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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Computers

Find out if it's time to replace your MacBook's battery

There's a reason why your laptop keeps dying. Find out if it's time to give in and replace your MacBook's battery.

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My aging MacBook Pro doesn't hold a charge like it once did. That's not surprising, since it's nearly five years old and batteries tend to lose their capacity over time.

And the less time my MacBook's battery lasts, the more I fear I'll wake up one morning to a dead laptop. Luckily, gauging exactly when that will happen is easy. Your MacBook has a built-in utility that tells you when you can expect your battery to go kaput.

Check the condition of your MacBook's battery

To check the condition of your MacBook's battery, click on the battery icon in the menu bar. You will see one of four conditions:

  • Normal: The battery is functioning normally.
  • Replace Soon: The battery is functioning normally but holds less charge than it did when it was new.
  • Replace Now: The battery is functioning normally but holds significantly less charge than it did when it was new. You can continue to use the battery until you replace it without harming your computer.
  • Service Battery: The battery isn't functioning normally, and you may or may not notice a change in its behavior or the amount of charge it holds. Take your computer in for service. You can continue to use your battery before it's checked without harming your computer.
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

After reading these descriptions, I feel better about the Replace Soon status for my MacBook Pro's battery and feel confident I'll make it to the fall when I can check out the new models when they are expected to be released.

Getting the exact number

For most modern MacBooks, Apple estimates the battery can last through 1,000 cycles. A cycle count means using all of your battery's power and then fully recharging it, whether you drained your battery in one sitting or off and on over the course of a few days or weeks.

According to Apple, "your battery is designed to retain up to 80 percent of its original capacity at 1,000 complete charge cycles." So, you can expect to continue past 1,000 cycle counts, just with diminishing returns in terms of battery life. If you want to find out where, exactly, your battery stands, use the System Report tool.

macbook-cycle-count-edit.jpg
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

To check your current cycle count: Hold down the Alt key and click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner and then choose System Report. Next, click Power from the left panel and look for the number for Cycle Count under Health Information. My MacBook Pro has been through 1,190 cycle counts, so I'm comfortably over the limit but still not in Replace Now or Service Battery territory.

Replacing your MacBook's battery

If the battery needs to be replaced, Apple recommends you take or ship your MacBook to an Apple Store or authorized service provider to service or replace your battery. Apple charges between $129 and $199 for battery service.

If you're considering this route, determine if your MacBook is still under warranty (one year from purchase) or an AppleCare protection plan if you purchased one, after which point you can decide whether it makes more sense to replace your MacBook's battery or your MacBook entirely.