If you are finding your Mac battery draining quickly, or just not lasting as long as it used to we have some tips to follow. Find out what to do if your Mac battery is low, ways to save Mac battery life, and how to get your Mac battery replaced if necessary.

Note: There may be an underlying issue with your battery. Apple has announced a recall of MacBook Pro models bought between September 2015 and February 2017 (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015) due to an issue where batteries could overheat in those models.

In a press release the company stated that: "Because customer safety is a top priority, Apple is asking customers to stop using affected 15-inch MacBook Pro units." To find out whether your laptopo is affected, visit Apple's website here to find out if you are eligible to have the battery replaced. Enter your computer's serial number on the program page to see if it is eligible for a battery replacement.If you are the switch will be free of charge.

If your MacBook doesn't qualify for that recall, it's still possible you could make some changes to improve your battery life. If your MacBook no longer lasts as long as it once did on a full charge, or the MacBook is switching itself off randomly even if the battery appears to indicate a useful charge, read on to find out what to do.

Here we examine how to tell if your Mac laptop battery needs to be replaced, how to make your MacBook battery last longer, and how to give older Mac laptops a new lease of life by replacing their batteries.

We'll start off by showing you how to find out how much battery life you can expect from your Mac, and then we'll look at some ways to improve battery life, before finding out what to do if your battery needs to be serviced or replaced. (With additional reporting by Keir Thomas).

If you are finding that your battery won't charge read: How to fix a MacBook that won't charge.

How to find out how much battery is remaining

It's easy to see how much charge is left in your Mac battery.

  1. Look for the battery icon in your menu bar. If you don't already see a percentage next to it, click on the battery icon. battery percentage Mac
  2. Click on Show Percentage.
  3. Now you will see how much charge the battery has as a percentage.

If you are running a verison of Mac OS X that's pre-Sierra you can get an idea of how many hours worth of battery life is remaining by clicking on Open Energy Saver Preferences. Unfortunately Apple removed the battery time indicator when MacOS Sierra 10.12.2 launched (probably because it wasn't all that accurate).

Battery time in Mac OS X

Picture shows: Estimated time remaining back in OS X Yosemite.

If you are running a newer version of macOS - Sierra, High Sierra or Mojave - finding out how many hours or minutes of use you have left in your battery isn't so easy, but it can be done.

  1. Open Acticity Monitor (press Space + Command and start typing Activity).
  2. At the bottom of the window you will see Remaining Charge, Time remaining and Time on battery. Time remaining is your indication of how many hours you can expect. (Time on battery is how long the laptop has been running on the battery without being plugged in).

Time left battery Mac

Another option is to use the free app, CoconutBattery from Coconut-Flavour.

  1. Download and install CoconutBattery.
  2. Open the app and click on coconutBattery > Preferences.
  3. Tick the box beside Launch at startup and show charge status in Menu Bar. (You will have to place the app in the Applications folder for this to work). Now you will see a second battery icon and percentage indicator in your menu (ours showed different percentages).
  4. Now all you need to do is click on the new battery indicator to see the information coconutBattery can share, which includes Time Until Empty. Coconut battery time left

Now that you know how much time you have to get by before your battery packs up for the day, although the time indicated is only a guide. However, there are a few ways you can get the most out of your battery, we'll share tips for increasing Mac battery life below.

How to find out what's using up your battery

Apple introduced a handy feature in OS X 10.9 Mavericks - the ability to see what apps are using up your battery. As long as you are running Mavericks, or a later version of macOS, you can see a list of apps using significant energy by following these steps:

  1. Click on the battery icon in the menu bar (beside the clock)
  2. Look under Apps Using Siginificant Energy to see the culpret - in our case Firefox. Firefox using battery
  3. If none of your apps are using significant energy you will see the message: No Apps Using Significant Energy.

This is handy information to have because if you need to eak out a few more minutes of battery you could choose to close Firefox and use Safari, which is a little less power hungry.

It doesn't necessarily mean that something is wrong with the app, just that it is a bit of a battery hog. However, it could indicate that there is something amiss so you could try restarting the application to see if that fixes the problem.

You can get even more information about power hungry apps by taking a look at Activity Monitor. Here's how:

  1. Open Activity Monitor.
  2. Click on the Energy tab.
  3. Here you can sort by the "Average Energy Impact" to see what's the biggest use of your machine's power.

You can also use Activity Monitor to check that you haven't got any "runaway process". A process could be an app, or another feature of Mac OS X or macOS, and sometimes they go awry and cause the processor to work overtime.

  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).

Obvioulsy the first thing to do if you are hoping to eak out a bit more battery from your Mac while away from a plug is close any power hungry apps. However, there are lots of other tweaks you can make as well to improve your MacBook's battery life.

How to save battery

A lot of poor battery performance – on Mac, iOS and all other major desktop and mobile operating systems – is down to a battery that is being asked to do too much and by a user who is not looking after it properly.

Some of these steps are basic other's are a little more expert, we'll run through them all below.

  1. Dim your screen. Press the F1 key and move the screen brightness down. You can also control this in System Preferences.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove connected hardware. Disconnect any SD Cards, external drives, or 4G modems. They all draw power from the MacBook and could be impacting the battery.
  6. Quit unused application and avoid graphically intensive apps. Don't use any games, 3D graphics or video editing apps if you can avoid it.
  7. You may even want to turn off keyboard backlighting (this is usually F5 to turn off, F6 to turn back on again)
  8. Keep your Mac cool - the MacBook has a thermal sensor that shuts the battery off for safety reasons if the device is overheating.
  9. Use Software Update and update your software. Apple routinely offers patches and enhancements to macOS that improve battery life. Click on Apple > Software Update or Apple > System Preferences > Software Update depending on the version of macOS you are running.
  10. Change your Energy Saver System Preferences. Open 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.Energy Saver Mac
  11. Turn off Notifications. Click on System Preference > Notifications and limit the apps that can check for notifications.
  12. Turn off Mail’s auto check mode. Open Mail > Preferences and change the Check for New Messages tab to Manually.
  13. Turn off Spotlight. Open Spotlight preferences, select the Privacy tab, and drag your Mac's hard drive to the Privacy list.
  14. Switch on Dark Mode as it takes less battery to display black pixels than white ones. If you don't have Mojave (which introduced Dark Mode) you could Invert Colours to save battery life.

Other steps are quite simple but less obvious. Do you know, for example, that Apple recommends charging to only 50% on a regular basis, as storing it at maximum capacity for an extended period can result in a shorter battery life? Or that running the battery consistently into the single-digit percentages can damage the lithium-ion battery in the long run?

Another mistake many make is leaving their MacBook plugged in on their desk all the time. If you leave the laptop plugged in all the time it will eventually kill the battery. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest is that the extra heat caused by being plugged in all the time will damage the battery.

Having done the basics, and maybe seen little to no difference, your next go-to should be calibrating your battery, we'll explain how next.

We also have tips to helps boost iPhone battery life

How to calibrate the battery

This process involves charging the battery, draining it completely and then charging it again. This might sound rudimentary but it’s worthwhile, especially if your battery only ever holds around 50% of its charge.

However, it is worth noting that Apple says newer models are pre-calibrated and so this approach won’t work for them. It also might not work for batteries that rarely go above 25% but you can always try and see for yourself.

Apple says on its website: “The battery needs to be recalibrated from time to time to keep the onscreen battery time and percent display accurate and to keep the battery operating at maximum efficiency.”

Rule out any faults or bugs

Doing the above may have fixed your problems, but they may not have too – perhaps your MacBook has a bug of some description.

In the past there have been issues such MagSafe not charging the MacBook, an erroneous ‘Service Battery’ message on OS X Mavericks, poor battery retention on the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina model and the ‘No batteries available’ warning message on older, pre-unibody MacBooks.

You can visit Apple’s official forums and check out YouTube tutorials for fixes to other common flaws.

Reset the System Manager Controller (SMC)

If all else fails, reset the System Manager Controller (SMC) which returns hardware settings to default values, and basically sees the MacBook re-evaluate the battery from scratch, removing the chance that the device has an incorrect status likes the ones mentioned above.

  1. To reset the SMC, first shut down your MacBook.
  2. Once it’s off, connect the MagSafe power adapter.
  3. Now hold down Control, Shift, Option/Alt and the Power button for around four seconds.
  4. Release all those keys at the same time.

After resetting the SMC, press the Power button to start up the MacBook and see if the problem has been fixed.

How to check if your Mac battery needs replacing

Your next step should be to establish whether there is actually a fault with your battery.

Your MacBook constantly monitors the health of its battery and a quick way to view the current status is to hold down the Alt/Option key and click the battery charge icon at the top right of the desktop near the clock. After the Condition heading at the top of the menu you’ll see one of four battery status messages: Normal, Replace Soon, Replace Now, and Service Battery.

It should be obvious that Normal indicates a healthy battery. Perhaps surprisingly, Replace Soon is a mere warning rather than a demand and your MacBook should still function correctly on battery power, albeit with noticeably shorter battery life than when it was new.

However, the last two statuses – Replace Now and Service Battery – are indications that the battery is near dead. 

Service battery MacBook

In addition, you can download third-party battery monitoring apps, like CoconutBattery from Coconut-Flavour and Battery Health from FlipLab to monitor and auto-throttle energy-sapping apps running in the background. Coconut Battery measures the maximum charge of a battery versus original capacity when new, and can even compare your battery’s performance to similar models.

Coconut Battery Mac

Apps like the free CoconutBattery (above) let you dig-down into technical details to get more detailed information. Apple doesn’t explain how it generates the battery life status reading but it’s probably divined by measuring the maximum charge the battery can currently hold against its original capacity when new. CoconutBattery will display both these figures, measured in milliamp hours (mAh). A MacBook Pro that had an original design capacity of 5,400mAh and now stores only 3,700mAh has lost just over 30% of its capacity, for example. However, the MacBook will still report the battery is charged 100%. It just won’t last as long as it once did, and a Replace Soon status message will almost certainly appear.

Another figure worth noting within CoconutBattery is the Cycles Count figure, which is also known as the charge cycles figure. This measures how many times 100% of the battery charge has been used-up. This is important because during each charge cycle the battery loses a small fraction of its ability to hold charge, which is what causes the capacity to drop over time. It should be noted that a charge cycle doesn’t necessarily mean entirely running out of juice from a full charge. Using 50% of the battery life one day before recharging and using 50% the next day will mean one charge cycle has been notched-up. Thus, you will consume charge cycles even if your MacBook is mostly plugged in, with only the occasional hour or two on battery power. 

Read: Which Mac laptop? MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro comparative review

What Apple says about MacBook battery life

Apple says its MacBook range retain 80% of their charge capacity after 1000 charge cycles, and that’s been the case with most models since 2009. After this Apple considers a battery to be “consumed”, and this is the point at which you may start to notice problems, if not battery status warnings.

If your MacBook is still within warranty (or covered by AppleCare) and you’re experiencing problems while the cycle count is significantly below 1000 then you should book an appointment with an Apple genius because the battery may have a manufacturing defect. Note that the charge indicator seemingly getting stuck at anywhere between 93-99% charge isn’t a fault. This is just how MacBook batteries work.

Storing a MacBook fully charged for a prolonged length of time without use can permanently reduce the overall charging capacity. Storing a MacBook fully discharged can lead to what Apple calls a deep discharge state, which might make it impossible to charge the battery in future. To avoid either situation try to store your MacBook 50% charged, and shutdown before storing it, rather than letting it go into sleep mode.

Read: How to upgrade an old Mac - Create a FrankenMac!

When to replace a MacBook battery

Before purchasing a replacement battery we advise that you reset the System Manager Controller (SMC) as shown above. This returns hardware settings to default values and causes your MacBook to re-evaluate the battery from scratch. This removes the risk of an incorrect status.

Apple offers a battery replacement service for most recent models of MacBook, and prices are reasonable, but replacement batteries are available from a number of third-parties if you fancy saving money by doing it yourself. Be sure to buy only a genuine Apple part because faulty batteries can explode or catch fire. Sadly, the most faithful indicator of quality is price and genuine parts are usually the most expensive.

Whether the battery is user-replaceable depends on when it was manufactured, and you’ll have better luck if your MacBook is older. For example the early Intel MacBooks, such as the white or black range, featured batteries that could be replaced by simply turning a clearly-marked screw on the bottom of the unit (usually a coin can be used for this purpose), or by releasing catches.

Unfortunately, with most of the aluminium “unibody” MacBook range, including the MacBook Pro, Apple dropped the ability for users to be able to replace the battery. Doing so is still possible although involves removing the bottom panel of the MacBook, then unscrewing the battery fixings and detaching a cable from the motherboard. For anybody who’s ever delved inside a PC this isn’t difficult but it’s not a task for beginners, and will probably require a specialist pentalobe or twi-wing screwdriver, depending on the model of MacBook. The popular iFixIt site not only provides free battery replacement guides for most models of MacBook but also sells the necessary tools and parts.

With all MacBook Air models the batteries are difficult to handle once removed because the cells aren’t enclosed in hard plastic, as with earlier MacBook models. Therefore, user replacement isn’t advised. Additionally, with the 13 and 15in Retina-based MacBook Pro range as of 2012 Apple began gluing batteries into place, making it both difficult and dangerous to remove them because of the risk of puncturing or tearing, in which case the battery may explode or release noxious fumes.

Read: Can I get a new battery for my MacBook?

Should you fix or replace your MacBook battery yourself?

If, having run calibration and other tests, there is no improvement, there are in reality two to three options. Pay someone, most likely Apple or an authorised service provider, to replace the battery with prices going up from £110. Alternatively, you could try and fix the battery in your MacBook yourself.

This is possible even on the post-2009 MacBook Airs (not the 2018 models) which have the unibody design where the battery is soldered on. And even better still it is arguably cheaper and faster than taking it to Apple.

It is worth remembering that this option is only truly worth considering on older models that are out of warranty. The one-year Apple warranty includes replacement coverage for a defective battery and the company also runs a battery replacement service. You can extend the cover given to defective batteries by taking out AppleCare Protection when you buy your machine.

However, if you still want to go the DIY route, you’ll first need to source the battery from Amazon, eBay or somewhere else – and this will also require you knowing precisely what model you have, so to ensure you buy a compatible battery.

To identify your MacBook, you should be able to find the MacBook’s serial number in the ‘About This Mac’ window.

On the technical front, you’ll need a standard Philips screwdriver, the plastic Spudger tool (£3 on Amazon), the Y1 Tr-wing screwdriver (around £1) and access to web browser to go to iFixit or EveryMac web tutorials. You can find a ‘Battery Replacement Kit for MacBook Unibody’ online for around £10.

Most unibody MacBooks are fairly similar with up to nineteen screws that need to be removed (some of these will require the Y1 Tri-wing screwdriver). You should take the lower case off the MacBook, then use the flat end of the spudger to remove the battery from the logic board, before replacing the old battery with the new model. Ensure the computer is switched off and MagSafe is disconnected.

Second-hand batteries for the 13-inch MacBook Pro start from £50 on eBay but do watch out for fakes.

Note, an new Retina MacBook Air may launch soon, read more here: 12in Retina MacBook Air release date rumours

Can I replace my MacBook battery?

The table below indicates the feasibility of replacing a MacBook’s battery. Note that Unibody models are those famously created from a single piece of aluminium, as opposed to those made from plastic or individual aluminium components. To find out the model of your MacBook, click the Apple menu, then About This Mac. In the window that appears, click the More Information button.

Model

Details

MacBook (white/black)

User replaceable via coin screw on underside of MacBook

MacBook Unibody (A1278)

User replaceable by depressing a catch on underside of unit

MacBook Unibody later model (A1342)

Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel of MacBook, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixing

MacBook Pro Unibody 13in (all)

Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixing

MacBook Pro 15in non-Unibody Core Duo/Core 2 Duo

User replaceable by releasing catches on underside of unit

MacBook Pro Unibody 15in (late 2008/early 2009)

User replaceable by depressing a catch on underside of unit

MacBook Pro Unibody 15in

Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixing

MacBook Pro Non-Unibody 17in

User replaceable by releasing catches on underside of unit

MacBook Pro Unibody 17in

Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixing

MacBook Pro Retina (13 and 15in)

Not user replaceable

MacBook Air (11 and 13in)

Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixings. Note MacBook Air batteries are dangerous to handle because of largely unprotected battery cells that should not be compressed or bent

MacBook Air 13in (Retina)

Not user replaceable

MacBook (2017)

Not user replaceable