16 tips to improve a MacBook's battery life

Everybody wants a longer-lasting battery. Make your MacBook's battery last longer with these OS X power tricks, which should put a stop to fast-draining laptop annoyances

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  • MacBook battery tips 1
  • Expected battery life 2
  • Basics 3
  • Features 4
  • Accessories 5
  • Apps to avoid 6
  • Energy Impact 7
  • Runaway processes 8
  • Invert colours 9
  • Extreme tricks 10
  • More stories
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Step 1 of 10: How to improve MacBook battery life

Apple has created a miniature marvel in the form of its MacBook. And despite their skinny frames, the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops usually have enough battery to last up to nine hours away from mains power.

That's much more than you used to get from a laptop; battery life of just a couple of hours wasn't unknown in years of old. People used to carry spare batteries around with them - but these days the battery can't be swapped out of an MacBook, so you have to make the most of it. Sometimes you need to eke as much Mac running time from your battery as possible.

This feature rounds up 16 of the best tips and tricks we know for getting a MacBook battery to run longer.

See also:

How to diagnose MacBook battery problems, and replace a MacBook battery

34 tips to helps boost iPhone battery life

Image: iFixit.com

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Apple has created a miniature marvel in the form of its MacBook. And despite their skinny frames, the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops usually have enough battery to last up to nine hours away from mains power.

That's much more than you used to get from a laptop; battery life of just a couple of hours wasn't unknown in years of old. People used to carry spare batteries around with them - but these days the battery can't be swapped out of an MacBook, so you have to make the most of it. Sometimes you need to eke as much Mac running time from your battery as possible.

This feature rounds up 16 of the best tips and tricks we know for getting a MacBook battery to run longer.

See also:

How to diagnose MacBook battery problems, and replace a MacBook battery

34 tips to helps boost iPhone battery life

Image: iFixit.com

 

Step 2 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: How long should my battery last?

Before we start looking at causes of (and solutions to) poor battery performance, it's worth researching the battery life that your laptop would ordinarily be expected to produce. Is it really sub-par, or is its performance par for the course?

Apple's website has the technical specifications for your Mac, and this can tell you how much battery life you should be getting. Head over to the Apple Specs web page and research your model. If you're seeing really drastic underperformance, you may need to speak to someone at an Apple Store, but try at least the simpler fixes in this article first.

 

Step 3 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: Basic tips to get started

Here are two of the best tricks to start with if you want to extend your MacBook's working day:

  • Use Software Update. Apple routinely offers patches and enhancements to Mac OS X that improve battery life. Click on Apple > Software Update.
  • Use Energy Saver System Preferences. Open System Preferences (Apple > System Preferences) and click on Energy Saver. Click on Battery and adjust the slider next to 'Turn display off after...' Tick 'Put hard disks to sleep when possible', and activate 'Slightly dim the display while on battery power' too if you can deal with that.

See also: 13 of the best battery packs

 

Step 4 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: Dim the screen and turn off unwanted features

To squeeze more life out of your battery you'll need to start reducing or turning off features. Here are some of the things to try:

  • Dim your screen. Press the F1 key and move the screen brightness down. You can also control this in System Preferences.
  • Turn off Bluetooth. Click the Bluetooth icon in the Menu bar and choose Turn Bluetooth Off (or open System Preferences > Bluetooth and click Turn Bluetooth Off.
  • Turn off Wi-Fi. This is a bit more extreme as you won’t be able to use wireless internet. But if you're not using the internet or email make sure you turn Wi-Fi off. Click AirPort in the Menu bar and choose Turn Wi-Fi off.
  • Mute sound. Tap the Mute Sound button to get rid of any extraneous alerts and noise. You can turn sound on and off as you need to.

See also: How to make the Apple Watch battery last longer

 

Step 5 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: Remove unwanted accessories

Having stuff attached to your Mac can reduce its battery life.

  • Eject a CD/DVD. If you have one of the older MacBooks with a SuperDrive then make sure you eject CDs and DVDs that aren't in use. They will occasionally spin and drain the battery.
  • Remove peripherals. Disconnect any SD Cards, external drives, or 4G modems. They all draw power from the MacBook.

Removing CD/DVDs and peripherals will help your MacBook run for just a little longer.

 

Step 6 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: Avoid games and graphics-heavy apps

To get the most out of your MacBook's battery, you should avoid certain activities or types of software. Of course, you have to work on your laptop, but watch out for these battery hogs:

  • Avoid graphically intensive apps. Don't use any games, 3D graphics or video editing apps if you can help it.
  • Shut down any unused apps. Quit any apps that you aren't using.

Read our tips to extend battery life on your iPhone.

 

Step 7 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: Check which apps are using most power

Mac OS X informs you if any apps are using significant amounts of power in the Battery menu. Click on Battery in the Menu bar and check under Apps Using Significant Energy. Google Chrome is a prime culprit here; quit hungry apps and use a low-energy app instead.

You can also get more detailed information on energy usage using the Activity Monitor app.

  1. Click Go > Utilities and open the Activity Monitor app.
  2. Now click on the Energy Tab and Energy Impact header to view the apps and processes taking up the most power on your Mac.

The Energy Impact area of Activity Monitor is a good way to choose apps based on the amount of battery life they take up.

 

Step 8 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: Check for runaway processes

A common way that batteries get drained quickly is if you have a "runaway process". A process could be an app, or another feature of Mac OS X, and sometimes they go awry and cause the processor to work overtime.

You can use Activity Monitor to check that you haven't got any of these runaway processes.

  1. Open Activity Monitor (Applications/Utilities).
  2. Select the CPU.
  3. Select All Processes.
  4. Select the CPU column. 
  5. Look for any application that is taking up more than 70% of the CPU (and doing so consistently).

If it's a program like Safari, Mail or Google Chrome you should first try to quit the program normally. If it's not a regular app, or is not responding, you can select the process in Activity Monitor and press the Quit icon (in the top-left of Activity Monitor).

 

Step 9 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: Invert colours

Use Invert Colours to save battery life. It takes less battery to display black pixels than white ones.

Change your desktop to a solid white (use System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop > Solid Colours and choose White). Now click Accessibility and Invert Colours. This runs your Mac in mostly black and white mode.

If you can stand the pain of working in such a stark environment (it's designed for people with limited vision) then this is a good way to get more from your Mac's battery.

 

Step 10 of 10: Increase Mac battery life: Extreme tricks to try

If you really need to eke out the maximum amount of battery life on your Mac, then consider these extreme tricks:

  • Turn off Notifications. Click on System Preference > Notifications and limit the apps that can check for notifications.
  • Turn off Mail’s auto check mode. Open Mail > Preferences and change the Check for New Messages tab to Manually.
  • Turn off Spotlight. Open Spotlight preferences, select the Privacy tab, and drag your Mac's hard drive to the Privacy list.

Battery life is important to all of us. Let us know any other tips you know in the comments.

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