Eight tips for improving battery life on your MacBook

These tips will help you get the best possible battery life on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.

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Thanks to more efficient chips and improvements to software, the battery life on Apple's computers continue to improve with each new model year. The company also includes various energy saving settings in its OS X operating system. These can be tweaked by going to the System Preferences and clicking on Energy Saver, but there is also more that you can do. These tips will help you squeeze the most juice out of the battery on your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

Show battery percentage

A feature that you should enable (if it isn't already) is the battery percentage indicator. While this won't actually increase your battery life, it will make it easier to monitor it.

To enable the percentage indicator, click on the battery icon at the top right-hand corner of the menu bar and select the "Show percentage" option.

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Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Check battery condition

The next thing you will want to do is check the condition of your battery. To do this, hold the option key on the keyboard and click on the battery icon at the top of the menu bar. A "Normal" battery rating is what you will hopefully see and not a "Replace soon" warning. You have three options to fix the latter: buying a new computer, contacting Apple about fixing your existing one, or replacing the battery at your own risk.

It should be noted that older MacBook models included a removable battery, which made it simple to replace. This is no longer the case, however, for newer models. While it still possible to replace the battery, the process requires opening the MacBook.

Install software updates

As I mentioned, having the latest software installed on your computer will help you get the best possible battery life. To check to see if an update is available for your computer, click on the Apple logo in the menu bar and select the "Software Update" option, or open the App Store and click on the "Updates" tab.

Dim the display

Just like on a mobile device, the display on your computer uses a ton of energy. When you disconnect the power cord, it's best to dim the brightness down below half or to a suitable level for your eyes. To do this, press the F1 button on the keyboard, or use the F1 and FN button if that doesn't work. It's also best to disable the MacBook's auto brightness feature. To do this, go to the System Preferences, select display, and uncheck the "Automatically adjust brightness" box.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Disable the backlit keyboard

All of Apple's aluminum MacBooks include a backlit keyboard. This is great for when you are typing in the dark, although it can also drain your battery. The backlight can be disabled by pressing and holding the F5 key, or the FN key and F5 key if it doesn't work. You can use the F6 (or FN+F6) key to turn the keyboard backlight back on.

Turn off Bluetooth

There is a good chance you won't be carrying around a Bluetooth mouse or speaker when you leave your desk. With nothing to connect to, there is no point to have Bluetooth enabled. I recommend disabling the radio to conserve battery.

To turn off Bluetooth, enter the System Preferences, select Bluetooth, and click the off button. Alternatively, you can turn it off by clicking on the Bluetooth icon in the top menu bar.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Disconnect unused dongles

As is the case with Bluetooth, if you aren't actively using a USB-connected device (such as a flash drive), you should unplug it to prevent battery drain. If the power cord isn't connected, charging your smartphone or tablet via the MacBook's USB port will also drain your battery.

Quit applications you are no longer using

It's best to close programs out completely when you are done using them. This can be done by clicking the Command key and Q key at the same time, or clicking on the program in the top menu bar and selecting the "Quit" option.

If a program is frozen, click on the Apple icon in the top menu bar, select Force Quit, and click on the program that won't close.

Last updated Wednesday, August 27, at 8:15 p.m. PT: Added additional information to clear up some confusion with battery condition.

 

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