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 running out and ways to save Mac battery life. We'll also examine what could be draining your MacBook battery.
Read on to find out how to extend battery life on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.
How long is my Mac battery supposed to last?
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.
If your MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro is a few years old you may be wondering how much battery life you should expect.
When new, MacBook models should offer the following battery life:
- MacBook Air (2018, 2019): Up to 12 hours wireless web, up to 13 hours playing video via Apple TV app.
- 13in MacBook Pro (2018, 2019): Up to 10 hours wireless web, up to 10 hours playing video via Apple TV app.
- 15in MacBook Pro (2018, 2019): Up to 10 hours wireless web, up to 10 hours playing video via Apple TV app.
- 16in MacBook Pro (2019): Up to 11 hours wireless web, up to 11 hours playing video via Apple TV app.
You can expect the capactity of the battery to decline a bit over the years, but there are ways to minimise this, including not leaving your MacBook plugged in all the time. We discussed more ways to preserve your battery life below.
How to check battery life on MacBook
That's how long your battery should last. But how can you find out how long your battery will last?
Luckily it's easy to see how much charge is left in your Mac battery, here's how:
- 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.
- Click on Show Percentage.
- Now you will see how much charge the battery has as a percentage.
That's good in as much as shows you if your battery is likely to run out of power soon, but it doesn't show you how much time you have. And so to our next step.
How to find out how much battery life is left
If you are running a verison of macOS (or Mac OS X) that's pre-Sierra it's easy to get an idea of how many hours worth of battery life is remaining:
- Open System Preferences.
- Click on Energy Saver.
- You'll see a message indicating the estimated time remaining.
Unfortunately Apple removed the battery time indicator when macOS Sierra 10.12.2 launched (probably because it wasn't all that accurate).
If you are running a newer version of macOS - Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave or Catalina - finding out how many hours or minutes of use you have left in your battery isn't as easy, but it can be done:
- Open Acticity Monitor (press Space + Command and start typing Activity).
- Click on the Energy tab.
- 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). It can take a while to calculate.
Another option is to use the free app, CoconutBattery from Coconut-Flavour.
- Download and install CoconutBattery.
- Open the app and click on coconutBattery > Preferences.
- 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).
- 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.
How to improve Mac battery life
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.
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.
Step 1: Find out what's using up your battery
The above will give you an idea of how long you can expect to get from the battery in your MacBook before your next charge. The next step in maximise that figure, which you can do if you make a few changes to how you use your Mac.
The first thing to do is stop using any apps that are power hungry!
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:
- Click on the battery icon in the menu bar (beside the clock)
- Look under Using Siginificant Energy to see the culpret - in our case Firefox.
- 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:
- Open Activity Monitor.
- Click on the Energy tab.
- Here you can sort by the "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.
- Open Activity Monitor (Applications/Utilities).
- Select the CPU.
- Select All Processes.
- Select the CPU column.
- 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).
This is a good start, but there are lots of other tweaks you can make as well to improve your MacBook's battery life.
Step 2: Change Energy Saver Preferences
- Open System Preferences.
- Click on Energy Saver.
- Click on Battery and adjust the slider next to 'Turn display off after...' - the lower the number the more power you will preserve.
- Tick 'Put hard disks to sleep when possible', and 'Slightly dim the display while on battery power' too if you can deal with that.
- You should also disable Enable Power Nap so that your Mac doesn't do anything when it's sleeping.
Step 3: Use Dark Mode
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) or Catalina (which enhanced it) you could Invert Colours to save battery life.
To turn on Dark Mode in Mojave or Catalina follow these steps:
- Open System Preferences.
- Click on General.
- Click on Dark.
To Invert Colours follow these steps:
- Open System Preferences.
- Click on Accessibility.
- Click on Display.
- Tick the box beside Invert colours.
We have a tutorial on How to use Dark Mode on a Mac here.
Step 4: Stop background activity
- 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.
Step 5: Turn off power hogging features
- 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.
- 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.
- Turn off keyboard backlighting (this is usually F5 to turn off, F6 to turn back on again)
Step 6: Keep your MacBook cool
Keep your Mac cool. Apple's MacBooks have thermal sensors that shut the battery off for safety reasons if the device is overheating. You could try raising it on a stand such as this one from Twelve South.
The Twelve South Curve is an elevated desktop stand for Apple MacBook, MacBook Air & MacBook Pro. It costs $59.99 here.
Step 7: Check if your MacBook is being recalled
There may be an underlying issue with your battery. For example, Apple 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.
Step 8: 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.
How to preserve your MacBook battery
There are some changes you can make to how you use your MacBook on a daily basis that will help you get more battery life out of it.
Don't charge to 100%
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?
Don't leave your MacBook plugged in
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.
Update your software
It could be that your battery is draining quicker than usual due to a problematic software update.
This step isn't going to help you get more battery life right now as running a software update will use up a lot of power (and usually can't be installed if you aren't plugged in anyway). However, if you are able to plug in and update you may find it solves your problem as Apple routinely offers patches and enhancements to macOS that improve battery life.
Use Software Update and update your software.
Click on Apple > Software Update or Apple > System Preferences > Software Update depending on the version of macOS you are running.
Don't leave your MacBook unused for long
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 if you must store your MacBook, try to store it 50% charged, and shutdown before storing it, rather than letting it go into sleep mode.
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.
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.”
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.
- To reset the SMC, first shut down your MacBook.
- Once it’s off, connect the MagSafe power adapter.
- Now hold down Control, Shift, Option/Alt and the Power button for around four seconds.
- 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.