The new MacBook range are all thoroughbreds when it comes to combining battery life with efficiency. Despite their diminutive size, and large displays, the MacBook Airs offer a thriving battery life of over twelve hours.

However, with this guide to Mac OS X Energy Saver settings you’ll protect every ounce of MacBook battery life. Let's make your Mac run even longer…

You can adjust a lot of settings that ensure that a MacBook doesn’t take more juice than it needs. These settings are found in the Energy Saver portion of Mac OS X System Preferences. Getting to grips with Energy Saver is vital for all Mac power users, because you can ensure that your Mac uses the right amount of power, keep it running for longer, and  maximise performance.

To get started click on Apple > System Preferences and Energy Saver. You’ll see this window.

Mac OS X Energy Saver

Here is what all the different options do:


Mac OS X Energy Saver: Automatic Graphics Switching

Some Mac computers feature two distinct graphics processors. The one on board the main CPU and a second, more powerful, one known as the Discrete GPU. If you have one of these Macs (typically a MacBook Pro) then you‘ll see this Automatic Graphics Switching option. Keep Automatic Graphics Switching ticked, and your Mac will run on the energy efficient CPU graphics until an app demands more horsepower. Now it will switch to the faster GPU.

Be careful to close down energy hungry apps, such as games, when you have finished with them and your Mac will switch back to the regular CPU processor.

If you deselect the Automatic Graphics Switching option the Mac will run constantly on the faster GPU processor. This takes more energy and will result  in marginally shorter battery life.

On some older Macs you may see Better Battery life and Higher Performance radio buttons instead. When you choose a different option you will be asked to restart your Mac.

Battery and Power Adaptor tabs

The Energy Saver preference pane has two tabs marked Battery and Power Adaptor.

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

Computer Sleep

The first of two sliders determines how long without interaction before the Mac puts itself in sleep mode. The slider runs from 1 min to Never (with 3 hours being the longest timed option). The Mac waits without any interaction from you (mouse clicks or keyboard presses) the puts itself to sleep. The default is 10 minutes for both Battery and Power Adapter settings. This is fine, but you may find that this is too short when watching a movie, for example, so you might want to quickly switch the setting to Never to save you from having to tap the mouse to keep the computer awake.

Display sleep

The second slider relates to Display sleep. This is where the display turns off, but the Masc itself isn’t in sleep mode. It keeps running. Typically this should be less than the Computer Sleep settings (because in Computer Sleep mode the display is also off). The default is two minutes on battery and 10 minutes on Power Adaptor. If you’re doing work that requires you to look, but not interact so much with your Mac, then you may find the two minutes setting becomes irksome. Move the slider to the right to increase it (note that this will impact on your battery life, however). We advise you to move it back to two minutes when you’re done.

See: Apple Support: About Energy Saver sleep and idle modes in Mac OS X

Energy Saver Options in Mac OS X

Below the two sliders you have these options in Energy Saver:

  • Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible. When the Mac Detects inactivity it will put the hard disk to sleep. This doesn't seem to matter so much on newer Mac, with Flash SSD, but if you’re using a MacBook with a traditional hard drive (with a spinning platter) you should ensure this is switched on. The hard drive will spin down and back up again if you stop using the Mac.
  • Wake for network access. With this option the Mac is continually alert to another device on the network. If it is ‘pinged’ the Mac will wake up. This causes a small drain on the MacBook, and you can turn it off if you don’t really use the Mac on your network. But if you have devices like an Apple TV or other networked Macs it will save you from having to switch on your Mac every time you want to access something
  • Automatically reduce brightness before display goes to sleep. When you are not using your Mac (tapping on the keys or mouse) it will slightly dim the display. Along with Display Sleep this can help preserve power on your Macbook. Again, if you’re doing work that requires you to look at the screen for a while without input, such as text checking or playing video, then you might want to remove the tick from here.
  • Restart automatically if the computer freezes. This is a  good option to leave on. If the Mac OS X detects a “Kernel Panic” which freezes the Mac it will restart automatically. To perform this function Mac OS X has to run a tiny second processor. This is used to ensure that main CPU is still running. You will get a small amount of energy efficiency by unticking this option.

Set up Energy Saver Schedule

A good idea if you’re looking to save power on a Mac that is kept in a static location, such as work, is to set up an Energy Saver Schedule. Open Energy Saver preferences and tap on Schedule. Now click on Start Up and change the timer to when you want to the Mac to switch on. The Every Day setting can be changed to Weekdays or Weekends or individual days. Now tick the Sleep option (this can be changed to Restart or Shut Down) and set daily schedule and time.

How to preserve battery life on a MacBook

A lot of the tips here on Energy Saver can be used to extend the battery life on a MacBook. However, there are also lots of tricks and tips that can be used to extend the life of a MacBook. Here are some tips:

  • Disable Bluetooth accessories such as wireless keyboard or mouse
  • Use the brightness setting buttons (or the slider in System Preferences > Displays) to dim the display.
  • Turn the Mac off when not in use (rather than putting it to sleep)

See: Fact or fiction: Eight Mac energy-saving techniques tested

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