5 tips for better MacBook battery life

Apple's MacBooks are the most popular portables on the planet and its recent decision to upgrade the hardware and reduce prices on them will keep it that way. All the same, every MacBook user may need these tips to get better battery life from time to time.

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Battery tech

It makes sense to understand the battery you have inside your Mac. As they get older, they retain less battery charge so you get less usage time in between each charge.

Diagnosis

Your MacBook constantly monitors battery health. Hold down the Alt/Option key when you click the battery charge icon in the Menu bar to see a pane that describes battery condition as: Normal, Replace Soon, Replace Now and Service Battery. The last two conditions indicate you need a replacement battery. More information here.

Tip: On some MacBooks you should regularly calibrate your battery for best performance. It sometimes helps to reset the System Manager Controller (SMC) before you take a trip that's likely to require you conserve power.

Battery tips

Install Mavericks

OS X Mavericks is energy efficient by design. It also contains many useful features to reduce power drain: App Nap, Safari Power Saver and Time Coalescing. Use them.

Adjust brightness

Your display draws power from your battery: Reducing display brightness is the most effective way to extend battery life. Press F1 to dim the display until the brightness is as low as possible while still being usable by you. Alternatively you can set display brightness in System Preference>Displays.

Graphics performance

15-in. and 17-in. MacBooks include two graphics processors, the discreet GPU and an integrated GPU. The first is more powerful, but uses more power; the latter is less power hungry and less powerful.

Use System Preferences>Energy Saver to set your graphics performance for Better Battery Life -- just check the relevant click box. You may need to log out to initiate the new settings.

On some MacBooks you'll see a tick box for Automatic graphics switching -- this is selected by default. If it's unchecked, your Mac will use the power-hungry discreet GPU at all times, so check the box.

Despite this setting, some OpenGL apps can automatically force your MacBook to run the discreet GPU: Try to avoid using iLife apps, Chrome or Firefox browsers. Also as noted by Peter Cohen, the free gfxCardStatus app lets you completely shut down the discreet GPU.

Energy Saver (again)

Energy Saver's Battery pane has lots of options to help you get more time out of your battery.

Setting your display to sleep when idle turns off the backlight, which should improve battery life. You can also set the Mac to sleep when idle, but it will draw slightly more power when it wakes than in ordinary use. So try to set a balance between how long you need to use it and power management when you set duration.

You should check the put disks to sleep, dim the display and Power Nap options where available. Tip: Don't forget to switch off your screensaver!

Switch them off

Avoid external wireless peripherals.

AirPort and Bluetooth use power so switch them off when you don't need them for a significant reduction in power draw.

Turn off the Keyboard Backlight in System Preferences>Keyboard>Uncheck "Automatically illuminate keyboard in low light."

If you have any external peripherals disconnect them.

Eject any CDs or DVDs from your optical drive.

And enable private browsing (it helps a little).

I hope these tips help you get more use out of your MacBook when you are unable to recharge your battery. If you have any additional tips please leave them in comments below.

Also read:

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