How To Improve Your MacBook's Battery Life


WARNING: A dying or failing MacBook battery could be the sign of a virus or malware infection in your Mac. Check out our article on how to clean your computer and keep it safe from viruses and adware by clicking below.

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When you are looking to acquire a laptop, one of the main things to look for is a machine with good battery life. Large Windows laptops are notorious for having terrible battery lives, which is one of the reasons for the recent trend towards MacBooks, which holds a reputation for having good battery lives that diminish very slowly throughout their lives.

However, there are a number amount of issues that can prevent your MacBook's battery from lasting as long as it could, so keep reading to find out how to extend it as long as possible!

Do note that this article is for the Macbooks modeled before 2016. However, even if you want to stick around for some good reading, carry on!

Do You Have a Battery Problem?

When looking at ways to improve your MacBook's battery life, the first thing you must do is determine whether it is substandard, as there is no point in trying to improve your MacBook's battery life if it's already reaching its full potential. Apple claims 7 hours of battery life for the MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs, however, the battery tests that were used to make this claim were performed under stringent conditions, conditions which you cannot expect to emulate under everyday usage.

Realistically, one might get 3-5 hours browsing the web, 2-3 hours watching MP4 videos, and even only 1-2 hours consuming Flash Content on a healthy battery. If your battery is lasting significantly shorter than this, you may have a problem and are advised to read the rest of this article.

Charge Capacity

If your MacBook is a few years old (or more), the battery may have worn out and be unable to hold much charge. To test exactly how worn out your MacBook's battery is, you can download a free application called Coconut Battery that will tell you what percentage of charge the battery can hold. For example, if your MacBook can hold a 50% charge, it means that it can only hold half of the charge that it could have when it was new.

The amount of charge capacity your MacBook should run down to before the battery should be replaced is up to you. It depends on whether the battery is meeting your needs or not.  If it isn't, the best option would be to simply purchase a new battery and replace your worn out one.  While MacBooks made in 2008 or later don't officially have user-replaceable batteries, replacing the battery of a MacBook Pro (non-retina) remains an easy and risk-free process.

Replacement Batteries

Below are genuine, brand new replacement batteries for 13" and 15" MacBook Pros (non-retina), as well as 11" and 13" MacBook Airs, that can be purchased via Amazon. Just double-check it is the correct one for your model before you purchase.

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Other Factors

Brightness

Screen and keyboard brightness are two of the biggest battery drains on your MacBook. Although you probably know to turn them down if you've made it to this article, don't underestimate the effect of turning your MacBook's screen down. Fortunately, MacBooks contain ambient light sensors, which adjust the screen brightness based on the level of light in the room.

However, these sensors are not always 100% accurate, especially when it comes to the backlit keyboard, so you may find the brightness higher than you need. If this is the case, you can easily turn the screen brightness down by hitting the F1 key and the backlit keyboard brightness down by hitting the F5 key.

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Avoid Flash Content

Flash Content (what is it?) is probably the single biggest battery drain on Macintosh laptops, maybe even more-so than screen brightness. Adobe Flash never ran well on Mac OSX, and with improvement over the years minimal, it still does not.

Flash Content does not run as efficiently on Macs as it does on Windows due to poor coding resulting in excessive resource use. The level of system resources Adobe Flash uses on Macs is unnecessary. High-end MacBook Pros can be brought to their knees by simple Flash games that a cheap Windows netbook could run with ease.

Thus, is it best to avoid Flash when possible, as using alternatives can potentially add hours to your MacBook's battery life.

The most common sort of Flash Content you will encounter while browsing the web are videos. Flash videos can be very taxing on your Mac, and its battery life and alternatives can be much more efficient.

If you watch videos on streaming websites animefreak.tv, then you can extend your MacBook's battery life by hours by downloading the videos rather than watching them online. When played online, the videos play in Flash, which is inefficient and therefore promotes poor battery life. However, when downloaded, they can be played on your MacBook in MP4 format using QuickTime or the VLC Player.

The MP4 format is many times more efficient than the Flash format, so by downloading the videos instead of streaming them online, you stand to save a significant amount of battery life on your MacBook. If you need a tutorial explaining how to download videos off of streaming websites, then click here.

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Memory

If your MacBook does not have enough RAM (what is RAM?) to handle the tasks that you are performing on it, then the computer's battery life may be being compromised. When the system runs out of RAM, and there is no inactive RAM that can be cleared, the system must page out to the hard drive. This pretty much means that data must be saved to the hard drive instead of the RAM, due to insufficient space. High page outs are decretory to the battery life of your MacBook because the hard drive would have to keep actively working when it wouldn't otherwise have to, and hard drives (even SSDs) use significantly more power than RAM.

A high number of page outs is usually identified by slow speeds when multitasking and working with files on your Mac. However, if your Mac does experience slow speeds, it can be hard to tell whether it's caused by the page outs or something else entirely. So to test if your MacBook is paging out significantly, follow the steps in this article, which shows you how to use the activity monitor to tell if the page outs are abnormally high.

If you find that your MacBook's page outs are abnormally high, it means that the computer does not have enough RAM for the tasks you are performing on it (and therefore, the battery life is likely being compromised). The only solution is to install more RAM into your MacBook, which is only possible if you have a non-retina MacBook Pro. If you do have a non-retina MacBook Pro, you'll be glad to know that laptop RAM is cheap to purchase and easy to install (even easier than the batteries).

Below is a selection of MacBook RAM from Amazon, in 8GB and 16GB units. To find out whether you'll need an 8GB or 16GB RAM unit, click on the Apple menu, then select 'About This Mac,' where you will be able to see the amount of RAM currently installed. If you have less than 8GB installed, go with the 8GB module. If you have 8GB or more installed, go with the 16GB module.

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Optical Drive (DVD-ROM)

If your MacBook has an optical drive, make sure to keep its use to a minimum. Optical drives (and the heat generated by them) uses up a lot of battery power, as the drives have many large, mechanical parts. Its use can be minimized quite easily, by opting to consume media online rather than in disc format and ripping frequently used discs to your MacBook's hard drive.

For the times when you do use optical disks, remember to take the disk out of the drive when you've finished using it as it will otherwise spin up periodically (especially when you wake the computer from sleep or switch it on) to check its status, and in doing so will use up a significant amount of your MacBook's battery life. The same applies to peripherals, such as external optical drives, memory sticks, and external hard drives.

Battery Calibration

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It is widely accepted that calibrating your MacBook's battery 'stretches' the battery, keeping its capacity from shrinking and making the percentage meter more accurate. However, every MacBook that has a built-in battery (MacBooks that were made in 2008/2009 or later) calibrates its battery automatically.

This does not mean though that regular 'stretching' of the battery isn't essential. If you leave your MacBook plugged into the charger 24/7 without ever running it off the battery (as in, months on end on only AC power), then the battery's ability to hold a charge will be gradually eroded over time. If you use your MacBook on your lap regularly, then you don't need to worry about this. However, if you find that the computer is primarily 'tied to the desk,' then it'd pay to take it off the charger and use it on battery power once in a while.

Bigger Battery?

If, after reading and taking the advice above, your MacBook's battery life still doesn't satisfy you, the only other thing you can do is make the battery bigger. This can be done by purchasing an external battery pack for your MacBook, which can extend its battery life by up to 32 hours.

It is not required that you remove/replace the built-in battery of your MacBook to use these battery packs, as they are entirely external, charging the internal battery via the MagSafe port in precisely the same way as a typical wall charger would.

The first battery pack can potentially extend your MacBook's battery life by twenty hours, depending on your usage.

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If you are regularly away from wall outlets, then an external battery pack, like those listed below, is a worthwhile investment, starting at under $100.  They are specifically designed to be used with MacBooks, and can also charge iPads and iPhones.

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Mike Roberts

Hi, my name is Mike and I made this site to document all the helpful tips and tricks that I've discovered using various Apple Macs and other Apple products over the years, as well as to provide more general guides in relation to using the internet. I've been obsessed with Apple products ever since I could afford my first iPod, and am somewhat of a fanboy (you might have guessed). For me, the simply work without any fuss, issues or errors. I can rely on their products. The build quality is excellent and I even have several, several-year-old Macbooks in my wardrobe that are still humming along fine (just a bit slower). You can contact me personally using the form on this page.

3 Comments

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  1. One thing I like to recommend are battery banks. They are very useful to those of us going on long journey’s and can’t rely on a power outlet being available. I carry two around with me and this extends the battery life of my MacBook greatly. Of course, it’s always worth checking for underlying issues as this article suggests.

  2. It’s also a good idea to perhaps change what web browser you use. Google Chrome is not only a memory hog but also a huge battery drainer. On Macs, I’d recommend using Firefox or Safari, my preference is Firefox. You’ll probably get at least an extra hour of usage, I get close to 2 with Firefox.

  3. I’m curious about the portable charger. How much additional battery life would I get from it? One full charge or maybe more? I use the MacBook Air and need to squeeze some more run time out of it. I don’t think I need to upgrade memory as it’s a newer model. I’ll try the battery calibration though and get back to you with any changes.