully discharged for a long period of time can also damage it... so can heat.
posted by itheearl at 2:35 PM on December 10, 2007

I would recommend that your girlfriend would take this as a sign that she needs to start backing up her data.
If the data is worth worrying about, it's worth backing up. Twice.
posted by itheearl at 5:58 PM on December 10, 2007

If there is a button and an LED strip on battery you can press it and the led's will flash an error code. Unfortunately, the chances of you figuring out what the error code means is going to be tough because dell does not make that public knowledge.

Chances are though its that your battery is dead. My other dell has had a toasted battery for more than six months now. Basically I only have about 30 minutes of battery time. Either stick it out or buy a new battery.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 7:39 AM on December 11, 2007

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