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Get the most out of your Mac’s battery: Making each charge last longer


When it comes to your Macbook’s battery, there’s two things that all Mac users worry about:

  • Making sure each charge lasts as long as possible. Because there’s nothing quite like the mad panic of scrambling around looking for your charger, while your Mac is threatening to slip into sleep mode in 3, 2, 1…
  • Making sure the battery lasts as long as possible. Batteries are consumable components with a limited lifespan. Although you can continue to use a battery long after it’s considered consumed, that battery will no longer be as efficient as it once was. If you want to get the best out of your Mac, then you should replace the battery as soon as it’s consumed.

These concerns are directly linked, as the (worrying) truth is that every complete charge cycle takes a toll on your battery, shaving a little more off its lifespan.

In this article, I’ll be sharing all the tips you need, to ensure that each charge cycle lasts as long as possible. By following these techniques, you’ll see an immediate benefit, as your Mac’s battery will last longer between charges, but there’s also a long term benefit: since you’re completing less charge cycles, your Mac’s battery will remain healthier, for longer.


What exactly is a “charge cycle”?

Batteries don’t last forever! Each and every charge cycle puts your battery under strain, to the point where a full charge might not last anywhere near as long as it once did.

The batteries included in newer machines (MacBooks, Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros released from 2009) usually have to complete 1,000 cycles before that battery reaches a consumed state.

Unfortunately, making sure your Mac never hits 0% doesn’t mean you’ll never complete a full charge cycle! A “charge cycle” is every time you use 100% of your Mac’s battery power, regardless of the number of sessions, or whether you attach your Mac to a power source midway through a charge cycle. For example, you might use 50% of your Mac’s battery, attach your Mac to an outlet and wait for it to reach 100%, and then use another 50% of its battery. Even though you have 50% battery remaining, this is still considered a complete charge cycle.

If you’re curious about the number of cycles your Mac has racked up:

  • Click the ‘Apple’ logo in your Mac’s menu bar.
  • Hold down the ‘Option’ key on your keyboard to uncover some additional options.
  • Select ‘System Information…’
  • In the window that appears, select ‘Power’ from the left-hand menu.
  • Find the ‘Health Information’ section, which contains the number of charge cycles your Mac has already completed.

If this number seems high, then don’t worry: the rest of this article has a tonne of tips for ensuring all future cycles last as long as possible.

Avoid third party chargers!

Chargers can become damaged or faulty over time. If you’ve followed our guide to troubleshooting a laptop that refuses to charge and concluded that there’s definitely something wrong with your charger, then avoid the temptation to replace your official Apple charger with an unofficial alternative.

Searching for “cheap macbook charger” on eBay or Amazon may return page after page of bargains, but there’s no guarantee that any of these chargers have been subjected to the same quality control as genuine Apple products.

While you might get lucky and purchase a charger that delivers exactly the same performance at a fraction of the cost, you could just as easily wind up with a charger that delivers too much or too little wattage, reducing your battery’s performance and potentially even damaging your battery as a result. Unlicensed chargers can also be a potential security hazard – especially if the charger is suspiciously cheap!

For the sake of your battery’s health, if you do ever need to purchase a replacement charger, then take the time to identify the power adapter and/or cable that’ll deliver the best performance for your particular model of Mac, and then purchase these components from the official Apple Store.

Make sure you’re up to date

Every release of macOS introduces new features and improvements that are intended to make your Mac more powerful, secure and efficient.

Occasionally, Apple might explicitly state that an update improves your Mac’s battery life. However, even if you’ve scoured the update’s release notes and haven’t found anything related to power consumption, this doesn’t necessarily mean this update won’t benefit your battery. Any change that boosts macOS’ overall performance or general efficiency can have a positive impact on battery life, so you should always take the time to install new releases of macOS.

To make sure you’re running the latest version, head over to the App Store, select the ‘Updates’ tab and install any available updates.

While you’re in the App Store, you should also make sure all your apps are up to date. Similar to the Mac operating system, app updates can introduce patches, fixes or new features that make the application in question more energy-efficient, so install any available updates.

Make sure your Mac can sleep!

It’s not all that unusual to step away from your Mac for a few minutes – maybe you get up to make a coffee, answer the phone, or just to stretch your legs. When you’re away from your Mac for any significant period of time, you definitely don’t want it to remain awake, burning through precious battery.

To ensure your Mac conserves battery when it’s left idle:

  • Navigate to ‘System preferences… > Energy Saver > Battery.’
  • Select the following checkboxes: ‘Put hard disks to sleep when possible’ and ‘Enable Power Nap while on battery power.’
  • Use the accompanying slider to specify how long your Mac needs to be stood idle, before entering power-saving mode.

Set a schedule

If you’re in the bad habit of forgetting to turn your Mac off, then you can create a schedule so that your Mac goes to sleep or shuts down automatically.

  • Navigate to ‘System preferences… > Energy Saver > Battery.’
  • Give the ‘Schedule…’ button a click
  • Select the checkbox that appears alongside ‘Sleep.’
  • Open the accompanying dropdown menu and select either ‘Sleep’ or ‘Shut Down.’
  • Select whether this schedule should run on weekends, weekdays, every day, or on a specific day only.
  • Set the time when your Mac should either fall asleep or shut down automatically.
  • To start using this schedule, click the ‘Save’ button.

Take stock of what apps you have open

We’re all guilty of leaving applications running in the background when we have absolutely no intention of using them again during the current session, but the more applications you have open, the faster your battery is going to drain.

To get the most out of each charge, you should make a point of closing an application as soon as you’ve finished using it, rather than simply minimising it or sending it to the background. You should also try and get into the habit of periodically taking stock of all the applications you currently have open, and closing any you no longer need.

To really limit the number of apps that are open at any one time, you should check what applications are set to launch at startup, and remove this privilege from as many applications as possible:

  • Navigate to ‘System Preferences…. > Users & Groups.’
  • Select the ‘Login Items’ tab.
  • Select your user account.
  • The subsequent menu displays a list of all the items that launch as soon as you log into your account. To remove an item from this list, select it and then click the little ‘-’ icon.

Disable unnecessary features

You can make each charge last a little longer, by disabling any features you aren’t currently using.

Your Mac’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are the two biggest services you can disable, but you can also reduce your battery consumption by muting your device’s audio, and by disabling macOS’ Location Services.

To disable Location Services on a per-app, or system-wide basis:

  • Navigate to ‘System Preferences > Security & Privacy.’
  • Select the ‘Privacy’ tab.
  • Select ‘Location Services’ from the left-hand menu.
  • At this point you can either disable location services for specific apps, or disable location services across macOS, by deselecting the ‘Enable Location Services’ checkbox.

Disable Notifications

Notifications are another feature you may want to disable, in order to converse battery.

You can disable all notifications, from the Notifications drawer:

  • Click the lined icon in the upper-right of the Mac menu bar.
  • Select the ‘Notifications’ tab.
  • Scroll to the top of this menu, and push the ‘Do Not Disturb’ slider into the ‘On’ position.
  • To resume receiving notifications, repeat the above steps, but this time push the ‘Do Not Disturb’ slider into the ‘Off’ position.

Alternatively, you can disable notifications for specific applications:

  • Navigate to ‘System Preferences… > Notifications.’
  • Select the application in question from the left-hand menu, and disable the following checkboxes: ‘Show notifications on lock screen,’ ‘Show in Notification Centre,’ and ‘Play sound for notifications.’

Dim the screen

The brighter your screen, the more battery your Mac will consume, so you might want to see whether you can cope with a dimmed screen. Pressing the F1 key will turn the screen brightness down a notch, or you can setup your Mac to switch to a dimmed display whenever it’s running on battery power:

  • Navigate to ‘System preferences… > Energy Saver > Battery.’
  • Select the ‘Slightly dim the display while on battery power’ checkbox.

Remove unnecessary peripherals

Everything that’s connected to your Mac will drain the battery, so try to get into the habit of disconnecting any peripherals that you aren’t currently using, such as SD cards, USB sticks, and additional drives. If you’re serious about saving battery then you may want to use your Mac’s built-in keyboard and trackpad, rather than an external mouse and keyboard.

If your Mac has a built-in CD drive, then you should make a point of ejecting discs as soon as you’ve finished using them, as these discs can occasionally spin and drain the battery.

Hunt down battery-hungry apps

Some applications are more power-hungry than others, so it helps to know what applications are consuming the biggest share of your Mac’s battery power. Armed with this information, you can limit the time you spend using these applications, or perhaps even look for more energy-efficient alternatives.

You can check how much energy each application is consuming, in macOS’ Activity Monitor:

  • Open a new ‘Finder’ window.
  • Navigate to ‘Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor.’
  • Select the ‘Energy’ tab.

This screen displays the amount of energy each application is currently consuming (Energy Impact) and the average amount of energy it’s consumed within the last 12 hours (Avg. Energy Impact).

Time to replace your battery?

Even if you follow all the above steps, batteries are consumable components, so eventually your battery isn’t going to be as efficient as when it was new.

If you suspect that it might be time to replace or service your Mac’s battery, then you can check the battery’s ‘Condition,’ by holding down the ‘Option’ key on your keyboard while clicking the battery icon in your Mac’s menu bar. This should hopefully return ‘Condition: Normal,’ but may also return:

  • Replace Soon. The battery is holding less charge than when it was new, but is otherwise functioning normally. It may continue to lose charge. You should anticipate having to replace your battery at some point in the near future.
  • Replace Now. The battery is holding significantly less charge than when it was new. You should replace the battery as soon as possible.
  • Service Battery. The battery isn’t functioning normally, and needs to be looked at by a professional.

If it’s time to replace or service your battery, then it’s recommended that you contact Apple Support for help, or make an appointment at your local Apple Store.

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Chris

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