How To Get The Most Out Of Your Battery

There are plenty of rumours surrounding how to take care of your batteries. I remember people used to say that whenever you buy a new product, you should leave it charging for at least a day, so that the battery gets “used” to having full charge. Some other people say that’s not necessary nowadays since new batteries are designed differently. The truth is, your battery will lose capacity over time; it’s inevitable. What you can change is how fast it deteriorates.

Today we’ll be giving you some tips on how to make your Mac’s battery stay in tip-top shape through a bunch of easy and fast actions like calibration. We’ll also be taking a look at some applications that can help you with this actions, including Watts and CoconutBattery.

Some Starting Tips

Even though we’ll be talking mostly about the app Watts in this post, you don’t really need it, as you can do everything we are going to tell you by yourself as long you are well organized and informed. First off, here are some things that you should do if you want to keep your battery in good shape.

The first is to make sure that you unplug your computer once in a while. If you have your computer running plugged in to the power all the time, your battery won’t get any action, and it will begin to deteriorate. Watts has a setting that reminds you to unplug your battery once you have worked for a certain amount of time with it plugged it (but you can easily do this by yourself with a simple reminder).

If you are using your computer on-the-go and you want to preserve your charge, try minimizing your performance. Keep only necessary programs and windows open, and kill any processes or apps that you don’t need. Lower your screen brightness as much as you can and mute the speakers.

Make sure you don’t have a CD or DVD inserted, as your computer will spin it up occasionally. Turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth if you aren’t using them. If you do all these things and keep your usage to only a couple of apps – like your browser or a word processor – most likely you’ll get the advertised battery time of your computer, and perhaps even more.

If you won’t be using your computer for a long period of time, Apple recommends that you leave it stored with 50% charge, otherwise it won’t be able to hold a charge, or it could fall into a “deep discharge state”.

And most importantly, you should calibrate your battery at least once every month. Most people don’t know what this is or how to do it, and that’s where apps like Watts come in. But first, we’ll teach you how to calibrate your battery by yourself.

Calibrating Your Battery Manually

Calibrating your battery is not a hard process at all, but it is a little inconvenient. Basically, you need to completely discharge your battery and then charge it fully again. You need to do this so that the readings of your battery are accurate, and so that your battery stays in good shape. This should be done every month or few months, depending on who you ask. Personally, I try to do it at the beginning of each month. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Charge your battery to its full potential (optional: after it’s fully charged, leave it plugged in for at least 2 hours)
  2. Unplug your battery and use your computer until the battery is drained and the computer goes to sleep by itself.
  3. Leave it unplugged for a few hours (I usually leave it overnight)
  4. Plug your computer in and leave it charging until it’s fully charged.

As you can see, this is a pretty easy process and it can be done effortlessly. However, if you’d like a reminder, or a step-by-step aid, you can count on an app like Watts.

Calibrating Your Battery With Watts

Watts is an app that runs in your menu bar and is supposed to replace the Mac OS battery indicator. It provides plenty more features than the usual battery icon, such as the health of your battery and the calibration helper, as well as customizable Growl notifications.

Under the “Calibration” option, you’ll see a window where you can easily calibrate your battery through a bunch of accomplishable steps, that include info on what you are doing and the requirements for it to be completed. Here you can also get a table of every calibration you’ve done and the dates of them.

Watts: Calibration Menu

Watts: Calibration Menu

The steps given in Watts are pretty much the same ones I described above. The difference here is that Watts guides you through every step and it makes it easier to know when you’ve completed a step. For example, it’ll notify you once you’ve left your charged battery plugged in for 2 hours.

Every notification is also delivered through Growl, and it’s very easy to calibrate your battery with it. Once you are done calibrating, it will add that date to your table and then a month after, it will remind you that you should calibrate again.

Other Useful Watts features

Watts is not only useful for helping you calibrate your battery. It also has an “Information” tab where you can see stats on your battery like the cycles you’ve done (a cycle is a full discharge) and the current capacity of your battery.

Watts also has a “Notifications” tab where you can set certain messages up, such as notifying you when you plug/unplug the cable, when you’ve run your computer plugged in for a certain time, when the battery charge is low, and a few more.

Watts: Notifications Menu

Watts: Notifications Menu

A Free Alternative: CoconutBattery

Coconut Battery is a free simple app that can give you useful information on the status of your battery. It doesn’t have any of the fancy features that Watts has, like an assistant for calibrating your battery or a menu bar interface, but it gives you useful info and it’s free.

CoconutBattery can provide stats on the current capacity of your battery, as well as the current charge. It will also tell you the cycles of your battery and the age of your Mac. If all you are looking for is a simple info outlet for your battery, this app does it. Another free Dashboard alternative is iStat.

CoconutBattery

CoconutBattery

Conclusion

Keeping a battery on good shape is not easy – there will always be some degrading occurring eventually. However, if you follow our recommendations and make your calibration on a schedule, you should be able to keep your battery in decent shape for a few years to come!

We hope that the advice we gave you was helpful, and if you have any other recommendations to keep your batteries on good shape, please share them in the comments!


  • Alexandre Junior

    Ahah funny post, as I was googling for this a few days ago. I just bought a new battery, and I’ve already installed Watts to help me keep it in good shape.

    The previous one lost way to much health because I was using it with a higher mAh charger :(

  • http://www.phosphorus.co Johnny

    I have a macbook pro and I’ve kept it plugged in as much as possible and it seems to have worked best. It’s 10 months old and I have 93% of my total battery charge left, so that’s pretty good going I do believe.

    • Soyek

      I don’t think it’s worked that good for U, but it depends on amount of cycles U’ve done, I guess.
      I have 96% after 20 months now. Here’s the proof: http://bit.ly/fQnIE3

      I have to say, I don’t really have any solid experience with removable batteries, but for those new Apple non-removables I think they quite like being completely discharged. Personaly I use to unplug my MBP at least ones a week and don’t plug till very last moments (just before it dies, ‘cos who wants that while doing some work). And whenever I unplug it for a reason like going out or sth, I always drain it to the end, never plugging-in in mid-cycle.
      Note here, that I don’t calibrate it (leaving dead&unplugged for full drain). I only did once after purchese. And I don’t use Watts – Coconut is all I need.

      With this above, I consider my battery condition good, but some time ago I’ve seen on MacRumors some guy’s screenshot of Coco showing 97% after more than a 700 cycles (!) and he wrote he used to unplug and fully discharge it every single day. So I guess my could be even better :)

      And one more thing… if I don’t use my MBP it sleep. Always. No matter if plugged or not.

  • http://www.surf-forecast.com Yar Dmitriev

    This is getting ridiculous. Watts and other similar programs are shamelessly marketed as extending the life of a battery, “keeping battery in good shape” etc. Who indeed would refuse such thing, in their sound mind?

    What Watts do is an almost complete discharge – something which actually shortens the lifetime of a Li-Ion battery. In return, your Mac OS X just gains more exact knowlege about its actual current capacity.

    How much does the capacity change over the course of one month? I suppose, probably within 1%, at most 2%. Knowing that, are you really willing to damage your battery (slightly) and also waste time in order to make the menu bar battery charge meter 1% more precise?

    OK, the damage to the battery is very small and can be pretty much ignored. But it is nevertheless worrying to see the marketing nonsense echoed all over the web in expressions like “extend”, “prolong”, “maintain”, “keep in good shape”. As if the battery would magically come out after calibration in a better shape. No, it will be worse off.

    Disclaimer: this is just my opinion which can be wrong – I am not a battery expert. Also, for users who never let their laptops operate from battery power, the situation is different and Watts (or any other scenario forcing some discharge) can be a godsend.

    • DittoBox

      Hey man, don’t let science stand in the way of making an easy buck.

  • http://7bits.nl/blog/ Peter van Dijk

    _why_ calibrate? The article does not explain at all.

    • http://X111.com XIII

      What article? You mean this infomercial?

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Taken from the article: “You need to do this so that the readings of your battery are accurate, and so that your battery stays in good shape.”

  • http://www.mywebexperience.com Ali

    All is good except the calibrating part..lol

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  • http://www.martinvaresio.com.ar Orfebreria

    I am not a battery expert. Also, for users who never let their laptops operate from battery power!!

  • http://www.getdealy.com Harrison Rose

    Buy Watts at 29% off with GetDealy: http://www.getdealy.com/market/mac/41/watts/

    Thanks,
    Harrison

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