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How to Extend MacBook Battery Life

by Robert Seth on July 31, 2011

How to Extend Macbook Battery LifeMake your laptop as portable, fun, and frustration proof as possible by taking these simple steps on How to Extend MacBook Battery Life. 

(Click Here for Windows version of this Article)

Apple continue to upgrade processors, memory, video cards, screens and all kinds of other things.  But if your MacBook battery life doesn’t last very long, all the rest can sometimes seem pretty useless.

After all, your MacBook is supposed to be portable.  If you have to stay plugged in all the time, it’s not much better than a desktop. 

You can’t do much about a battery’s maximum advertised time it will last between charges.  But there’s lots you can do to get the most from each one of those charges.

Of the things you can do to get the most minutes from a charge, managing screen brightness is probably the most important.  On a MacBook Pro 15” or 17”, this can make a difference of as much as three hours. 

To increase the battery time, try to keep your screen brightness as low as possible.  This can be controlled manually by using the F1 and F2 keys on your keyboard. 

Brightness control can also be controlled through systems preferences.  Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences, Hardware, and Displays.

In this dialog box you’ll find a slider to control brightness.  It can also be controlled automatically by checking the box, Automatically Adjust Brightness. 

The beauty of checking this box is that you can still adjust the brightness manually.  So if you don’t like the setting the computer selects, you can adjust it yourself with the keyboard keys. This does not cause the Automatically Adjust Brightness box to become unchecked

While you’re in the Displays dialog box, notice the screen resolution settings.  The most efficient setting is the screens native resolution.  Changing this will make the screen somewhat easier to see (especially for older eyes). But it will also shorten the useful time between charges. 

Different color profiles will also have an effect on battery life.  The more basic the setting, the more efficient power usage will be. 

You can change the profile from the Displays dialog box. To get there, click on the Color tab next to the Display tab in the Displays dialog box.  Here you can select a preset profile, or invent one yourself. 

Another place to improve battery life is in the Power Saver settings.  To get there, go to the Apple menu, System Preferences, Hardware, and Power Saver.

Any boxes checked in this screen will help increase MacBook battery life.  Also, the farther you move the sliders on this screen to the left, the longer your battery will last.

The top slider controls when your computer sleeps.  Setting this too low will cause you to have to wake your computer up all the time.  So you’ll want to find a good compromise between battery life and system performance. 

The bottom slider just puts the display asleep sooner.  It wakes back up quickly though so you can set it very low without much inconvenience. 

Some Macs have dual video cards.  If yours does, there will be a box at the top of the Power Saver screen entitled Automatic Graphics Switching.

This is one of those ingenious Apple features.  Your computer has one basic video card for simple tasks and one advanced one for more difficult tasks. 

The advanced one takes much more power.  So if you check this box, the advanced one will only be used when necessary.  This can save lots of power and greatly increase  MacBook battery life. 

Another thing you can do to increase battery life is to only run the programs you need.  Try to close browser windows when not needed. Also close programs when you’re finished with them.  

However, this process only goes so far.  There are times when you simply will not be able to do much extending. 

Programs that use lots of system resource will use lots of battery power.  These include video, photo, or sound editing programs, and video intensive games.  When using these you’re going to get less battery time no matter what you do. 

Another fairly easy battery extender is to keep your laptop as cool as possible.  Increased fan speed sucks battery power at an alarming rate. 

To keep fan speed as low as possible, keep you fans clean and try not to block your vents.  If you have a choice, try to use your laptop in the coolest place you can find. 

Fairly small increases in ambient air temperature can translate to big differences in battery life. If you think your fans might be dirty, click here to see my article on cleaning them.

Lastly, there is one more thing you can do to extend your battery life.  It’s not something you would normally think of.  However, depending on the extent of this issue, it can make the biggest difference of all.

This one thing is to keep your software and drivers up to date.  MacBooks do a fantastic job of this automatically by default.  Just make sure your default settings have not been changed. 

To check them, click on the Apple menu, System Preferences, System, and Software Updates.

Make sure you’re looking at the Scheduled Check tab.  For maximum automation, make sure Check for Updates and Download Updates Automatically are both checked.

The frequency of checking is up to you.  Weekly is probably adequate.  However, if you notice you battery suddenly not lasting very long, you might want to come in here and click on Check Now.

You can also check for updates by clicking on the Apple menu and just clicking on Software Updates.  Your computer will begin checking instantly.

I can’t stress enough how important this issue is.  Let me give you an example which is both extreme and quite recent.

I have Parallels on my MAC which is a program that allows me to run Windows (or any other operating system) on my MAC along with the MAC operating system. 

When I upgraded to Lion recently, my battery life went from 8 to 9 hours, down to about 1 to 2 hours.  This reduction was also accompanied by generally higher fan speed. 

The problem was that Lion required a whole new set of drivers and software updates.  If you made this switch to Lion, you probably noticed your computer doing lots of updates afterwards. 

Anyway, to make a long story short, my battery problem was completely solved by upgrading Parallels.  Parallels came out with an update the same day Lion was released. 

The upgrade was quite extensive and took a while to download and install.  However, the wait was worth it as it worked flawlessly afterwards.

The moral of the story is, when your computer asks if you want to install updates, you should allow it to do so as soon as possible. 

So there you have it.  If you keep these simple ideas in mind, you should be able to remain untethered from the power outlet for quite a while between charges. 

If you have a Windows computer, check out the Windows version of this article here.

If you enjoyed this article or have anything to add, I’d love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment.

If you would like more tips on improving computer performance, click here to grab a copy of our free video course on turbo charging your computer.

Thanks for visiting!

About Robert Seth

Robert Seth is a CPA in the Clark County, Washington area who has been serving individual and small business clients for the last 25 years. His business includes a growing number of remotely serviced customers throughout the United States. He’s also a writer and technology expert. He has a passion for improving the lives of others by helping them simplify the complicated stuff in their lives.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

carlie March 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I also noticed a poor battery life after upgrading to lion and downloading the program parallels. I am wondering if the update for parallels automatically came up when you “updated” your mac or if it is an update you have to seek through parallels


Robert Seth March 4, 2013 at 9:15 am

Hi Carlie,

Thanks for your questions. Yes it is an upgrade to Parallels that you have to download on your own. Unfortunately, it’s not automatic. Once you install it though, you’ll be amazed at the increase in battery life!
Take care and thanks for visiting!


casper September 28, 2012 at 5:14 am

graphic switching is not apple invention but Intel, that is misleading info in your article


Robert Seth October 18, 2012 at 7:48 am

I was not aware of that Casper. Thanks for the correction! But I do think it’s pretty nice that Apple includes it. It sure helps with making the battery last longer between charges.


Hamed Roozbehani August 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Hi there,
I am Hamed from Iran. What should we do with the electricity power. should we use battery just by itself or plug the Macbook in electricity?
Thanks a lot for your article.


Robert Seth August 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Best for your battery to charge up fully and then use it as much as possible. Recharge when necessary but use batteries most of the time.


Marbin November 30, 2011 at 6:35 pm

You forgot to mention also the ScreenSaver type.

Some Mac built in screensavers uses complicated 3d effects and I noticed that when they fired up the estimated battery life goes down considerably.


Rochelle November 17, 2011 at 4:58 am

Thanks Robert for the info and for explaining things in such simple terms. Just now getting ready to switch to Lion, so definitely appreciate the heads up on battery life.


Mike September 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm

This is great, thanks Robert. Just bought a brand new Macbook Pro and concerned about why the battery is lasting just 2.5 hours. Hopefully turning down the screen brightness will get me closer to the advertised 7 hours!


Jack Drew August 29, 2011 at 8:32 am

I was searching for “how to schedule day and time for Automatic Updates on MacBookPro” and was directed to tis site. I was impressed about the information provided… even though it wasn’t about my issue and just wonder if you could provide a simple response to the question I asked about re-scheduling automatic software unpdates for my MacBook Pro? Thank you


Robert Seth August 29, 2011 at 9:40 am

Hi Jack,
Thanks for your comment! You can reschedule you updates to a certain extent on your MacBook Pro. You can select daily, weekly, or monthly. But you cannot schedule a specific time like on a Windows computer. To schedule, go to the Apple menu, system preferences, System, and Sofware update. You will see the available selections on this screen. Have a great day and I hope that helps. Take care!


Lori August 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Great tips Robert, thanks.


Paul B. Taubman, II August 3, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Great tips! It is nice to see all the tips in one post! I don’t think that even Apple lists everything in one place!




james samy August 2, 2011 at 2:32 am

Thank you Robert for sharing this simple method. I am not using MAC, how about other pc …. any clue or advice


Robert Seth August 2, 2011 at 8:32 am

Hi James, the PC version of this article should be out on Thursday…so stay tuned!


Jimmy Hays Nelson August 1, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Wow– I just got back from a Bike Tour Trip in France. Wish I had known these tips before the flight over and back! Thanks for the help!


Eno Nsima-Obot August 1, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Hi Robert, as always thanks for an easy to read and understand article that truly makes the complicated simple. When I started reading your articles some months ago, it motivated me to buy a Mac. Initially I got one to ‘test’ with my husband. Then my PC semi-crashed on me and that tipped me over to buy a Mac Book Pro. All this is thanks to the reviews I read on your site. I had debated upgrading to Lion but I am holding off for now as my remote back up system ‘’ is still trying to work the compatibility issues. Fortunately I have developed ‘good habits’ with my Mac Book Pro like setting the automatic updates. One thing though when I am working close to a power outlet I feel I have to plug it in. Does this in anyway affect the battery life? Thanks again for a great article.


Robert Seth August 2, 2011 at 8:31 am

Dr. Eno, it’s best to exercise your battery. Just because you’re next to an outlet does not mean you need to plug it in. This is especially true with a new laptop. Let it run down to where it has at least an hour or two left and then plug it in. That will be best for it.


Rachelle August 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Thanks Robert! This is my first time to visit, and I’m glad I did! Sending this info to my parents who both have Macs.


Nancy August 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm

This is great stuff! So helpful. And you reminded me of things I used to know but simply forgot! I’m off to make adjustments to my laptop now!


Solvita August 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thanks Robert, you never hold back…this is was a very useful information – as always!!


denny hagel August 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Awesome info Robert! Thanks for sharing!


Pat August 1, 2011 at 11:45 am

Glad to have read this so I can forward and some of my Mac friends can get the info.


Olga Hermans August 1, 2011 at 9:37 am

Very interesting Robert and I definetely will be back with next time when you talk about windows. You definetely are the man I want to come back to for great information!


Phil Holleman August 1, 2011 at 4:03 am

Thanks Robert! i have noticed the higher fan since I upgraded to Lion. I’m now checking for software updates.


Catherine Ebeling August 1, 2011 at 3:58 am

This is excellent! Little things on my Mac I don’t pay attention to. I just noticed my battery is not lasting very long either. It’s time to ‘allow’ software updates!
Thank you for a very informative article!


Tamarah August 1, 2011 at 3:22 am

Thanks so much for such simple solutions, and step by step as well! I haven’t upgraded to Lion for this reason. Don’t wanna slow down my semi-slow Desktop that is nearly 5 years old.


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