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How to troubleshoot MacBook battery issues

On the whole, Apple products are very robust and reliable. You may pay a premium for them but they get the job done and are usually there when you need them. They aren’t immune from issues though, Apple products just suffer fewer than other manufacturers. One common complaint with MacBook owners is battery life. If your business uses MacBooks, I’ll show you how to troubleshoot MacBook battery issues.

As reliable as Apple is, our Mac support team is always busy. That’s partly down to the ubiquity of their products but also a few key shortcomings in the hardware and design of their devices. Battery life is a key challenge in any portable device but the MacBook has a particular set of challenges you may need to tackle.

MacBook battery cycles

On paper, a new MacBook should get you around 10 hours of use per charge. That will obviously vary depending on what you’re doing but for normal business use, that ten hours purely on batteries is the benchmark. Unfortunately, quite a few users have found it falls way short of the mark.

There are some things you can do to extend it though. First, let us see how many battery cycles you have left. A MacBook as a finite amount of charge cycles it can handle before it begins to degrade and is then regarded as empty and needs replacing. A battery should be capable of around a thousand charge cycles before it needs replacing. Our Mac support will check this first before doing anything with Apple battery faults.

Let us see where your battery is in that count.

  1. Hold down Option and select the Apple menu.
  2. Select System Information and then Power from the left menu.
  3. Look for Cycle Count under Health Information.

There will be a number beside that count which will tell you how far from needing replacement your MacBook is. Repeat this for all of the MacBooks you have in your business and perhaps record them somewhere for future reference.

Troubleshoot MacBook battery issues

The first thing we need to do is have your MacBook display remaining battery as a percentage. Select the battery icon from the top menu and select Show Percentage. Now you should have a much clearer idea of where you are in terms of battery life.

Now we can get on with the troubleshooting.

Update everything

Keeping your MacBook up to date is a key way for helping your laptop run efficiently. Some OS updates contain code fixes that make it more stable and use less power. App updates can often do the same. It is advisable to keep everything updated automatically but it’s entirely up to you.

Select System Preferences and Software Update to update Mac OS. Check the box next to Automatically keep my Mac up to date to do exactly that.

Next, go to the App Store and update there too.

  1. Open the App Store and select Updates.
  2. Select Update All of there is the option or Update for individual apps.
  3. Enter your Apple ID when prompted and let the process complete.

Turn off the keyboard backlight

While useful if you’re working into the night, for most offices the keyboard backlight is just too power hungry. Turning it off can save you some battery life while leaving it easy to turn back on again should you need to.

  1. Select System Preferences and Keyboard.
  2. Uncheck ‘Adjust keyboard brightness in low light’.
  3. Press F5 repeatedly until the backlight turns off.

If you do find yourself working in the dark or at night, just reverse it to turn them back on again.

Identify power hungry apps and shut them down

Apple uses a power metric to identify apps that use the most power. We can use that to identify battery hogs and shut them down.

Select the battery icon from the top menu and look under Apps Using Significant Energy. The apps listed underneath are the ones using battery. If you’re not using any of them, shut them down.

Turn off Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a notorious power hog even if you have BLE, Bluetooth Low Energy. It is always better to turn it off and have that extra step when you need it than leave it on for when you might need to use it. Turning it off is simple, just use the menu bar and turn it off.

Or, use System Preferences, Bluetooth and turn it off from there.

Use Energy Saver

If you’re out of the office and know you won’t be able to charge anytime soon, you may like to use the Energy Saver feature. It’s a set of power settings that optimizes the MacBook for battery life. Use some or use them all to squeeze as much time out of your battery as possible.

  1. Select the Apple menu and System Preferences.
  2. Select Energy Saver from the menu.
  3. Turn on Automatic graphics switching, Put hard disks to sleep when possible, Wake for Wi-Fi network access and Enable Power Nap.

Those settings can all contribute in a small way to longer battery life. On their own, they don’t make all that much difference but combined could squeeze some extra time out of a charge while you’re running from meeting to meeting without the opportunity to charge.

Changing a MacBook battery

If your battery is almost up to its 1,000 cycle limit and out of warranty, changing your own battery is simple. If you have a newer MacBook still under warranty, it makes sense to get Apple to change it. For the former, here’s a guide on how to change it.

The process is different depending on what model MacBook you have and each is listed on the linked page. It’s easier to send you there rather than repeat it all here.

Alternatively, the Mac support guys at New Jersey Computer Help can visit your office and change your batteries for you. We can help with any kind of Mac or Apple issue and would be happy to assist. Contact us for more details.

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