How to keep your devices charged during the PG&E power outage
If you're in an area of California scheduled to lose power, you can take some steps before and during the blackout to stretch your battery life.
Clifford ColbyManaging Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
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California's largest energy provider said it will continue cut power to customers across Northern and Central California this week because of heightened fire risk due to dry conditions and forecasts of high winds. PG&E's planned blackouts may affect as many as 850,000 customers across 36 Northern and Central California counties.
If you're in an area of California scheduled to lose power -- or want to ensure you're ready if the power does go out -- you can take a handful of steps now to help your electronic devices last as long as possible during the outage.
If the utility's page is unavailable, you can find other maps that can give you an idea if you're in a power outage area.
Charge up before the power goes out
The goal is to go into the power outage with all your mobile devices and portable energy sources topped off.
If you have a portable power bank, make sure you've charged it up before the power goes out. A power bank won't get you through a week of uninterrupted power, but you may be able to get through several days if you turn on your phone to get updates then power it down again. And limit how often you check your phone: Each time you turn it on, you're draining the battery.
If you don't have a power bank or solar charger, you still may have a source of power. You can use the battery in a laptop -- either your current one or an older laptop you've retired -- to power your phone during the blackout. You'll need to find the right cables to make the connection, but you should be able to squeeze a few days of power for your phone. And if you're in a group with multiple phones, consider having the group use just one shared phone at a time instead of having everyone's phone turned on at once.
Conserve your phone's battery
To help your phone battery last as long as possible, you can take a few steps to nurse it through the outage.
Next, turn off push notifications and avoid streaming services, which take a hit on a battery. And dim your display: Bright screens are great, but they draw a lot of power.
See if your phone has a battery-saver mode you can turn on in settings that will restrict high-power activities.
If you don't want to shut off your phone, you can switch to airplane mode, which turns off all the power-draining radios. Then if you want to make a call or send a message, take it out of airplane mode. And consider sending quick text messages instead of making phone calls, which can drag on and drain a battery.