Getting The Most Out of Your MacBook’s Battery

Computing technology is built upon 1s and 0s. The beauty of this is that everything related to your computer is surrounded by data, which can help you as a user to better understand and care for your device. Yes, this even applies to batteries, which seem as about as quirky as the weather sometimes. In this post I am going to give you a little insight about your Apple notebook’s battery, including how to make a warranty claim if yours isn’t performing up to spec.

It is important to note that a notebook battery’s performance is dependent on how you are using it. Your battery life will not be anywhere near as good while burning DVDs as it is if you are just doing email. If you think your battery is not performing up to par, you should check its vital signs to figure out if it is even good. If you find nothing wrong with your battery, there are things you can do to care for it that will help to improve its performance and extend its life. I’ll start with a walk through on how to check the vital signs of your Apple notebook.

Apple Notebook Vital Signs

To check your battery’s vital signs, click on the Apple icon and then on the “About This Mac” menu item. Next, select “More Information”. This will take you to your system profiler. (Another way to get there is to type in “System Profiler” in Spotlight, and this application should be the first in the list.).apple info menuOnce in the system profiler, select “Power” from the long list of items on the left hand side. This will show you vital statistics related to your power system, including your battery.

system profiler battery

Apple batteries are designed to maintain 80% of their maximum capacity for the first 300 power cycles. The capacity is measured in mAH. You can see a list of common Apple notebook capacities and their 80% equivalents in this Apple battery blog post. A “cycle” is when you drain your battery through usage and charge it back up to 100%. Thus, 300 times of charging your notebook is considered 300 cycles.

Warranty Claims

If your notebook is under factory or Apple Care warranty, and has less than 300 cycles, and also has a full charge capacity that is less than 80% of the original spec capacity, you are likely eligible for a replacement. If you visit your Apple Store, they have a handy application they can plug into the laptop to tell you immediately. However, it is always a good idea to print out your battery’s vital signs so you can make your argument directly to a store employee should their diagnostic application not side in your favor.

If your notebook is out of warranty, you will have to purchase a new battery from Apple or a third party. As you can see from the cycle counts on my 2008 MacBook Pro, I recently purchased a new battery.

Extending The Life of Your Battery

If your battery’s vital signs are within specification, or you recently purchased a new battery, there are things you can do to extend the life of your battery. First, be cognizant of the temperature ranges your battery was designed to be exposed to. The following guide on Apple’s website discusses temperature ranges, long term storage, and settings for maximizing battery life. Second, be judicious with those cycle counts. Rather than being lazy and not getting up to get my adapter out of my carrying bag, I try to keep my laptop plugged in when I can to avoid running it on battery. Last, you should recalibrate your battery every couple of months. Apple documents the battery recalibration process on their website. If this is too much trouble for your working style, consider purchasing a charger with a conditioning feature. I bought a third party charger and am very happy with the results. It has helped me to recover some life in my older battery, which had just fallen below specs.

Summary

Battery life has greatly increased in modern devices. Still, a smart consumer will care for their battery and understand how to maximize their warranty coverage for a failing unit. In my next post, I’ll tackle extending battery life on the iPhone. If that goes well, maybe I’ll take on the Toyota Prius next!

Comments

  1. Warwick says

    Hi Derick,

    You should actually never leave your Macbook or any laptop for that matter constantly plugged in and charged. It should be re-charged and dis-charged as much as you can. I believe in the article your referenced about heat ranges it says to do so.

    Thanks for your article!

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  3. says

    Erm, most of the Apple advice suggests not leaving your MB plugged in all the time and instead using the battery fully to maintain the battery in the best condition. I see that this would clock up more battery cycles but could that keep the battery exercised and therefore fit and healthy rather than slow and sluggish?

    Happy Friday indeed!

  4. Ex2bot says

    I believe the newer Apple batteries are rated for 80% at 1000 cycles, not 300. They are supposed to last much longer.

  5. Profile photo of Derick Schaefer says

    Robert,

    Great points. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on battery, not on wireless, with my Airport on!

    Thanks for laying these out in an easy to understand format!

  6. says

    The three most battery-intensive resources on a Macbook are: 1) the display, 2) the AirPort Extreme card and 3) any physically moving drive.

    1) Display size, brightness and number of colors are at the tip of the list. Macbooks with larger displays are often more battery-intensive. A user can control for this by reducing the brightness and the number the colors on the display. I do most of my work in Terminal.app using a dark background with white text, which are easier to read when the display is dimmed and number of colors are reduced.

    2) Next is that AirPort Extreme card. Use it when you need it. When you don’t, turn it off. When turned on, it will continually monitor for a base station and connect to it, further draining the battery. I keep it turned off until I’m ready to upload my content or take a break and check my email, Twitter feed … et cetera. Back to work and the AirPort Extreme card is turned off until I need it again.

    3) Physical drives are a no-brainer. The “Better Battery LIfe” setting will reduce the number of times and duration a mechanical/physical hard drive will spin. If you need data from optical media, best if you care able to load the data to your internal drive *before* you and your Macbook head for the coffee shop.

    Happy Friday!