Tips to Manage MacBook Battery Life

Extend your MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro battery performance

Getting the most out of a MacBook which includes the MacBookMacBook Pro, and MacBook Air is a bit different than getting the most out of a desktop Mac. The OS is the same, but with a laptop, you must learn to manage battery performance.

We routinely take our MacBook Pro with us on trips. We also use it around the house and in our home office for various tasks. Sitting on a sun-dappled deck with a laptop is a nice change from working in an office environment.

No matter how you use your portable Mac this series of guides explain the various ways to manage energy usage on your Mac. By using the right energy management settings, and keeping a keen eye on your Mac's battery gauge, you can extend the battery runtime so you don't have to recharge or shut down your Mac before you're finished working (or playing).

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

Battery symbols with different charge statuses

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Having a calibrated Mac battery is essential for obtaining both optimal runtime and the longest battery life. The calibration process is pretty simple but it does take a while. You should plan on performing the calibration routine a few times each year depending on the Mac model you are using. Some of the more recent Mac's don't need to have the battery calibration process performed.

For those models that need the battery, recalibration is that over time, the performance of the battery changes. Okay, let's be honest here. The battery's performance gradually goes downhill, which means that the Mac's battery charge indicator gradually becomes overly optimistic about the amount of runtime left on a charge. Recalibrating the battery a few times a year will allow the battery charge indicator to provide a more accurate reading.

Getting the Most Runtime out of a Battery

Man using Macbook Air


A battery's life can be measured in two ways; by its overall useful lifetime and by the length of time it can run between charges.

Battery lifetime is something you generally can't change, at least not drastically. You can extend a battery's lifetime by not overcharging it, and by not recharging it when it doesn't really need to be recharged. Beyond that, a battery's lifetime is pretty much determined by Apple when it selects a particular battery for a particular Mac model.

Although you can't do much to lengthen a battery's lifetime, you can greatly affect its runtime by how you use your Mac. This guide has tips for eking out that last bit of power between charges.

Using the Energy Saver Preferences Pane

Energy Saver preference pane, used to help control battery usage.

The Energy Saver preference pane is where you set up how and when your Mac will sleep. For desktop users, this preference pane is important but not overly critical. For Mac portable users, the way you configure Energy Saver can mean the difference between working your way through a trip or giving up and shutting down because your Mac’s battery went belly up long before you expected it to.

The Energy Saver preference pane lets you set different options, depending on whether you’re connected to a power adapter or running off a battery. Be sure to use different settings for the power adapter, so you can run full throttle when you’re connected to power.

Save Your Mac's Battery - Spin Down Your Drive's Platters

HDD Open with platters and actuator exposed

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If your Mac portable has a platter-based hard drive rather than an SSD, you can increase battery performance by setting the Energy Saver preference pane to spin down the drive when it's not in use.

The problem with simply selecting the option to spin down the drive is that you have no control over how long your Mac will wait before the spin-down occurs. No matter how you use your Mac, the drive will go into power-saving mode after 10 minutes of inactivity.

Ten minutes is a lot of wasted battery life. I'd rather see a shorter time, such as 5 minutes, or 7 at the most. Luckily, you can use Terminal to change the disk sleep time, that is, the amount of idle time that has to occur before the drive spins down.

Change How Your Mac Sleeps - Pick the Best Sleep Method for You and Your Mac

Mac laptop open on a desk

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The Mac supports three different sleep modes: Sleep, Hibernation, and Safe Sleep. Each mode offers uniquely different ways of sleeping, and some of them use more battery power than others.

You won't find any controls for the sleep modes in the System Preferences, but you can gain control over the various sleep modes by using Terminal.

Reset Your Mac's SMC

Customer looking at MacBook Air at an Apple Store

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The SMC (System Management Controller) takes care of quite a few core functions of your portable Mac, including managing the battery, controlling charging, and displaying run-time information for the battery.

Since the SMC is a key component to managing your Mac's battery performance, it can be the cause for some common battery issues, such as failing to charge, not charging fully, or displaying the incorrect amount of remaining charge or remaining time. 

Sometimes a simple reset of the SMC is all that's needed to get your battery and Mac portable on speaking terms.