Getting the Most Battery Life on Your MacBook

Extend your Mac's battery run-time with these tips

Macbook Pros
Courtesy Apple, Inc.

Battery life, battery run-time, and battery performance are major concerns of most mobile Mac users who spend hours away from power with their MacBook Pros and other Apple laptops. While Apple portables all have adequate battery performance, able to run many hours on a single charge, the run-time may occasionally be less than you need.

You can extend battery run-time using several battery conservation methods that are known to work.

Information in this article applies to Mac laptop computers running macOS 10.15 Catalina, macOS 10.14 Mojave, macOS 10.13 High Sierra, or macOS 10.12 Sierra.

About Battery Calibration

Getting the best run-time out of your Mac's battery starts with having a battery that is in good shape and calibrated.

For Mac laptops that have a built-in non-user replaceable battery (those produced after 2008), calibration is not required because the battery is calibrated at the factory. Apple maintains that over the course of the battery lifetime, calibration is not required.

In older Mac laptops with user-replaceable batteries, calibration is necessary for the battery's internal processor to estimate the remaining charge on the battery and predict when the current charge will be used up. If you don't know how to do this, read up on how to calibrate your MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air battery.

Turn Off Unused Services

Your portable Mac has many built-in services, such as AirPlay and Bluetooth, which can be turned off if you're not using them.

You can disable Wi-Fi if you're not using this feature. Doing so prevents your Mac from continually scanning for active wireless networks or making an automatic connection to a network. Either way, you save some battery power by turning off Wi-Fi.

How to Turn Off Wi-Fi

To turn off the Wi-Fi capability of your Apple laptop:

  1. Click the System Preferences icon in the Dock at the bottom of the screen.

    The Mac Dock showing the System Preferences icon
  2. Click Network in the System Preferences window.

    The Mac System Preferences screen
  3. Select Wi-Fi in the list of network services on the left side of the window. Click Turn Wi-Fi Off next to Status.

    Network system preferences screen

How to Turn Off Bluetooth

Bluetooth, handy for connecting peripherals to your laptop, is another energy drain that can be disabled if you're not using it.

  1. Launch System Preferences from the Dock.

  2. Click the Bluetooth icon in the System Preferences window.

    Mac system preferences screen
  3. Tap Turn Bluetooth Off in the Bluetooth preferences window.

    Bluetooth system preferences screen on a Mac

How to Turn Off Spotlight

Spotlight routinely accesses your drive to track changes to the file system. Although you can squeeze out a bit of extra battery time by turning off Spotlight, it isn't recommended. Many applications with built-in search systems, such as Mail, use Spotlight. Turning Spotlight off can cause the search functions in many applications to fail. In some cases, it can also cause an app not to load or to freeze when you try to use it. However, if you're determined to squeeze out a little more battery time, try this compromise.

  1. Launch System Preferences and select the Spotlight icon in the System Preferences window.

  2. Select the Privacy tab.

    Spotlight system preferences screen on a Mac
  3. Drag your Mac's drive to the Privacy list and drop it.

    Spotlight privacy settings screen

This action prevents the drive from being indexed, but it doesn't turn off Spotlight completely. It allows some applications to run without crashing, although their search features may not work.

Manage Energy Use

The Energy preference pane in System Preferences is where you manage your Mac's energy use. There are multiple options for conserving battery life, including turning off the display and putting drives to sleep. The Energy Saver preference pane is the best place to start with battery conservation.

Spin down your Mac's hard drives or turn off the display after a period of no usage. You can use the Energy Saver preference pane to put your hard drives to sleep when they're not being used. That's one good way to conserve battery power, but an even better way is to use this tip to customize when your Mac spins down the hard drives.

Energy Saver options in Mac System Preferences

Go to the Keyboard preferences to turn off keyboard backlighting. This feature uses an ambient light sensor to determine whether the keyboard needs to be illuminated in low light conditions. It may be lit more often than not, even when backlighting isn't needed.

Mac Keyboard preferences

Don't use the optical drive if your Mac has one. Spinning up the DVD drive is a huge energy user. Instead of using the optical drive to watch a movie on a trip, make a local copy of the movie using a DVD ripper. This allows you to store the movie on your laptop and watch it from the hard drive, which, while still an energy hog, is less of one than the optical drive.

Speaking of hard drives, consider replacing the drive with an SSD. Solid-state drives use less energy while providing better performance. They also don't contribute as much heat, so your Mac can save energy in running fans.

Some Other Ideas That Save Battery Power

Beginning with macOS 10.14 Mojave, opt to use Dark Mode, which uses less energy than Light Mode.

Muting the sound on a laptop is another way of reducing energy usage. By turning off your Mac's built-in speakers, the battery won't be used to generate all the default squeaks and squawks associated with various events. Just click the Mute button on your keyboard, or use the Sound system preferences pane to mute the output.

Set the Mail app (or another mail client) not to check for email regularly. Change the setting so you must check for mail yourself. Automatic mail checks use your network connection and spin up your hard drive to write new data if there's new mail. It's easier said than done, but only check your email when you need to.