MacBooks get more powerful and thinner every year, but battery life doesn’t improve anywhere near as much as raw performance does. This leaves us in a weird situation.
While the current MacBooks are quite powerful, at best they have the same battery life as their predecessors. And sometimes a four-hour battery cycle from a MacBook Pro just isn’t enough.
So what can you do? Quite a bit, it turns out.
1. Update to Latest OS
It’s being reported that a lot of battery fluctuations and issues have been fixed with the latest macOS Sierra update, when it comes to the 2016 MacBook Pros. So if you’re experiencing battery issues, the first thing to do is to update to the latest software.
2. Check Your Battery Condition
If you’re experiencing horrendous battery life, especially if your MacBook dies in under an hour, then your battery might need replacement. After using them for a long time, batteries die out. Most recently, it happened for my MacBook with just under two years of use (thank you AppleCare+).
If there’s something seriously wrong with your battery, macOS will tell you. Click the battery icon in the menu bar while holding the Option key. If it says Condition: Normal, everything is A-OK. But if there’s something wrong, it will say Replace soon. That’s your cue to get the Mac to the service station.
3. Switch to Safari, If You Can
Seriously, this is the only thing that’s going to give you an instant and significant battery bump. The simple the act of switching to Safari from Chrome can increase your battery life by an hour or two, depending on your usage.
While taking the screenshot above, I had two Safari windows and one Chrome window running, yet only Chrome was using significant energy. It was one of the big reasons why I made the switch.
Try switching to Safari, it’s a really good browser. You can keep Chrome around for things that don’t work so well on Safari (not a lot).
4. Customize Energy Saver Mode
macOS comes with a built-in Energy Saver mode that can help you maximize your Mac’s battery life. In System Preferences, select Energy Saver.
From the slider, reduce the time for how long the screen stays on when you’re not using the Mac.
Below, make sure the Slightly dim displays when on battery power and Put hard disks to sleep when possible options are checked.
It’s also advisable to turn off the Power Nap option that periodically checks for updates for apps and data when your MacBook is closed.
5. Dim Your Screen
While this advice doesn’t really hold up for the latest MacBook Pros, the displays on older devices are much less energy efficient. Turning the brightness down on your Retina MacBook Pro can certainly help when it comes to a longer battery life. You can do this using the F1 and F2 keys on the keyboard.
You might also want to disable automatic brightness. You can do this by going to System Preferences > Display.
6. Manage Rogue Apps
Generally, it’s rogue and resource-intensive apps that eat up battery. What you need to watch out for is if they’re still running when you’re not using them.
Practice quitting resource intensive apps you’re not using. Apps like Photoshop, Steam and any games you have installed.
To see if any app has gone rogue, open Activity Monitor (from Applications > Utilities) and click on the CPU tab. Here you’ll see apps that are the biggest resource hogs. If an app is taking up an unusually large stake of CPU processes (more than 70 percent), double click on it and select Quit.
7. Clean Your Mac
Using an unoptimized Mac is like driving a car that’s way past its service date. While macOS is generally pretty good at managing its own resources, junk can still develop. The severity of the problem depends on what you do on your Mac.
If you’re a programmer and you install a lot of packages on your Mac, only to forget about them down the line, you might have a problem. In any case, when your Mac starts misbehaving and starts draining a lot of battery, it’s a good opportunity to take stock and clean up your Mac.
You can do this using a couple of different tools. If you’re running macOS Sierra, use the built-in storage management tool to clear out huge and unimportant files.
You can use a third-party app like CleanMyMac 3 as well. They have a Maintenance section that’s dedicated to improving Mac’s performance and battery health.
If you’re looking for free options, look at OnyX. It might look daunting at first but select the things you want to do and let OnyX do its thing (it’s advisable to backup your important files before this). OnyX will run optimization scripts on an OS level and it might just take care of things that have gone wrong on a level that’s not user accessible.
8. Disable the Keyboard Backlight
If you routinely work in the dark or you just happen to have the keyboard backlight enabled, you should consider turning them off. You can do that using the F5 key. While the backlit keyboard is a great feature in MacBooks, using it for a long period can mean decreased battery life.
9. Monitor Your Mac’s Battery Life
The first step towards change is knowledge. Battery Health is a free menu bar app that monitors your Mac’s battery life and provides you with specific technical information that macOS won’t.
The app gives you an overall score of the health of the battery along with its current highest charging capacity.
A side effect of installing the app is that it will even provide you with the estimated remaining time for the battery (in various circumstances). Apple recently removed this feature from the Mac because it was quoting unrealistic numbers. Even with Battery Health, I would suggest you use the estimate as just that: an estimate.
10. Turn Off Turbo Boost
Turbo Boost is a feature of Intel CPUs which enables a kind of overdrive, all the way up to 11. If you’re using a modern Retina MacBook, your Mac supports the feature (to make sure, look up your model’s specification page on Apple’s web site).
If you’re using a 15-inch MacBook Pro, disabling turbo boost has a clear positive effect on the battery life. CPU intensive tasks take a hit. But for general usage, disabling Turbo Boost, even temporarily when you’re in dire circumstances can be of big help.
Marco Arment tested this theory by turning off Turbo Boost on his 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro and found that the battery life went up by 25 percent. You can do this using the Turbo Boost Switcher app.
Ultimately, It Depends on Your Use
If you’re watching full HD movies with the brightness turned all the way up or you’re transcoding videos, your Mac is still going to die on you in 3–4 hours. But in general use, the above tips should help you get more juice out of your current machine.
You can also try calibrating your MacBook’s battery. It’s like resetting your battery’s default behavior. Fully charge up your MacBook, then drain it down entirely and then charge it up all the way again. Also, we wouldn’t recommend keeping your MacBook plugged in at all times.