04 October 2012

How to get more life from your MacBook battery

On Monday I posted tips for maximising the life of your Windows laptop battery.  Today it’s the turn of the MacBook users.

There are quite a few settings you can change to get more life from your battery in general, or if you need to get every last minute out of it when you’re trying to finish a job with no available power point.  The following tips apply to MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

Dim your screen

The one setting that will have the greatest impact on battery life is the brightness of the screen.  Pressing F1 dims your screen – lower the brightness until it is still comfortable to view.  As an example, you can increase the battery life of a MacBook Pro by up to three hours just by taking the screen brightness to the middle setting.

Select Energy Saver options

Your Energy Saver options will vary depending on the type of MacBook you have and the operating system.  You access these settings from System Preferences - select Energy Saver.  You’ll see samples of the Energy Saver panes further down.

Some of the settings you can change here are:
  • Putting the hard disk to sleep when it’s not in use.
  • Slightly dimming the display when using either battery or a power adaptor – you chose which power source in turn and then change the settings for each.
  • Automatically reducing the screen brightness before your notebook goes to sleep.
  • Changing the time after which your notebook or the display goes to sleep – use the slider.

Choose the correct graphics setting

MacBook Pros have two separate graphic processing units – with one being more energy efficient than the other.  If you have an older MacBook Pro (2008 to 2009) you can switch between the two to make your battery last longer.   In the Energy Saver pane select either:

MacBook Pro 2008 - 2009

Better battery life(this is the default setting) – if you are not using graphics-based applications.

Higher performance – if you are playing games, or using applications with a lot of graphics, like iMovie, or iPhoto.   Although, if you’re trying to get every last minute out of your battery these are the applications you shouldn’t be using; they consume much more power.

If you have a MacBook Pro from 2010 or later it will have automatic switching between the graphic processing units.  This means that your MacBook Pro will switch to the best graphic processing unit based on the application you are using.   You can switch this option off if you want the full effect of high-performance graphics-based applications.

MacBook Pro 2010 and later

If you have a MacBook Air from 2010 or MacBook Pro Retina from 2012 you don’t have the option to switch off the auto switching – it is fully automatic.

MacBook Air from 2010 and Macbook Pro Retina from 2012


Take out any disks

The optical drive will spin and read any CDs or DVDs in the drive, which uses battery power.  Remove the disks if you’re not using them.

Disconnect peripherals

Anything attached to your computer can draw power from the battery, even when you’re not using them.  So, disconnect your printer, camera, scanner etc.

Go Offline

If you don’t need to be online, turn off AirPort/Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
To turn off AirPort:
  1. From the menu bar click the AirPort icon 
  2. From the drop-down menu, select Turn AirPort Off.

To turn off Bluetooth:
  1. From the menu bar click the Bluetooth icon .
  2. From the drop-down menu, select Turn Bluetooth Off.

Apple’s batteries will give you considerably more time than a Windows PC’s battery, but by implementing some of the tips above you’ll get even more time out of your MacBook.


  1. Excellent tips.....thank you Margaret
    Even after having it three yrs.....I'm still learning so much about my MacbookPro...(luv the Apple products though!)

    1. Thanks Clare, if there's anything in particular you'd like to know more about, let me know, and I'll write a post about it.