Hardware

How to make your MacBook Pro battery last longer: 6 tips

The MacBook is a powerful machine that does a great job of helping you get your work done — until the battery drains. Here are a few tips to help you eek out the most from your battery.

Recently I purchased a 2017 MacBook Pro. The reasons were actually few, but necessary. As one who depended upon a Chromebook Pixel 2 as my mobile daily driver, I was accustomed to around 12 solid hours of battery life. That had become my norm. So when I dropped the cash for the MacBook, reading I'd get around ten hours of battery life, I thought it would be comparable.

Little did I know that 10 hours of battery life was a mere suggestion of the daily usage one might get out of a MacBook Pro battery. Real world usage begged to differ. In fact, the truth of the matter is, with regular usage, the MacBook Pro battery offers more like six hours of battery life — and that is when you're being careful.

So I've decided to put together a few tips that can help you gain the most out of that MacBook Pro battery. Some of these tips should be obvious (but bare repeating anyway), while others may not seem quite the no brainer.

Without further ado, let's get the most out of that battery.

1. Dim those lights

The single biggest offender of battery drainage is your display. Turn that screen up to full brightness and you get to experience the beauty that is a Mac retina display. However, you leave that brightness to 100% and you'll witness that battery drain faster than an in-flight toilet.

To that end, it's imperative that you keep your display around twenty percent (when running on battery). That might seem awfully dim, but the trade-off is a significant boost to your battery life. If your MacBook Pro includes a touchbar, this is incredibly simple: Touch the Display icon and drag your finger until the indicator is around twenty percent. If you don't have a touchbar, click on the Display icon in your top bar and then drag the brightness slider (Figure A) until it's around twenty percent.

Figure A

Figure A

Dimming your display to save battery.

Speaking of dimming, it's quite advantageous to either dim or turn off the keyboard backlight. As someone who does a lot of writing at night, the backlight is a necessity for me. However, I keep that light running at around twenty percent. I recommend dimming the backlight manually. Do this by open up System Preferences | Keyboard. Uncheck the box for Adjust keyboard brightness in low light (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Disabling auto adjusting for the keyboard backlight.

Once you've disabled the auto adjust, there are two ways to manually dim your keyboard backlight. If your MacBook has a touchbar, tap the < button and then (from the resulting icons - Figure C), tap the keyboard dim icon (fifth icon from the left) until the backlight is around 20%.

Figure C

Figure C

Dimming the keyboard backlight.

If your MacBook doesn't include a touchbar, you can dim the backlight with the F5 key and raise the brightness with the F6 key.

2. Turn off services

There are two particular services you should disable (when they are not needed). By shutting off location services and bluetooth, your battery will thank you. Let's disable location services first. Open up System Preference | Security & Privacy. Click on the lock in the lower left corner and type your password when prompted. Once authenticated, click to disable location services (Figure D) and then (when prompted) click Turn Off.

SEE: New equipment budget policy (Tech Pro Research)

Figure D

Figure D

Turning off location services on your Macbook.

There is one caveat to disabling location services. Disabling this feature will prevent you from locating your MacBook with Find My Mac. If battery is more important to you (and you know where you Mac is at all times, go ahead and disable this). If there is a concern this device could get lost (or stolen), leave location services enabled. If you're concerned about battery and losing your device, turn off location services when using the MacBook on battery and turn it back on when you're on power. Just remember, to always turn it back on (otherwise, you won't be easily finding that stolen or lost MacBook).

Bluetooth is easier to enable turn off. Unless you have a bluetooth device attached to your MacBook, this service should be disabled. To do so, go to System Preferences | Bluetooth and tap Turn Bluetooth Off. Simple.

3. Turn off notifications

To some, notifications are a must; to others they are an afterthought. To your MacBook, they are a battery drain. If you don't depend upon notifications, you can turn them off and save a bit of battery. To do this, go to System Preferences | Notifications and then manage those notifications in a way to best save your battery. One way to do this is enable Do Not Disturb on a schedule. The easiest method, however, it to enable/disable Do Not Disturb manually. This is done from within the Notification Shade. Click the Notification button (top right corner of your desktop) to open it and then swipe upward (on your trackpad) to reveal the Do Not Disturb On/Off switch (Figure E).

Figure E

Figure E

Do Not Disturbed disabled.

Disable Notifications when on battery and enable them when on power.

4. Use Safari

This may or may not come as a surprise, but the Safari browser has been optimized for mobile usage—especially when it comes to battery. One of the first things I did with my MacBook Pro was install Google Chrome. I use Chrome on every other device I own, so it made sense. However, while using Chrome on the MacBook, I noticed battery life was bordering on terrible. Upon switching to Safari, battery life returned to tolerable. Sure, Safari isn't nearly the browser that Chrome is; but when battery life is key, it still functions admirably enough to get my work done. When my MacBook is plugged in, you can bet I'm working with Chrome.

SEE: Boost your Mac productivity with these 10 techniques (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

5. Update to High Sierra

My MacBook Pro shipped with Sierra. Not long after initial setup, I was prompted for an upgrade to High Sierra. That upgrade fixed a known battery issue (the battery indicator did not match up with how much actual power was left in the machine, so people were misusing their batteries). Once the upgrade was complete, the battery indicator matched the actual power, so charging and usage were in sync. Although this didn't have a direct impact on battery optimization, it enabled users to better know when they should charge their battery and when their battery was full. If your MacBook supports High Sierra, do not hesitate to upgrade.

6. Kill your darlings

It's an old adage used by writers, but it's sort of apropos here. When I'm using my MacBook Pro, I do so with as few apps open as possible. Typically that equates to Safari and Mail. And with Safari, I work with as few tabs as I can manage. There's no reason to have applications or tabs running, when they aren't needed. Those running apps drain your battery — so kill those darlings.

Simple battery savings

The above tips are all fairly simple to put in play. Although they might not all be the most efficient means of working with your MacBook, combined together, they will go a long way to saving battery life. Give them a try and witness your battery life instantly improve.

Also see

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Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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