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As your MacBook ages, your battery performance decreases — that’s just a fact of life. But if you correctly calibrate and maintain your battery, it’s possible to improve performance and put off replacing it for as long as possible.

Calibrating Your MacBook Battery

If you have a MacBook or a MacBook Pro, you should calibrate your lithium-ion battery How To Increase The Lifetime Of Your Laptop Battery How To Increase The Lifetime Of Your Laptop Battery A laptop with a short battery life is a nuisance, especially when you're on the road and nowhere close to a power socket. To make each individual charge of your battery last longer, learn about... Read More once a month. According to Apple, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs released after mid-2009 are pre-calibrated and don’t require calibration. Other laptops, however, can benefit from a calibration. Batteries have internal microprocessors, and properly calibrating them will keep your onscreen battery display accurate and your battery operating at maximum efficiency.

A properly-calibrated and battery will help you keep tabs on your power source and prevent the annoyance of having your computer not give you a warning before it goes to sleep or telling you that it has a few minutes left when it could easily go for another few hours. After a successful calibration, your MacBook’s battery meter will be a lot more accurate.

mac-battery-details

To calibrate the battery on your MacBook, you’ll need to perform a full cycle through the battery’s life.

  1. Plug in the power adapter and fully charge your PowerBook’s battery until the light ring or LED on the power adapter plug changes to green and the onscreen meter in the menu bar indicates that the battery is fully charged.
  2. Allow the battery to rest in the fully charged state for at least two hours. You may use your computer during this time as long as the adapter is plugged in.
  3. Disconnect the power adapter while the computer still on and start running the computer off battery power. You may use your computer during this time. When your battery gets low, the low battery warning dialog appears on the screen.
  4. At this point, save your work.  Continue to use your computer; when the battery gets very low, the computer will automatically go to sleep.
  5. Turn off the computer or allow it to sleep for five hours or more.
  6. Connect the power adapter and leave it connected until the battery is fully charged again.

Even though safe sleep mode will save any open files when your computer goes to sleep, it’s a good idea to save everything and close your apps before it goes to sleep. Once you’ve run the calibration cycle, your computer will have a much better idea of how much power is really left in your battery.

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Monitoring Your MacBook’s Battery Health

In addition to calibrating your battery, you can take steps to monitor the health and charge level to give you an even better idea of the overall condition. There are a number of apps that we’ve covered before, like Watts Improve Your Mac Laptop Battery Life With Watts [OSX] Improve Your Mac Laptop Battery Life With Watts [OSX] Laptop batteries are tricky bits of hardware. You have to plug them in to charge them up, but you can't leave them plugged in too long or they'll be damaged. You can't always let them... Read More  and CoconutBattery CoconutBattery: Your Mac Battery's Health Simplified CoconutBattery: Your Mac Battery's Health Simplified Read More . I use a free app called BatteryHealth that keeps an icon in the menu bar; clicking it opens up a monitoring window that gives you a lot of useful information about your battery.

mac-batteryhealth

As you can see here, you get the current charge level, current and original maximum charge, an estimate of time remaining on the current charge, number of cycles, age, and pretty much everything else you need to monitor the overall health of your battery.

The most important things here are the health percentage and the number of cycles. The health number is the total percentage of the original max charge that your battery can hold. Cycles are a measure of how much use your battery has received—as it increases, your battery performance will degrade.

This page shows the number of cycles that your MacBook battery can go through before it’s considered “consumed” and should be replaced. Most new models can handle about 1,000 cycles, but some older models are only rated for 500 or so.

Maintaining Your MacBook’s Battery

So now that you have a good idea of how well your battery is working, what can you do to make sure that you get the best performance out of it for a long period of time? There are a number of things you can do to keep it working well, including, surprisingly, unplugging it.

It’s important to keep energy moving through your battery to keep it running smoothly—if it’s always plugged in and rarely discharged, you might see a decrease in performance long before you’ve reached a high cycle count. Make sure to unplug and discharge your battery on a daily basis. You don’t have to take it all the way down to the emergency sleep state, but make sure that your battery is putting in the work it needs to stay healthy.

macbook-power-light

The other big thing is to make sure that you get as much as possible out of each charge cycle. If you’re using each cycle as efficiently as possible, it’ll take longer to go through a charge cycle and your count will increase more slowly, giving you better long-term battery life. So taking steps to maximize the use you get out of each charge doesn’t just pay off by letting you use your laptop longer, it also has long-term benefits.

To get the most out of each charge, you’ll want to take a number of battery-saving steps. First, dim your screen. Most of the time, you don’t need it on full brightness, and maxing it out can strain your eyes (while you’re at it consider f.lux to further reduce strain Use F.lux To Sleep Better After Late-Night Computer Activities Use F.lux To Sleep Better After Late-Night Computer Activities Read More ). The screen can consume a large portion of your battery’s capacity, so this will make a big difference.

Extraneous apps and connections can also take a toll on your battery, so close apps that you’re not using – especially if they open connections to refresh. Social networking and IM apps, iTunes, Dropbox, Messages, FaceTime, and Skype often accept incoming connections, and this can be a drain on your battery. Going to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall > Firewall Options will let you choose which applications are allowed to accept incoming connections with the OS X firewall How To Enable the Firewall In Mac OS X Snow Leopard How To Enable the Firewall In Mac OS X Snow Leopard Since we rarely hear about security problems with Apple hardware, we Mac users often ignore some of Apple's basic security applications and features such as the Firewall. It’s easy to set up, but there are... Read More . You can also choose to block them all.

os-x-security-firewall-connections

If you don’t need to connect to the internet, turning off your wi-fi will save a lot of power, as will disabling Bluetooth – and if you don’t need you Bluetooth keyboard 6 Of The Best Wireless All-In-One Keyboards For Mac and PC 6 Of The Best Wireless All-In-One Keyboards For Mac and PC Wireless all-in-one keyboards turn a boring living room computer into an exciting home theater PC. We've rounded up five of the best models around. But which one is best for you? Read More or mouse there’s no reason to keep it enabled. If you have other peripherals that connect via USB or Thunderbolt, unplug those when they’re not in use, as they can still draw power.

Replacing Your Macbook’s Battery

If your battery doesn’t hold much of a charge, you may want to get it replaced. While you can do it yourself with the aid of a resource like iFixit, it’s generally recommended that you bring it into an Apple store and let them do it. If you make an appointment at a store, you can usually get it replaced the same day. Having Apple replace the battery will cost you between $129 for a MacBook Air, 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro; $179 for a 17-inch MacBook Pro; or $199 for a MacBook Pro Retina.

Having Apple replace your battery will maintain any warranty or Apple Care plan you still have on the machine, whereas doing it yourself or approaching a third-party won’t – though you’ll likely save on parts and labor.

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Getting your cycle count close to the 800 or 1,000 mark doesn’t have to mean that your battery performance has to suffer. If you take steps to maintain your battery and keep it calibrated before you start having problems, you can maximize the life of your battery and get years of good use out of it. And don’t forget to check out these 20 ways to increase your battery life 20 Ways To Increase Laptop's Battery Life 20 Ways To Increase Laptop's Battery Life Read More !

What are your favorite battery calibration and monitoring tools? How do you maintain your battery? Share your thoughts below!

Image credits: Carl Berkeley via flickr, Paul Hudson via flickr.

  1. Viking
    May 6, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    I was just given a mid 2011 11 inch macbook air a couple days ago and the battery doesn't last too long. I used an coconutBattery to check the status of the battery and 2 days ago it showed Design capacity at 88.9%. I've been charging the battery and then using it until the battery gets low since I got it and now cocnutBattery says the Design capacity is at 90.7%
    Not sure if that's correct or not, but perhaps the charge to 100% and run it down to almost dead is helping some? This battery is 1536 days old, but has only been charge cycled 120 times. The person that gave it to me must have kept it on the charger all the time, rarely using it away from her desk.

    • Dann Albright
      May 9, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      Hm . . . the full cycles could help, but it's also possible that it's a difficult number to calculate, and the 1.8% change is just standard error. That seems somewhat likely, too. How has it been performing since you left your comment?

  2. Alcivar
    February 21, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    I recently replaced the battery in my mid 2009 macbook pro. I did not calibrate the battery. Now the computer suddenly shuts down at around 25% with no warning. How can I do a calibration if the computer isn't running the battery all the way down?

    • Dann Albright
      February 22, 2016 at 12:33 am

      Have you tried doing the standard calibration process? It's possible that it's so far away from properly calibrated that it thinks 0% is 25%.

  3. Patrick
    December 27, 2015 at 12:52 am

    From your article, "According to Apple, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs released after mid-2009 are pre-calibrated and don’t require calibration." So, why are we even talking about this in 2015?

    • Dann Albright
      January 2, 2016 at 1:51 am

      Well, this article was published in 2014, which was only 5 years after the 2009 computers were made, and a lot of them are still being used, so the owners of those computers were likely to benefit from this information. Also, some people may want to calibrate their batteries anyway, despite Apple's assertion that they're pre-calibrated, as it could potentially offer slightly better performance monitoring.

      • Dave
        July 11, 2016 at 11:26 pm

        Thanks Dann. Your calibration article remains helpful in 2016. I appreciate that there are more of us out there who are willing and able to effectively use tech tools for more than 6 years.

        • Dann Albright
          July 13, 2016 at 8:05 pm

          Glad you found it useful! It's not always easy to keep your devices running that long, but if you take good care of them, they'll last a long time!

      • Marco
        July 27, 2016 at 3:06 pm

        I encountered this problem on a 2009 MBP (it's running extremely well with el cap + a ssd upgrade).

        Your article is useful in 2016. Thanks.

        • Dann Albright
          August 11, 2016 at 2:37 pm

          Thanks for commenting! Glad the article was helpful, and that your MBP is still running well. Getting seven years out of a laptop isn't always an easy feat. :-)

  4. macuser
    November 19, 2015 at 5:32 am

    I run my battery from 100% always to around 7-4%.. around then I plug it in and use it while it is charging until it reaches 100%. Then I repeat. I have over 800 cycles and my battery holds 85% of its charge still.

    • Dann Albright
      November 23, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      That's pretty good! Sees like a good system that's working for you. Hopefully some other people will start using the strategy and seeing if it work. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ray
      March 21, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      I suppose you would have multiple cycles per day. Therefore, how long have you been using your mac to reach 85% battery life?

  5. Devon James
    March 8, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    I would like some clarification on this article; specifically, with the calibration of the battery.

    Let's say my laptop is fully charged and I take it to school with me; I then proceed to use it for a few hours, to the point where the battery reads, let's say, 78%. In order to maintain the optimal battery condition, should I not plug it in to charge and continue to use it (on battery power) until it completely drains? In a word, should the recalibration be performed as often as possible?

    Is it going to be costly in the long run if I were to charge it fully after it has decreased to 78%? What if I were to repeat this numerous times over before a complete discharge?

    • Dann Albright
      November 23, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      You don't need to do the recalibration as often as possible. The recalibration isn't going to improve your battery life noticeably, but it will help you get more accurate readings on the power level of your battery, which could help you do other things to improve the health of your battery. I recalibrate my battery once every couple months, more often if I'm on an older computer that goes to sleep without warning me that my battery is getting low. As for increasing the cost (either monetarily or in battery life) by recharging after going down to 78%, I wouldn't worry about it too much. It's better to run it down further than that, but even going down that far will have benefits.

  6. ccruz
    March 3, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Can I use it during the last part? Or should I just leave it charging until it's full and then turn it on?

    Great article btw!!

    • Dann Albright
      March 5, 2015 at 6:42 am

      I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to use it during the charging phase. Unfortunately, doing a full calibration takes a while and means that you can't use your computer for several hours. Take advantage of the time and go do something fun. :-)

      • Vlad
        April 6, 2016 at 8:04 pm

        Good question, and good answer! Thank you guys! :)

  7. Dann A
    September 5, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Glad you liked it, krys. Thanks for reading!

  8. krys
    August 25, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    great article- thanks!

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