15 Zune Battery Tips

I'm pretty sure Metallica was NOT thinking about the Zune battery when they wrote...

Smashing through the boundaries
Lunacy has found me
Cannot stop the Battery!
Pounding out agression
Turns into obsession
Cannot kill the Battery!

- Metallica, Master of Puppets

But follow these tips and soon you'll be using these words to describe the battery in your Zune!

The Zune comes with a lithium-ion battery, similar to the one in the iPod or a laptop computer.

By its very nature it cannot live forever. No matter what you do, including not using it at all. *Gasp!*

A lithium-ion battery has a lifespan of 2-4 years depending on usage patterns and how well you care for it.

After that you'll have to either replace the battery or get a new Zune. The Zune does not officially support replacing the battery (plus it costs money) so it's a good idea to try and keep your battery running for as long as possible.

The battery is dead.

Cartoon courtesy of Spike Bakker - Holland-based cartoonist, gothic model photographer and musician. Find more of his great cartoons here. Also, check out his metal band "Dawn of Time". This guy has too many good things going for him. Did I mention he has long hair too? I'm jealous!

As you can see, a dead battery is not a pretty sight!

The tips on this page will help make sure your Zune lives a long and healthy life. You might get a laugh or two as well which can't hurt you either.

IMPORTANT: Most of these tips will degrade your Zune experience. Unfortunately, the only way to improve battery life is to do less with your Zune.

Please keep in mind that you don't have to follow all of these tips, or even any of them. It's more important to have fun! So follow whichever tips you can stomach without feeling sick and feel free to ditch the rest.

It's your Zune. Don't let anyone else tell you the "right way" to use it!

  1. Run the latest firmware

    This is pretty much a no-brainer. And it will actually enhance your Zune experience.

    Zune engineers are constantly trying to improve battery life. Many times a single bug fix can result in a significant improvement in Zune battery life.

    So do yourself a favor. The next time your Zune software says a newer version of the firmware is available - PLEASE install it.

  2. Keep wireless turned OFF

    Microsoft claims this should not make a difference unless you are actually using it.

    But user experience seems to prove otherwise. Keep your wireless turned off unless you are trying to share music with another Zune user.

    This will limit your "social" experience but will make your Zune battery last longer. Suck it up. Life is full of tough choices.

    NOTE: Turn wireless off by going to settings -> wireless -> off.

  3. Reduce screen brightness

    The screen brightness default is set to medium. If you reduce this to low, it will improve your Zune battery life.

    NOTE: Change screen brightness by going to settings -> display -> brightness -> low

  4. Reduce backlight duration

    The backlight default is set to 15 seconds. You actually have several choices here: 1 second, 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute and always on.

    The lower you set your backlight duration, the better Zune battery life you'll get. I changed mine to 5 seconds.

    NOTE: Change backlight duration by going to settings -> display -> backlight -> 5 seconds.

  5. ACTUALLY turn off your Zune

    What? Of course, I turn off my Zune! You think I'm stupid?

    Are you sure?

    When you hold down the play/pause button you are not actually turning off your Zune. It just goes into a hibernate mode.

    This way, it can wake up fast when you press the play/pause button and also remember the song you were last playing.

    But did you know this low-power mode continues to drain your battery?

    Here's a trick to REALLY turn it off.

    Press the back button AND down button on the Zune pad at the same time.

    Next you time you press the play/pause button to start it up, you'll see the Zune actually boot up.

    NOTE: When you do this, you'll end up losing any state. The Zune won't remember where you left off.

    I personally don't like this one and don't use it. But I might use it when I'm on a long journey and need to conserve power. It's a good trick to know that might come in handy sometime.

  6. Make sure the radio is turned OFF

    If you are listening to the radio and press the play/pause button, you'll MUTE the radio. But you won't actually turn it OFF and it will continue to drain power.

    To REALLY turn the radio off, you will either need to briefly play a song/video or view a picture/slideshow.

    Weird! This tip alone is worth the price you paid for this article.

  7. Encode music and video at a lower bit rate

    This makes sense once you understand how the Zune works.

    The Zune fetches music from its hard disk into a memory cache in order for it to provide non-stop, skip-free music/video playback.

    The higher bit rate you use to encode your media, the more data it has to fetch from the hard disk and the more work you are making it do.

    Remember the cardinal rule? The more work you make your Zune do, the less the Zune battery will last.

    The Zune is optimized for 128 kbps encoded WMA files. So for best battery life, Microsoft recommends using 128 kbps WMA.

    Now here's something interesting...

    Did you know Microsoft's own Zune Marketplace uses 192 kbps WMA files? They don't follow their own recommendation!

    Of course, I'm not complaining. A higher bit rate equals better quality.

    Just thought it was funny, that's all!

  8. Avoid skipping songs

    Again, if you skip songs, you are making the Zune throw away data it has currently already fetched into its memory cache and go fetch more.

    It doesn't like playing fetch. After all, it's not a dog.

    Wasted Effort = Wasted Battery

    Instead, use custom playlists designed to your personal taste to keep you from having to skip songs.

    As a general rule, the less you interact with your Zune, the longer the Zune battery will last. Using the Play All and Shuffle All options can help you do this.

    Additionally make sure all playlists you design are LONG, at least one hour long. This will keep you from having to frequently fiddle with your Zune.

    Unless you are like me and have to keep waking your Zune up to find out the name of the song that's playing. Hey, I never said I was perfect!

    Do what you wish with this tip. The next time I get the Village People on my Zune, you know I'm heading straight for the skip button! The hell with battery life!

  9. Avoid playing games, especially free ones

    OUCH! That hurt!

    I knew you wouldn't like to hear one. But I'd by doing you a disservice by not listing it here. You don't HAVE to listen to me, you know! No need for violence!

    A game continuously keeps the display powered on. This is a HUGE drain on the Zune battery and is sure to have you heading for the nearest charging station soon.

    Why am I picking on free games?

    ALL games are bad. But free games are EVIL because they are usually written by hobbyists in their spare time. And they don't necessarily write code in a way that minimally uses battery.

    Best to avoid all games if you want to save Zune battery.

  10. Use your Zune regularly

    You already do this, right?

    Did you know that for optimal performance of a lithium-ion battery, you need to keep it's electrons shaking once in a while? Play some dance music so they can get in the groove.

    For best performance, make sure to have your Zune go through at least one full charging cycle a month. This means fully discharge it by using it until the Zune battery dies and then fully recharge it.

  11. Avoid frequent full-discharges

    In tip #10, I said you wanted to go through a full charging cycle each month.

    But if you completely discharge the battery several times a month, you decrease its life expectancy.

    With regular use it's best if you charge it frequently. For best results make sure the Zune battery is approximately 50% discharged before you recharge it.

    So, how do you know if the Zune battery is 50% discharged?

    You don't! Use your best judgement.

    And if thinking about all this gives you a headache, rest assured you are not alone. I don't do this either. Since I use the Zune car pack to listen to my Zune in the car, the battery usually remains charged.

  12. Keep it cool (but not THAT cool)

    For best performance, make sure to use and charge your Zune at room temperature. Your Zune battery does not like it HOT.

    If you are planning to leave your Zune - in your car - on a hot summer day - in the sun - BAD IDEA! I can't think of a better way to kill your battery.

    So who's room are we talking about? If you are an eskimo living inside an igloo, is that ok?

    The room temperature we mean is approximately 72 °F (22 °C). If you can get your igloo to be that warm, you are fine.

  13. Use the hold switch

    This one's a favorite of mine and I follow it religiously.

    I learnt my lesson the hard way when I was travelling one time and had my iPod (yes, that's not a typo) in my backpack. When I took it out to listen to music I noticed it was on and it's battery died a quick death shortly afterwards.

    You can imagine how my trip was ruined.

    Since then I ALWAYS activate the hold switch any time I'm not fiddling with any controls. I haven't had an accident since.

    This tip works with a Zune too.

  14. Don't have the same song back-to-back in a playlist

    No, this time I'm NOT trying to make you laugh!

    This is ACTUALLY recommended by Microsoft. I can't imagine why this would cause excessive fetching from the hard disk. The Zune already has the song in cache. Why does it have to go fetch it again? I would think this would improve Zune battery life!

    I never have the same song back-to-back in a playlist and can't really think of why I would want to do that. So I'm not worried about running into this one.

  15. Restart your Zune

    This one is even sillier than the last one. But I kid you not. Here is a direct quote from Microsoft support.

    "To make sure that your Zune device is operating reliably after extended usage, restart the Zune device."


    We all know that you have to reboot your Windows PC every so often, but having to reboot your Zune too?

    The only reason I'm throwing this in here is because you might find it cool to learn how to reboot your Zune.

    To do this, press and hold the back key AND the up key of the Zune pad at the same time. This will reboot your Zune!

Again, remember not to take these tips too seriously. If they are severely limiting your Zune experience, don't follow them!

Life is short. It's more important to have fun with your Zune than obsess over silly things like batteries.

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