How To Optimize Your Mac's Battery Performance

 
Having to constantly make a mad dash for the charger every time your Mac’s battery levels approach near depletion can be a pain, especially if you are commuting to work or backpacking on vacation where the nearest power outlet is kilometers away. This is why it’s important that you take steps to optimize your Mac’s battery performance as soon as you get your hands on it to ensure that it’s always in tip-top shape.
There are many ways to do this, and you can find a quick overview from the outline of the contents below.
 
Contents 

  1. Charge Cycles and How They Affect Your Mac’s Battery Life
  2. How to Optimize Your Mac’s Battery Performance
    1. Use Your Mac at Recommended Ambient Temperatures
    2. Do Not Fully Charge or Discharge Your Mac’s Battery
    3. Store Your Laptop Properly
    4. Use Your Mac’s Energy Saver Settings
    5. Unplug or Switch Off Anything That is Not Being Used
    6. Use the Activity Monitor to Manage Power Usage
    7. Turn Off Notifications and Automatic Updates
    8. Adjust Light Related Settings

 
Before we get to them, though, you need to find out your Mac’s battery information first (the charge cycle, in particular) so that you will know exactly what to expect from your Mac.
 

Charge Cycles and How They Affect Your Mac’s Battery Life

Each MacBook battery has a standard charge cycle count. One charge cycle is equivalent to one, full use of your Mac’s battery.* Every time you charge and use your Mac’s battery, one charge cycle gets added to the charge cycle count. Once your Mac’s battery approaches its charge cycle count limit, you will start to see noticeable changes in your Mac’s battery performance, usually either in taking longer to finish one, full charge or your Mac battery lasting a lot shorter than it used to when it was still relatively new.
Standard charge cycles vary among Mac models, but, typically, Macs manufactured in early 2008 and earlier have a standard charge cycle count of 300, Macs manufactured in late 2008 a standard charge cycle count of 500, and Macs manufactured from late 2009 onwards a standard charge cycle count of 1000.
If you want to confirm the standard charge cycle of your MacBook, you can do it by,

  1. Opening the Apple Menu
  2. Selecting “System Information.”
  3. Going to the “Hardware” section
  4. Selecting “Power.”
  5. Looking for “Health Information.”
  6. Looking for Cycle count.

 
Generally speaking, the higher your Mac’s battery’s charge cycle count, the longer is its expected lifespan — and by extension — the longer each charge can last.
Notes: 
*A single charge cycle is based on one, complete charge and discharge of your battery’s power. For example, if you charged your Mac’s battery up to 100 percent and you used it until it was down to 65 percent, then charged it again until it was back to 100 percent, it wouldn’t count as one charge cycle until you’ve consumed the remaining 35 percent from the previous charge.
 

How to Optimize Your Mac’s Battery Performance

 
Now that you know your Mac’s battery’s expected lifespan, let’s take a look at some of the most common ways to optimize your Mac’s battery performance.

Use Your Mac at Recommended Ambient Temperatures

MacBooks work at their best when they operate under ideal ambient temperatures (the general temperature of the surrounding environment) which is usually between  62° to 72° F or 16° to 22° C. Once the temperature climbs to more than 95° F (35° C), your battery (and your Mac, in general) may begin to overheat and struggle with performing certain tasks.
Letting this happen for extended periods of time and on a regular basis can cause permanent and significant damage to your Mac and its battery, so try to avoid it as much as much as possible.
If there’s no way to lower down the temperature of the place that you are currently in, try to use a portable laptop fan or cooling pad to help keep your Mac from overheating. Also, make sure that you don’t place your Mac on any surface that may block its ventilation grills like your lap, a mattress, or any other flat surface with no holes to make sure that air can circulate properly.
 

Do Not Fully Charge or Discharge Your Mac’s Battery

If you are an average Mac user, your first instinct if you want to make the most of your Mac’s battery is probably to charge it to its full capacity. After all, the more charge your battery has left, the longer it is going to last before you need to charge it again, right?
Studies on charging practices and battery life indicate that while that is not necessarily wrong, it might also not be good for your battery’s life span in the long run. This is because each cell of the lithium polymer batteries that your Mac uses is charged to a certain voltage level, and the higher the charge percentage is, the higher the voltage level will be. The more voltage each cell has to store, the more strain it will put your battery under. Keeping your Mac’s battery at this state of tension on a regular basis can eventually lead to fewer discharge cycles which is equivalent to shorter battery life.
Similarly, letting your Mac’s battery become completely discharged is not recommended as lithium-based batteries were designed to hold a certain amount of volts (sometimes 3 volts; sometimes 2) per cell to operate properly. If this goes lower than that, the safety switch meant to prevent the battery from sustaining permanent damage or catching fire can be triggered and cause the battery to shut down and refuse to hold a charge using ordinary chargers.
To avoid putting your Mac’s battery under constant strain, tests suggest that users try their best to keep their laptops at 40-80 percent charge percentage. If that’s not possible, plugging your laptop once it hit 20 percent charge percentage is highly advised.

Store Your Laptop Properly

If you won’t be using your Mac for several days or weeks, make sure that you store it properly, taking extra note of the temperature of the room that you are going to be storing it in and the charge percentage of the battery when you left it.
Leaving your laptop at a room that is either a little too cold or a little too hot for extended periods of time can cause all sorts of damage from internal components freezing up and refusing to work to the battery overheating and eventually catching fire.
Storing your laptop fully charged or completely discharged can also be damaging to your Mac’s battery for the reasons mentioned above, but the damage can be made more significant by the longer amount of time it spends tucked away.
To keep your Mac’s battery healthy while in storage, Apple recommends that you leave it at around 50 percent charge percentage, then store it in a moisture-free room with temperatures between -13° to 113° F (-25° to 45° C).

Use Your Mac’s Energy Saver Settings

Your Mac has different components that, depending on circumstances, can either work together with or independently from one another. You can take advantage of this to optimize your Mac’s battery performance by tweaking its energy saving preferences to tell your Mac what to do with components that are not currently being used.
To do this,

  1. Go to the Apple Menu.
  2. Select “System Preferences.”
  3. Click on “Energy Saver.”
  4. Tick or tick off boxes according to your preferred settings.

 
Ticking “Automatic Graphics Switching” will allow your Mac to automatically switch from using its dedicated graphics card to its integrated one and vice versa depending on the tasks that you are currently performing (dedicated graphics card = high-quality games and high-definition videos but faster power discharge; integrated graphics card = non-graphic intensive tasks but slower power discharge).
While you’re at it, you can also specify how many minutes you want to pass since the last detected activity before your Mac goes to sleep, if you want to allow the hard disk to go to sleep if it detects inactivity, if you want it to be awakened if someone tried to access shared resources (applies only when your Mac is connected to a network) or if you want it to go on a power nap until it detects new updates.
Additionally, if you have temporary access to a power outlet, you can also switch from the “Battery” to the “Power Adapter” option so you can save your Mac’s battery for later use.

Unplug or Switch Off Anything That is Not Being Used

Even programs, applications, and peripherals that are not actively being used consume a certain amount of power, so you might want to make a habit of ejecting, unplugging, or switching off anything that you are not currently using in order to make your Mac’s battery last as long as possible.
Some common examples of these are the Wi-fi and Bluetooth connection, CDs or DVDs left in the optical drive and memory cards left in the card slot, printers or scanners that have been left on standby, and removable flash drives that have been left in the USB slot.
On their own, they don’t consume a significant amount of power, but when combined together, they can take a dent on your Mac’s remaining battery charge which can be troublesome if you are running low on power and you won’t have access to a power outlet for a couple of hours or so.

Use the Activity Monitor to Manage Power Usage

Different programs and applications consume different amounts of power. Some hardly consume any, but some are notorious for consuming too much for some user’s comfort.
If you think your Mac’s battery is losing power faster than you think it should, you can use your Mac’s Activity Monitor to check which apps are consuming the most power and stop those that you don’t really need from running in the background.
To do this,

  1. Go to the Applications Folder.
  2. Open the “Activity Monitor.”
  3. Click on the “CPU” tab.
  4. Click on “All Processes.”
  5. Click on the “CPU” tab.
  6. Check if there’s any application that is taking up more than 70% of the CPU.
  7. Click on the application that you think you don’t need.
  8. Select “Quit” when asked if you’re sure you want to “kill” the app.

 
Additionally, you can also find exactly how much impact each running app has on your Mac’s battery from the same panel.
To do this,

  1. Follow Steps 1 and 2.
  2. Click on the “Energy” tab.
  3. Examine the available data. Usually, the app consuming the most energy would be right on top.
  4. If you think you don’t need it, just quit the app by following Steps 7 and 8 from above.

 

Turn Off Notifications and Automatic Updates

Your Mac is designed to keep you as updated as possible by constantly fetching new notifications and actively looking for any updates that it might need. While diligence is normally good, having your Mac on battery mode is not the best time for these as they’re going to drain your battery’s remaining charge faster.
If you want to save on power, try to turn off notifications that you don’t need or tell your computer not to look for updates unless prompted.
To turn off notifications,

  1. Go to the Apple Menu.
  2. Select “System Preferences.”
  3. Select “Notifications.”
  4. Tick off the boxes beside the apps that you don’t want to receive notifications from.

 
To turn off automatic updates,

  1. Go to the Apple Menu.
  2. Select “System Preferences.”
  3. Click on “App Store.”
  4. Tick off the box that says “Automatically Check for Updates” and “Download Newly Available Updates in the Background.”

 

Adjust Light Related Settings

Every now and then, we find ourselves in situations where we could use some extra light to help us see what we’re doing, but there are also times when we can do away without it, especially if we are already running low on battery.
To help save on battery consumption, there are two light-related settings that we can adjust: the display brightness and the keyboard backlight.
To adjust display brightness,

  1. Look for the increase brightness or decrease brightness keys (the ones that look like suns) and adjust them according to your preferences,
  2. Or you can automatically adjust your screen’s brightness based on your surroundings’ lighting conditions by,
    1. going to the Apple Menu
    2. selecting “System Preferences.”
    3. clicking on “Displays”
    4. selecting “Display.”
    5. selecting “Automatically adjust brightness.”

 
To adjust your keyboard’s backlight,

  1. Go to the Apple Menu.
  2. Select “System Preferences”
  3. Click on “Keyboard.”
  4. Look for the “Adjust keyboard brightness in low light” option and tick the checkbox (If you can’t find this option, you probably don’t have a backlit keyboard).
  5. If your Mac has a Touch Bar, you can also adjust it by tapping on the left arrow icon in the Control Strip.

 
These are just some basic tips on how to optimize your Mac’s battery performance. At the end of the day, your battery’s ability to hold a charge as well as its lifespan in general will still be primarily dependent on its technical design, but being proactive in taking care of it definitely won’t hurt either.

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