Calibrating Your MacBook, Air, or Pro Battery

Keep accurate track of battery life by calibrating the battery

Battery Symbols
Getty Images/Ivcandy

New or old, all of the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air portables use a battery that has an internal processor designed to maximize battery performance. One of the functions of the battery's internal processor is to estimate remaining battery life by analyzing the current state of the battery charge, as well as the rate at which power is being consumed.

In order to make accurate predictions about the remaining battery charge, the battery and its processor need to undergo a calibration routine. The calibration routine helps the processor gauge the battery's current performance and make accurate predictions about the remaining battery charge.

When to Calibrate Your Battery

When you buy a MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air, you should run the battery calibration routine during the Mac's first day of use. Of course, many of us end up enjoying our new Macs so much we forget all about this necessary step. Luckily, it doesn't hurt the battery if you forget to perform the calibration routine; it just means you're not getting the best possible performance from the battery.

Once the battery has been calibrated, its remaining time indicator will be much more accurate. However, over time, as the battery accumulates charges and discharges, its performance will change, so you should perform the battery calibration routine at regular intervals. Apple suggests calibrating the battery every few months, but we've found that the appropriate time between calibrations is highly dependent on how, and how often, you use your Mac. With that in mind, it's a safe bet that calibrating your battery as many as four times a year won't be excessive.

How to Calibrate Your MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air Battery

  1. Start by ensuring your Mac is fully charged. Don't go by the battery menu item; instead, plug in the power adapter and charge your Mac until the light ring at the charging jack or the power adapter's light turn green, and the onscreen battery menu indicates a full charge.

  2. Once the battery is fully charged, continue to run your Mac from the AC adapter for two hours. You can use your Mac during this time; just be sure the power adapter is plugged in and you're running off AC power and not the Mac's battery.

  3. After two hours, unplug the AC power adapter from your Mac. Don't turn your Mac off; it will transition to battery power without any trouble. Continue to run the Mac from the battery until the onscreen low battery warning dialog appears. While you wait for the low battery warning, you can continue to use your Mac.

  4. Once you see the onscreen low battery warning, save any work in progress, then continue to use your Mac until it automatically goes to sleep because of very low battery power. Don't perform any critical work after you see the low battery warning, because the Mac will go to sleep before long and with no other warning. Once your Mac goes to sleep, turn it off.

  5. After waiting a minimum of five hours (longer is fine), connect the power adapter and fully charge your Mac. Your battery is now fully calibrated, and the internal battery processor will deliver accurate battery time remaining estimates.

Tips for Optimizing Battery Usage

There are plenty of ways to reduce battery usage on your Mac; some are obvious, such as dimming the brightness of the display. Bright displays use more energy, so keep it dim as much as possible. You can use the Displays preference pane to adjust display brightness.

Other ways aren't quite as obvious, such as turning off the Wi-Fi capabilities of your Mac when you’re not using a wireless network connection. Even when you're not actively connected to a wireless network, your Mac is expending energy searching for available networks to use. You can turn the Wi-Fi capabilities off either from the Wi-Fi menu bar icon, or the Network preference pane.

Disconnect peripherals, including any attached memory cards. Once again, even when you're not actively using a device, your Mac is checking the various ports for any required service a device may need. Your Mac also supplies power through many of its ports, so disconnecting USB-powered external drives, for example, can extend battery time.