Prolong The Life Of Your Laptop Battery: Abuse It

Question:

Brent writes: I have a early 2007 MacBook Pro and I am on my second battery. I almost always use this plugged in, so my cycle count is pretty low. However, i was surprised that Mac OS X indicated that my battery needs servicing. Is this normal for a battery with under 100 cycles on it? I guess I am concerned and wanted to make sure that it is just the battery.

Answer:

Brent, you may find this surprising, but what you’re seeing is exactly normal with batteries like this. Months ago we started surveying our readers and listeners, asking them about their laptop battery-usage habits and relating those to the lifespan of the batteries themselves. The net results were:

The worst thing for your battery is to leave it plugged in all the time.

Conversely, the best thing for your battery is to “abuse” it. By that we mean to use it as erratically as possible. Drain it, charge it, drain it halfway, charge it to 80%, drain it to 30%, charge it all the way up, etc. It’s those use-cases where we’ve seen batteries do their best, believe it or not. Some folks are on the same battery for more than 3 years with MORE than 100% original capacity.

If you are someone (like me) who leaves their computer on their desk all the time, at the very least I recommend completely draining and recharging your battery at least every 2 weeks. I used to do it once per month, but even that left me with a battery with a 30-cycle count and only 60% of its original capacity. While Apple won’t tell you, specifically, what your battery’s maximum capacity should be (you need coconutBattery for that — it’s free), System Profiler’s Power section will tell you the cycle count and “Condition” of the battery. If your condition report indicates that service is required, that’s the time to call AppleCare.

Use System Profiler to check your battery’s condition

As for your battery, Brent, if it’s under AppleCare Apple will replace it (with removable batteries, the rule that they will replace batteries with less-than-80% original capacity and less-than-300 cycle count. With non-removables its the same with a less-than-1000 cycle count). If you’re just slightly out of warranty, I recommend calling Apple and being politely persistent. They might just help you out.