Improve the battery health of your MacBook

Apple MacBook and coffee

Stop battery drain, get more life from your MacBook and lake it last much longer with this collection of top tips for improving the health of your laptop battery. It’s essential advice.

Check the battery status

The MacBook constantly monitors the health of the battery and it can display this information in the menu bar. It doesn’t do this by default, but hold down the Option key and click the battery indicator and at the top it reports the condition. This can be one of four different states:

  • Normal: It’s working fine
  • Replace Soon: It no longer fully charges
  • Replace Now: It holds much less charge than it used to
  • Service Battery: It isn’t working properly, maybe not at all

Apple Mac battery condition

If it says anything other than normal, then there is something wrong and it won’t get better by itself. Usually it means that you will have to buy a replacement battery sooner or later.

Check the cycle count

When a battery is drained of power and it falls to 0%, then it is charged up to 100%, that is counted as a charge cycle. If 30% of the battery is used one day and 70% used another day, then that is counted as one cycle too, because it adds up to 100%.

The cycle count is not the number of times the battery is plugged into the charger, but the number of times 100% charge is used. Using 10%, 30%, 50% and 10% battery on four separate days is counted as one cycle, even of you recharge it every day.

The battery in Apple MacBooks is designed to last a certain number of cycles and it can be either 300, 500 or 1000. Batteries have improved over the years and so older MacBooks tend to have 300 cycle batteries and newer models are 1000.

MacBook 2006-2009 = 300 cycles 
MacBook 2015-2016 = 1000 cycles

MacBook Air 2008 = 300 cycles
MacBook Air 2009 = 500 cycles
MacBook Air 2010-2016 = 1000 cycles

MacBook Pro 2008 = 300 cycles
MacBook Pro 20010-2016 = 1000 cycles

These cycle counts are not absolute figures. If your battery life is 500 cycles, it won't suddenly stop working at 501. Batteries gradually get worse over time and some will last longer, but some won't. If you really need maximum battery life you might want to replace the battery before the cycle count is reached.

So how many battery cycles has your MacBook used? Is it anywhere near the expected life? Go to the Apple menu, hold down the Option key and click System Information. In the list of items on the left hand side, select Power. On the right is the battery information, including the health and the cycle count.

MacBook battery health and cycle count

Going  away or on holiday?

If your MacBook is going to be left for any length of time, such as when you go away on holiday for a week or two, what should you do with your MacBook? Charge it up, run it down, put it into sleep mode or power off?

You might think that it would be a good idea to to charge it up before you go away, but leaving it fully charged is not the best way to treat the battery. Run it down or charge it up as necessary until the battery indicator it is at 50%. Do not fully charge it.

Power off the MacBook. Do not put the it into sleep mode because the battery power will slowly drain away. Some MacBooks can last a very long time in sleep mode, but it is best not to risk it. If the battery is left in a drained state for any length of time, it could become stuck there.

Temperature issues

If the battery becomes too hot or too cold, it may not fully charge up and so the MacBook will not last as long away from the mains power. Heat can be a killer and high temperatures can damage a battery, reducing its life and ability to charge fully.

A MacBook’s battery works best when its temperature is between 50F and 95F (10C to 35C).

There are a couple of ways that the temperature can fall below the minimum or rise above the maximum and one is when the MacBook is left in a car. In the winter, temperatures can fall below freezing inside the car. In the summer the inside of a car can become as hot as an oven.

When extreme temperatures are expected, do not leave your MacBook for any length of time in a car because it is really bad for the battery.

The other danger is from overheating while charging. Some people like to add covers and cases to their MacBook and these can cause heat to be retained. MacBooks are bare metal and this is good at conducting heat away from the internal components, but when it is covered it cannot function as efficiently.

The battery gets warm when it is charging and it can be damaged if it becomes too hot because the MacBook is covered up.

If the case is easily removed, then do so before charging. Do not charge it in your laptop bag. Make sure there is plenty of air and open space around the MacBook when it is plugged into the mains power. Don’t pile papers on top of it, put it under the sofa or the bed and in similar places where there is little or no ventilation.

Solve battery problems

When the power is plugged into the MacBook, you might notice that the battery charge is not at 100%. It could be 98, 97 or even lower. This is not a fault and it is perfectly normal. The battery is not kept constantly at 100%. 

There have been several different types of power connector over the years, but some MacBooks share the same one, such as the popular MagSafe connector. The charger for one MacBook might not be powerful enough to fully charge another one with a bigger battery.

Check that you have the right power adapter for the MacBook you are using.

A problem with the System Management Controller (SMC) can cause battery issues amongst other things. For example, the battery does not charge properly and the MagSafe power adapter LED does not show the correct charging and fully charged lights.

Really old MacBooks have removable batteries and to reset the SMC:

  1. Shut down the computer
  2. Unplug the mains power from the computer
  3. Remove the battery
  4. Press and hold the power button for five seconds
  5. Insert the battery in the MacBook
  6. Plug plug in the power cable
  7. Power up the MacBook

Reset the SMC on recent MacBooks with batteries that cannot be removed:

  1. Shut down the computer
  2. Plug in the mains power lead
  3. Press the Shift+Ctrl+Option keys and the power button all at the same time
  4. Release all the keys and power button
  5. Power up the MacBook

Look after your MacBook battery and it will last for many years. Some can even outlast the expected cycle count if you take care of it.

 

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