Microsoft Says Windows 7 Battery Issues Are Batteries' Fault

Microsoft claims its engineers have been exploring complaints of poor battery life for some laptops running Windows 7, and that in every case the operating system is not at fault. Instead, Windows 7 had correctly evaluated via a new feature that those users' batteries were failing, Microsoft said in a Feb. 8 blog posting. However, posts on Microsoft Watch, TechNet and other discussion forums seem to suggest that at least a percentage of users experiencing these issues also had batteries that were either new or nearly new, which in turn is raising further questions.

Microsoft's engineers have been exploring the alleged battery-life issues associated with Windows 7 running on laptops, and report that the operating system is not causing those batteries to prematurely fail. In every case, claimed an official Microsoft blog posting on Feb. 8, Windows 7 correctly evaluated that the battery in question was on the threshold was failing, and posted a message to that effect.

However, this contrasts with the experiences of certain online commenters, who have claimed to experience power issues even with new or nearly new laptop batteries.

"Every single indication we have regarding the reports we've seen are simply Windows 7 reporting the state of the battery using this new feature and we're simply seeing batteries that are not performing above the designated threshold," read that Feb. 8 posting on the Engineering Windows 7 blog. "It should stand to reason that some customers would be surprised to see this warning after upgrading a PC that was previously operating fine. Essentially the battery was degrading but it was not evident to the customer until Windows 7 made this information available."

Apparently, Windows 7 monitors the integrity of the laptop's battery and sets a threshold of 60 percent degradation for displaying the "change battery" warning, a new feature to the Windows franchise. Microsoft asserted it has been unable to "identify ... reproducible cases" where new or nearly new batteries spontaneously failed while powering laptops with Windows 7, a situation reported by some readers of Microsoft Watch.

Microsoft had announced at several points over the last week that it was investigating those users' complaints associated with the battery life of laptops running Windows 7, which seemed primarily to affect the systems of users upgrading to Windows 7 from either Windows Vista or Windows XP. In some cases, it seemed as if the upgrade shortened their device's battery life to as short as 15 minutes.

"Microsoft has been made aware that some computers running Windows 7 receive a warning that the battery needs to be replaced when the battery is new or in good health," a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK in a Feb. 3 e-mail. "In conjunction with our hardware partners, we are investigating this issue."

The Feb. 8 posting on the Engineering Windows 7 blog suggested that OEM engineers had concurred with Microsoft on the issue: "Our OEM partners have utilized their telemetry (call center, support forums, etc.) and have let us know that they are seeing no activity beyond what they expect. It is worth noting that PC manufacturers work through battery issues with customers and have a clear view of what is to be expected both in general and with respect to specific models, timelines and batteries."

However, eWEEK's separate conversations with OEMs made it seem as if the investigation was still ongoing.

"Some of our customers running Windows 7 have reported different battery run times depending on their model, usage, PC settings and more," a Lenovo spokesperson told eWEEK in a Feb. 8 e-mail. "We are working with Microsoft to investigate this."

On the Microsoft Watch discussion forum, a commenter claiming to be from the Microsoft Windows Client Team wrote in a Feb. 8 posting that the battery-life issue "appears to be related to system firmware." That post came hours before Microsoft's official blog posting.