How to Maximize the Battery Life of Your MacBook

How to Maximize the Battery Life of Your MacBook

Range Govindan
Jan 3, 2011

Recently, Joelle told us on how you could maximize the battery life of your Apple products, but ever since I opened up my MacBook Pro 17 on Christmas Day, I've been researching on how to best use the battery of my new laptop. Here are the fruits of my research.

Although Apple does make some recommendations, they aren't very clear. Here's what I've discovered over the past few days. It will help you maximize the battery life of your MacBook. This applies to any of the more recent MacBooks, that have been produced since 2008 with the non-removable battery.

1. Calibrate Your Battery
As soon as you get your MacBook, calibrate your battery. This involves charging your laptop completely and leaving it plugged in for two hours. Then use you MacBook until the battery completely drains. I've found that modifying the energy saver preferences, which can be accessed via the Magic Menu on the battery icon, will allow you to stop your MacBook from sleeping. You have to set this up manually for this. Once the dialog prompts you to charge you laptop, do nothing and save all of you applications. Once it switches off, let it be like this for at least 5 hours. Then, plug it in and charge it up. During both charge ups, you can use your MacBook as usual.

My MacBook Pro 17 manages a full-on battery life, without going to sleep, of 8 hours. When I allow it to sleep and to dim the screen, but still remain on maximum brightness, I get between 10 and 12 hours. You should calibrate your battery every month without fail. This will help you maximize the life of your MacBook

2. Leaving Your MacBook Plugged In All the Time Isn't Good
It isn't bad, but Apple doesn't recommend it. If you do so, you'll most likely end up with paltry battery life. Apple says that in order to for the battery to work, electrons need to move around. This means that the battery should be used, at least once a month when you calibrate the battery.

3. Optimized Use of Your MacBook
Apple doesn't recommend discharging your battery every single time. You should not go through more than 1 or 2 complete discharge and recharge cycles per week. This means that if you have 50% of your battery power left, plugging it in counts as ½ a cycle. They are cumulative. This is actually the best way to work, as you are keeping a hefty charge in it and recharging it regularly. You shouldn't discharge your battery completely regularly. In a year, by going about this way, you'll have gone through about 150 cycles. The MacBook battery will retain at least 80% of its charge until 1000 cycles have passed.

The best use of a MacBook's battery would be someone who takes the MacBook with them to work, on a commuter train after it's been charged up at home. Once he or she arrives at work, they plug it in. Once they leave work, they unplug it to take it home. If you are doing something like this, you shouldn't worry. However if you're the type of user that's homebound and leaves their laptop plugged in all of the time, it's best to make efforts to use the battery.

Technically speaking, leaving the MacBook plugged in doesn't affect the battery because the power to make your MacBook work comes from the AC adapter. The thing that harms the battery is when it isn't being used at all. The myth of discharging it completely so that you can keep the battery longer doesn't work. It will actually diminish the life of the battery since it has to work harder when it's completely discharged to function.

4. Storing Your Laptop For an Extended Period of Time?
If you plan on not using your laptop for an extended period of time, leave it at 50% power when you switch it off. The older models would allow you to remove the battery, but in all of the new MacBooks, this is impossible. This is what Apple recommends.

5. Putting Your MacBook to Sleep Will Use Power
Most people are surprised to find out that their battery charge diminishes when they wake their MacBooks up after having put them to sleep. This happens because some power is needed to keep your applications, files, and things running while it's "sleeping". In order to avoid this, I just save everything and shut my MacBook down.

(Image: Flickr member Ger-Hardt licensed for use under Creative Commons, Flickr member Preshit licensed for use under Creative Commons, and Range)

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