Laptop Only Works When Plugged In (Why & How to Fix it)

Published by Nyau Wai Hoe - Updated on

A laptop that only turns on or functions when plugged in to a power source defeats the purpose of its design: portability. If you’re grappling with this problem, it can be both frustrating and limiting. Whether you are using a Dell, Asus, HP, Acer, Lenovo, MSI, or Toshiba laptop, or running Windows 11 or Windows 10, this issue can arise regardless of your laptop’s brand or OS. It’s a common challenge that usually points to specific underlying causes. In this guide, we’ll look into the primary reasons behind this predicament, offering diagnostic techniques and solutions to potentially resolve the issue and enable your laptop to work on battery again.

Also see: Laptop Battery “Plugged in, not charging” in Windows 10/11

Laptop Only Works When Plugged In

Why does my laptop only work when plugged in?

Before jumping into the solutions, it’s essential to understand the common reasons why a laptop might only work when plugged in, even with the battery inserted.:

1. Battery health

The most common culprit is a deteriorating battery. Over time, and with repeated charge-discharge cycles, a laptop battery can lose its capacity and efficiency. If the battery’s health has degraded beyond a certain point, the laptop might not have enough power to run without being continuously connected to a charger.

Laptop won't run on battery

2. Software issues

This primarily involves power management settings. Both Windows 10 and Windows 11 come with advanced power-saving features. Sometimes, incorrect configurations or updates can lead to issues where the laptop switches off the moment it’s unplugged.

Linked issue: Gaming Laptop FPS Drops Randomly, Plugged in or Not

3. Hardware glitches

Apart from the battery itself, other hardware components, like the motherboard or charging circuit, might be malfunctioning. This is less common but can cause the laptop to be entirely dependent on a direct power source.

Laptop Motherboard Battery Malfunction

4. Power Cord Issues

A damaged or malfunctioning power cord can be a silent saboteur. If the power cord doesn’t deliver the necessary current or voltage properly due to wear and tear or internal damages, it might not charge the battery correctly. The laptop might work while plugged in, but the battery doesn’t gain any charge, leading to the impression that the laptop can’t function without being plugged in.

5. Firmware or BIOS issues

The laptop’s BIOS or firmware might have settings or glitches that prevent the laptop from recognizing or utilizing the battery power efficiently. A simple update or reset might be the solution in such cases.

6. External factors

Extreme temperatures, either too hot or too cold, can affect battery performance. Using your laptop in suitable environments is crucial for its longevity and performance.

Relevant resource: Why is my CPU Overheating and How to Fix it

How to fix a laptop that only works when plugged in?

When your laptop won’t turn on or function properly unless plugged in, it can be due to a variety of reasons. Here are general steps and solutions that can aid in troubleshooting and potentially fixing the problem.

1. Power management settings

  • Windows Settings: Navigate to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options. Ensure that your laptop is set to a “Balanced” power plan. Adjusting the plan settings can sometimes resolve issues.Laptop won't turn on unless plugged in
  • Driver update: Under Device Manager, expand the “Batteries” section. Right-click on “Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery” and select “Update driver”.Update Laptop Battery Driver Windows 11 10

2. Battery calibration

Regardless of brand, battery calibration can be beneficial:

  • Fully charge your laptop to 100%.
  • Let it discharge naturally without the charger until it’s about 5% or shuts down.
  • Recharge it to 100% without interruption.

Charge laptop battery to 100

3. External check

  • Inspect the power cord and charger for any visible damages, bends, or frays. A damaged power cord can impede the laptop’s ability to charge the battery correctly.
  • If you can (and it’s safe to do so), try using a different charger that’s compatible with your laptop to rule out charger-specific issues.

Laptop charger power cord

4. BIOS/Firmware update

Visit the official website of your laptop’s manufacturer and navigate to the support or downloads section. Input your laptop model to check for any available BIOS or firmware updates. Ensure your laptop’s battery is charged, or the laptop is plugged in when updating the BIOS. Note: Updating the BIOS carries inherent risks. An interrupted or unsuccessful update can potentially render your laptop unusable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions meticulously and ensure that your laptop is connected to a stable power source throughout the update process. If you’re unsure or hesitant about the process, it’s strongly recommended to seek professional assistance.

5. Static discharge

A general solution for many laptops:

  • Turn off the laptop.
  • Disconnect the charger and remove the battery (if your model allows for it).
  • Hold down the power button for about 60 seconds.
  • Reconnect everything and power on.

Related concern: Firefox or Chrome Battery Drain on Windows, Mac, Android or iOS

6. Consider battery replacement

Each laptop brand may have its nuances and unique features. Below are some brand-specific troubleshooting steps tailored for some of the most popular manufacturers, if your laptop only works when plugged in.

Replace laptop battery if laptop only run when plugged in

Brand-specific solutions

Each laptop brand may have its nuances and unique features. Below are some brand-specific troubleshooting steps tailored for some of the most popular manufacturers, if your laptop only works when plugged in.

Dell laptop

  • Battery health check: Many Dell laptops come with a built-in battery health check feature within the BIOS. To access this, first turn off the laptop. As you power it back on, repeatedly press the F2 or F12 keys when you see the Dell logo on the startup screen. This action will boot your laptop into the BIOS. Once inside, navigate to the “Battery Information”‘ section.
  • BIOS update: Visit the official Dell website, input your model number, and check for the latest BIOS updates. Ensure you install any available updates. Note: Updating the BIOS comes with inherent risks. If the update is interrupted or unsuccessful, it has the potential to make your laptop inoperable. If you’re uncertain or hesitant about the procedure, it’s highly advised to seek expert help.

Dell laptop won't run on Battery

Asus laptop

  • Battery calibration: Asus often recommends calibrating the battery. Fully charge the laptop, then let it discharge to around 5%, and charge it fully again.
  • Power management reset: Navigate to Device Manager, find “Batteries” and right-click to uninstall the “Microsoft ACPI Compliant Control Method Battery”. Restart your laptop to reset power management.

HP laptop

  • HP Support Assistant: This tool, available on most HP laptops, can check battery health and recommend solutions.
  • Hard reset: Turn off the laptop. Disconnect any peripherals and the charger. Hold the power button for 15 seconds and then reconnect everything. This can resolve minor hardware glitches.

HP laptop won't turn on unless plugged in

Acer laptop

  • Battery reset pinhole: Some Acer models have a battery reset pinhole. Using a paperclip, press and hold for 5 seconds. This can resolve battery recognition issues.
  • Power plan: Ensure you’re on the “Balanced” power plan via Control Panel > Power Options.

Acer laptop only works when plugged in

Lenovo laptop

  • Vantage tool: Lenovo’s Vantage software can diagnose battery and hardware issues.
  • Lenovo Energy Management: Available on older models, this tool can optimize battery settings.

Laptop only works when plugged in Lenovo

MSI laptop

  • MSI Dragon Center: Use this software to check the battery’s health and calibrate it.
  • EC firmware reset: Some power issues are resolved by resetting the EC (Embedded Controller) firmware. Check MSI’s official site for instructions specific to your model.

MSI Dragon Center to check battery health

Toshiba

  • Toshiba PC Health Monitor: This tool can evaluate the battery’s health and indicate if a replacement is needed.
  • Static Discharge: Turn off the laptop, remove the battery (if possible), disconnect the charger, and hold the power button for 60 seconds. Reconnect everything and power on.

Toshiba laptop won't work on battery

Remember, if the issue persists after trying the brand-specific solutions, it might be time to consult with the official customer service of the respective brand or consider visiting an authorized service center.

Handy guide: How to Keep Laptop On When Closed in Windows 11

Summary

In the vast majority of cases, a laptop that only operates when plugged in can be attributed to a faulty or aged battery. Batteries, like all components, have a finite lifespan, and their efficiency declines with repeated charge-discharge cycles. For users facing this issue, especially if the laptop is a few years old, considering a battery replacement is a practical and often effective solution.

If your device is still under warranty, it’s wise to reach out to the manufacturer or the place of purchase. They can provide guidance, and potentially offer a battery replacement or other remedies under the warranty terms. Ultimately, addressing the battery situation can breathe new life into your laptop, restoring its portability and ensuring you get the most out of your device.


Nyau Wai Hoe
Nyau Wai Hoe is the Founder and Chief Editor of WindowsDigitals.com. With a degree in software engineering and over 12 years of experience in the tech support industry, Nyau has established himself as an expert in the field, with a primary focus on the Microsoft Windows operating system. As a tech enthusiast, he loves exploring new technologies and leveraging them to solve real-life problems.

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