How to Show the Time Remaining on a Mac Battery
Mac Tips

How to Show the Time Remaining on a Mac Battery

Finding out the remaining Mac battery time can be important if you want to calculate how long and how intensively you can use certain applications on your MacBook before you have to plug in the power cord.  

 

This task is complicated by the fact that not all versions of macOS show the exact remaining battery time and the percentage of charge. In addition, running different processes on your laptop can lead to faster battery consumption, so it’s hard to talk about the accuracy of predicting the remaining time.  

 

However, there are several tricks that can help you estimate the approximate battery time remaining on your Mac, and save some battery if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot access a power source.

 

Here’s how to see the remaining battery time on a Mac:

  • Use Energy Saver (in older OS X versions)
  • Use Activity Monitor (in newer macOS versions)
  • Use third-party apps

Use Energy Saver to see battery time (OS X before Sierra)

The remaining MacBook battery time in the versions of OS X that precede Sierra can be viewed in the following way:

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Click on Energy Saver
  3. This will show you a notification of how many hours and minutes you should be able to work in this session without recharging.

 

Starting with version 10.12.2, Apple removed the remaining time indicator, previously located under the battery icon, and left only the percentage of full charge and the list of software that is currently using the most energy.

 

The reason for removing this indicator was a discrepancy in its readings. The remaining battery time either increases or decreases depending on how energy-intensive the programs opened and closed are. Of course, most users do not bother to track all fluctuations. At the same time, the problem does not lie in the inaccurate estimation of the remaining battery time—it is just that the charge controller is constantly recalculating the figures, and the data remains correct only in a specific operating mode.

 

On the other hand, the battery percentage icon in the MacBook menu bar cannot be erroneous or inconsistent with the current figure, as it only reflects how much charge the battery has, and does not predict how long it will last.

Use Activity Monitor to see battery time (macOS Sierra or later)

For those who use newer macOS and want to get a calculation of the remaining battery time, this option is still provided in the Activity Monitor.  

 

How to show the time remaining on Mac battery in macOS Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, or Catalina:

1. Open the Activity Monitor by pressing Space + Command (⌘), then enter Activity

open activity monitor with spotlight

2. Go to Energy tab

3. This will open a window, at the bottom of which you will see the percentage of charge remaining, the estimated remaining time, and the actual battery life since the last charging session.

check remaining battery time in activity monitor

The percentage of the remaining charge is still the most informative part for the user. We recommend analyzing how your laptop's battery is consumed during your usual mode of operation and estimating how long the charge will last based on these observations.

Use a third-party utility

Besides the built-in services, there are also various third-party applications that allow you to find out the battery time remaining on a Mac and other data related to battery health. Their advantage is that you can get more information about the state of the battery in fewer steps.

 

However, using such applications also has some downsides and risks to it. First of all, Apple is not responsible for the accuracy and reliability of the data shown by such apps (or for their safety). Moreover, many users have noticed that the built-in charge indicator does not always show the same remaining percentage as the application. Finally, these applications run in the background, which means they consume both energy and RAM—and that means you will not be able to save battery power with their help.

 

As an example, let’s consider the algorithm for using the CoconutBattery application.

  1. Install the CoconutBattery app on your MacBook
  2. Open it and go to СoconutBattery > Preferences
  3. Check the Launch at startup box
  4. For the charge status to be shown in the menu bar, place the application in the general Applications folder. If done correctly, a second battery icon and a charge percentage indicator will appear in the menu bar
  5. Click on the new battery indicator. You will see a message with information on how long your laptop can last, the remaining percentage of the charge, how many full charge-discharge cycles your MacBook's battery has already worked, and even the current temperature of the battery.  

How does battery health affect battery life?

The extent to which the actual ability of the battery to hold a charge differs from that declared by the manufacturer for a particular MacBook model is affected by the battery health. While pressing the Option key on the keyboard, click on the battery icon in the menu bar to open the battery status menu. You will see the current state of battery health. These may be as follows:

  • Normal. This status means that the battery is not yet worn out and, in an average session, consumes its charge within the number of hours declared by the manufacturer.  
  • Service Recommended. This status indicator appears when the battery is worn out and its ability to hold a charge has decreased, or if the battery has for some reason started to malfunction.  
  • Early versions of macOS use different wording for indicating battery wear. So, you can see indicators Replace soon or Replace now (which indicates a lesser or greater degree of wear.
see battery status from the upper mac menu

Another thing you need to take into account is the full discharge cycles of the laptop. It is their number that determines the guaranteed battery lifespan. For most MacBook models, the number of these cycles is about a thousand. It means that the manufacturer guarantees that the laptop can be charged a thousand times to 100% of the battery charge, and then disconnected from the power source and discharged to complete zero. The duration of discharge in one cycle constitutes the above number of hours (from 10 to 13 hours for different models).

 

This does not necessarily mean that after a MacBook has worked through a thousand cycles, its battery will immediately become unusable. But it is most likely that the period of discharging from 100% to 0% will be reduced, and will gradually keep decreasing further—up to the complete inability to hold a charge without being connected to a power source.

 

In addition, most users hardly ever use their laptops in "clean" cycles—charging from 0% to 100%, disconnecting the power cord, and completely discharging the battery in one continuous session. It is not uncommon to unplug the power cord before the battery is charged to 100%, or use a fully charged laptop with the power cord plugged in rather than disconnected, or start charging it before the battery dies. However, no matter which mode is convenient for you, the cycles are still counted—even if you never see 100% or 0% charge. The more you recharge your MacBook, and the less you use it unplugged, the slower the 1000 cycles go (even though you are not counting them).

 

Contrary to an opinion often voiced by concerned users, using MacBooks with the power cord connected after reaching a full charge does not pose a danger to the battery lifespan. This is a common misconception. To avoid "overcharging", each laptop has a built-in controller. As soon as the battery reaches 100% charge, the controller stops the process, lets the laptop discharge by 1-2% (that is, up to 98-99%), and then allows it to recharge. As a result, these microcycles are also counted as parts of a full cycle—each 1% is counted towards the 100%.

 

The operating mode of the MacBook also affects both the energy consumption during a particular session and the performance of the battery as a whole. For example, the battery loses charge faster when used at temperatures below freezing. Moreover, its ability to hold the declared charge may irreversibly deteriorate if you store your turned off MacBook at temperatures below -15 degrees Celsius / +5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, high temperatures (exceeding +35 degrees Celsius / +95 degrees Fahrenheit) are also harmful, as they lead to overheating of the processor and the need to spend energy on cooling it. To avoid overheating your Mac, you can place it on a special cooling stand.

 

Assuming the irregularity of use, the average battery lifespan in a MacBook is 3-4 years. But this is a very approximate indicator that does not appear in the manufacturer's warranties, since it varies greatly depending on the intensity of use, the length of periods without use, and the operating conditions.

FAQ

How long is a Mac battery supposed to last?

For information on how many hours a particular MacBook model can work without being connected to a power source, it’s best to refer to the user manual for your particular device. For the models released within the last two or three years, this time is approximately the same:

  • In MacBook Air (released 2018, 2019), the battery is supposed to last 12 hours of using a wireless connection, and up to 13 hours of continuous video playback on Apple TV.
  • The 13-inch MacBook Pro (released 2018, 2019) can run for up to 10 hours with a wireless connection and also play videos on Apple TV for up to 10 hours.
  • The 15-inch MacBook Pro (released 2018, 2019) has the same battery performance—up to 10 hours of keeping a charge.
  • For the 16-inch MacBook Pro (released 2019), the battery life provides for 11 hours of using a wireless connection, or up to 11 hours of video playback on Apple TV.

 

However, you have to remember that all these indicators are still only approximate numbers. The battery may drain faster due to the user’s intensive work in several resource-heavy applications at the same time, the background running of many programs, and other factors. Or it may last longer than the stated number of hours—for example, when a MacBook is simply switched on without any activity and with a minimum of processes running in the background.

How do I make my Mac battery last longer?

The current battery status menu shows which power consumption mode the display of your MacBook is currently using. To see this, you need to click on Monitor brightness. In the With high power consumption mode, your MacBook uses more battery resources, but you can manually change the brightness (the minimum allowable brightness is 75 lower than the maximum possible level). You can also darken the screen using the F1 key.

 

There are also some other settings that allow you to save power without incurring significant restrictions on using your laptop:

  • Go to System Preferences
  • Click on Energy Saver
  • After clicking Battery, adjust the slider on the scale labeled as Turn display off after…—the lower this value is, the more charge will be saved
  • Check the boxes for Put hard disks to sleep when possible and Slightly dim the display while on battery power
  • Disable Power Nap as well, to make sure that your MacBook does not run any processes or consume energy when in sleep mode

 

Together, these settings will save energy without negatively affecting the speed and functionality of your MacBook.

 

If saving battery power is your main priority, you can also check in the same menu of the current battery status (the bottom menu bar) which applications are currently using the most energy, and close those you do not need right now. The same can be done through Activity Monitor:

  1. Open Activity Monitor
  2. Click Energy
  3. You will see a menu with all currently running applications and processes. Accordingly, you will be able to decide which ones you can stop to save power

 

There are also some other actions that are not directly related to the power saving settings, but help to optimize the use of the MacBook. Here are some examples of simple things that affect the battery:

  • Make the sound quieter or turn it off altogether for the period when it is important that the MacBook will work longer without charging
  • Disable Bluetooth connection. To do this, in the bottom menu bar, click on the Bluetooth icon and then Turn off Bluetooth. Alternatively, you can do the same by going to System Preferences > Bluetooth > Turn off Bluetooth
  • Turn off Wi-Fi if you do not need a wireless internet connection at the moment. To do this, click on the AirPort menu bar and click Turn off Wi-Fi
  • Remove all devices connected via USB ports and SD card slots: these can be external drives, 4G modems, printers, scanners, and any other equipment. In the active mode, these devices use your MacBook's energy to read or exchange information, so disconnect or safely remove anything you are not using right now
  • Do not use keyboard backlighting. To turn it off, go to System Preferences, click on Keyboard, and uncheck the Adjust keyboard brightness in low light box. If you do not want to switch the backlighting off entirely, you can use the F5 key to dim it.
  • Disable all notifications from programs that can send them. To do this, go to System Preferences > Notifications, and select only those applications that can send pop-up notifications.
  • Disable automatic checking for new messages in the inbox. To do this, go to Mail > Settings, and there, in the Check for new messages tab, select the Manual mode checkbox.

 

Another recommendation that can help you prolong battery usage is to use a dark background. The reason why it saves battery is that every white pixel on the screen is illuminated, and every black one is minimally lit. To activate Dark Mode in macOS Catalina (read here about how to install it) or Mojave, all you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Select the General tab
  3. Check the Background Mode box for Dark

 

In other versions of macOS, the same effect can be achieved by inverting the colors:

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Click on the Accessibility tab
  3. Click on Display
  4. Check the box for Invert Colors

 

Following all these recommendations will prevent your MacBook from losing charge too fast, and its battery from wearing down prematurely.

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