How Can I Run My Laptop in the Car?

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Laptop computers are designed for portability, and that makes them almost perfect for use in a car. Whether for business use or running a GPS software program, a laptop is a natural for mobile use. On the other hand, laptop batteries seldom hold a charge for more than a couple of hours. This can be a problem for users who are in the car for extended periods. Fortunately, solutions to the problem exist.

Best Solution

  • A DC power converter is the best option for powering your laptop in a car. These units convert the 12-volt DC supplied by your car's electrical system to the voltage required by your computer. To use an adapter, you simply plug one end in to the car's DC power outlet or cigarette lighter and attach the other end to the laptop's power connector. DC adapters draw less power from the car battery than does an inverter/AC adapter setup.
    To order a DC adapter, you must specify the brand and model of your laptop. As of January 2010, prices for these units ranged from around $40 to more than $150.

Alternatives

  • An inverter is a more common but less efficient means of powering your laptop in your car. These units plug in to the DC outlet or cigarette lighter and convert the 12-volt DC current in your car to 110-volt power. The AC adapter supplied with your laptop for home use simply plugs in to the AC receptacle on the inverter the same as it would the receptacle in the wall of your home. A 75- or 100-watt inverter will power any laptop well. As of January 2010, they cost about $28 on average. This method is less efficient because the inverter and AC adapter draw more power from your car than the DC adapter alone.
    Of course, another alternative is simply to carry a spare battery for your laptop. While this would double the amount of time your laptop will run, it isn't cost-effective, especially when one considers that the total running time available would still be only about half a workday.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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