Extend Your MacBook's Battery Power Now With These 7 Tips

Here's how to squeeze more time out of your Mac laptop before you need to find a charging outlet.

Jeff Carlson
Jeff Carlson writes about photography and technology and is the author of dozens of how-to books covering a wide spectrum ranging from Apple devices and cameras to photo editing software and PalmPilots. He drinks a lot of coffee in Seattle.
Jeff Carlson
Low battery icon on macOS
1 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

Do you get battery anxiety when running your MacBook from its internal power? Recent MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops sip power efficiently, but that doesn't help when your charger is sitting at home or there's nowhere to plug in.

If you're staring down a red or single-digit battery percentage indicator, or even just noticed the level getting uncomfortably low, these techniques in MacOS Sonoma will help you eke out more productive time on your laptop before it nods off.

Low power mode on macOS
2 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

Downshift to Low Power mode

A blanket way to force the MacBook to use less energy is to turn on Low Power mode: Go to System Settings > Battery, or click the Battery icon in the menu bar, and choose Battery Settings. In the On Battery menu, choose Low Power

That directs apps to reduce energy usage by slowing or disabling background processes, reducing the screen refresh rate on some models and dipping the display brightness. 

(If you're on a MacBook Pro and the battery is depleting quickly, check to make sure the On battery option is not set to High Power.)

MacBook Pro screen with the brightness level centered on the screen.
3 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

Reduce your Mac's screen brightness

That big beautiful screen uses a lot of energy. You probably don't need to set it to the maximum brightness anyway (1,000 sustained nits is helpful in bright sunlight but not so great for most situations), so drop it to a lower level.

Press the Reduce Brightness button on the keyboard (which doubles as the F1 key on most MacBooks), or open Control Center from the menu and drag the Display brightness slider to the left.

MacBook Pro screen showing Control Center and the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controls
4 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not using them

Wireless networking feels like the air we breathe, an essential invisible resource all around us. But it also drains power, particularly Wi-Fi when it's hunting for a network to latch onto. If you don't need to be connected to the internet or Bluetooth accessories like mice or headphones, click the Control Center icon in the menu bar and click the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons to turn them off.

Note that clicking once on the Wi-Fi icon just disconnects the current network -- the icon turns white -- but doesn't turn Wi-Fi off. To power down Wi-Fi, click the > button to view available networks and choose Wi-Fi Settings from the menu. There you can toggle the Wi-Fi switch to turn off the Wi-Fi radio.

MacBook Pro screen showing the Battery menu with an app using significant energy. A coffee cup on a tray can be seen in the background behind the laptop.
5 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

Quit background apps that are hogging the processor

Some apps demand a lot of processing power, even when they seem to be doing nothing in the background. (Chrome was once a notorious culprit for this, but it has since calmed down.) Low Power mode can help, but it's also efficient to quit power-hungry apps altogether.

To identify overzealous apps, click the Battery icon in the menu bar and see if any apps are listed as Using Significant Energy. You can also open the Activity Monitor app (located in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder), click the Energy button at the top of the screen, and then click the Energy Impact column heading to sort by it. Then switch to the ones you don't need and quit them.

A blue portable SSD connected to a USB-C cable sits next to the lower portion of a MacBook Pro laptop on a wooden table.
6 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

Disconnect unneeded peripherals

If you're not using any connected peripherals such as external drives or an inserted SD card (on MacBook Pro), Apple recommends disconnecting them. Compact external SSDs (solid state drives) get their power from the computer, and even if they're not mounted, MacOS still expends some energy to keep track of their statuses. Break that connection if you're not using it.

The keys of a MacBook Pro are illuminated in a dark room.
7 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

Turn off keyboard backlighting

The illumination behind the MacBook keyboards uses low-power LEDs, but every little bit of power matters when you're in the red. Unless you're in the dark and need the key reference, lower or turn off the keyboard backlighting. 

Go to System Settings > Keyboard and drag the Keyboard brightness slider as far left as it will go. If you are in a low-lit room, turn on the option to Adjust keyboard brightness in low light, which will dim the backlighting to minimal levels based on the ambient lighting.

If you find yourself adjusting the brightness frequently, go to System Settings > Control Center and under Keyboard Brightness turn on the Show in Menu Bar or Show in Control Center options for quicker access.

A MacBook Pro laptop sits on a table in a coffee shop with a movie playing on the screen.
8 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

Optimize video streaming while on battery

Maybe you're not trying to wrap up work and instead want to ensure there's enough battery power to see how the movie you're watching turns out in the end. It would be just like a scary movie to have your MacBook go black before the climax of the story.

Streaming high-quality HDR (high dynamic range) video looks great but uses more power, so go to System Settings > Battery and click the Options button at the bottom (you may need to scroll to find it). Then turn on Optimize video streaming while on battery.

A MacBook Pro screen shows additional power options.
9 of 9 Jeff Carlson/CNET

If your battery is draining quicker than normal

These tips apply to most cases where your MacBook's battery is working as expected. However, if you've seen a precipitous drop in battery usage, it could be getting old or something could be wrong with it.

To check the battery's health, click the Battery icon in the menu and choose Battery Settings (or go to System Settings > Battery) and look to the right of Battery Health. If it's Normal, all's well, but if it reads Service Recommended the battery may need to be replaced.

Click the (i) button to get more information. The Maximum Capacity percentage goes down over time as you use the laptop and the battery ages, but 80% or higher is still considered normal. (Turning on Optimized Battery Charging can help prolong the battery's life by scheduling charging times. On some models this option is called Manage Battery Longevity.)

For more MacBook coverage, check out the best MacBook for 2024 and our review of the 2024 M3 MacBook Air.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos