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Apple solves my MacBook Pro battery problem

After finding that my MacBook Pro's battery required service and would no longer hold a charge I made an appointment with the Genius Bar at my local Apple store in Reston, VA. After a short wait Vilma (the Genius) called me up and asked what the trouble was. After I filled her in on the issue she reached into a drawer and grabbed an iPod Nano that was labeled "Battery Diagnostics":



Once that was plugged in and she rebooted the machine she loaded up a diagnostic application and sure enough the status of my battery was decidedly bad:


I bought this MacBook Pro in June of 2008 so it's nearly one and a half years old, yet still under the 3 year AppleCare warranty I purchased. She told me however that batteries are not covered under the extended AppleCare warranty unless the failure is a result of a manufacturers defect. Though she delivered the news in a friendly and empathetic way I was not happy.

Vilma could see that I only had 48 cycles on the battery and it seemed reasonable to me that this should be covered by the warranty. According to Apple a removable MacBook / Pro battery should be able to retain up to an 80% charge after 300 cycles. She pulled the information on the battery and left to talk to someone else, presumably a manager, explaining to me as she left that she would do everything she could to get it covered. A few minutes later she returned and said Apple would be replacing it under the warranty.

I don't know if she replaced it because it had a "manufacturers defect" or because it only had 48 cycles on it. Fortunately for me I didn't have to shell out $129 for a new battery. She popped in the new battery and fired up the diagnostics and sure enough, the new battery registered healthy.


Ideal Battery Care
As we were wrapping up the battery replacement I asked Vilma how I should treat the battery to get optimal life out of it. Her recommendation was to cycle the battery constantly, running the machine on the battery almost exclusively. The seemed a little excessive to me but clearly leaving my MBP plugged in nearly 24 hours a day was not the right answer.

Apple has a page on battery care and their recommendation is that if you are not regularly running your notebook from the battery that you should do full charge / discharge cycle at least once per month. This apparently helps keep the "battery juices" flowing, which does make sense. They also recommend that if you are going to keep your MacBook powered down for an extended period of time that you leave it at about 50% power, which will help preserve the battery life.

I wish that Apple had made this information more apparent to me when I purchased my MacBook Pro; if they did it was likely just a footnote in the information I was provided. Telling someone that they need to manage their battery life does seem odd coming from a company that prides itself on simple "it just works" products. Apparently the latest generation of MacBook Pros with the sealed in batteries are not nearly as finicky when it comes to battery life, though Apple does recommend this charge / discharge cycle for them as well.

Personally I'm just happy I have a battery that can actually hold a charge again. I'll be setting up a weekly reminder to run a full charge / discharge cycle on my battery too, with another reminder to do a full battery recalibration per Apple's Support Knowledge Base.

Any suggestions on how best to make your MacBook's battery life last as long as possible? Please drop a note in the comments!

A MacBook Pro and a Dying Battery

I've gotten a lot of e-mail lately asking why I haven't been updating my blog. Frankly it's because of two reasons: my business has kept me busier than a one-armed wall-paper hanger and my Macs have just worked. With my adjustment period from Windows to Mac firmly in the rear view mirror and a well rounded set of applications available for use, I haven't really had any issues to speak of.

That is, until this last weekend when my MacBook Pro's battery decided to act up.

Since I have a very powerful Mac Pro humming away under my desk I don't use my MacBook Pro too often. I'll take it when I travel but don't use it on battery power too often. Since I bought the machine about 18 months ago I've only cycled the battery 47 times according to System Profiler.

While traveling over Thanksgiving I pulled the MBP from my bag, powered it up and started happily working away. Oddly the battery indicator—which should show a full charge—rapidly dropped to 92%. Within about 15 minutes my battery power was already dropping below 70%.

I kept working away, popping open some web sites and updating a spreadsheet with some of the data I was looking up. I glanced up at the battery gauge and saw that it was already down in the 40% range after only about 20 minutes of use when suddenly my MBP shut down.

This wasn't a graceful "I'm going to sleep now" shut down. There were no warnings, no kernel panics and no obvious signs of distress from my Mac. The screen just went black. I had about 3 seconds of noise from the fans and hard drive spinning down while I contemplated what had just happened. Did I save what I was working on? Did I really only get 20 minutes of use out of my battery?

I closed the MBP and flipped it over, pushed the little battery indicator button and two little green lights winked back at me. Odd. I pressed the power button and the MBP started to boot up. It was nearly through the boot process when it decided to give up and shut down again.

I grabbed my power cord, plugged the machine in and booted it up. It came up fine, no issues and dutifully reported that it was charging the battery. I remembered that I had recently seen an article on calibrating the battery from Apple. The process was simple:
Get the machine fully recharged then let it rest in that state for at least 2 hours. Once charged, unplug the power and run it down until the machine goes into a sleep state. Let it stay in sleep mode for at least 5 hours to fully exhaust the battery. Recharge from there and you are ready to go.
The problem was, the machine would shut off well before I got down too low on the battery. I decided to get it as close to the "shut down zone" as I could (about 40%), then put the machine to sleep. The graceful pulsating light told me it was happily slumbering away. I left it like that to see how long the battery would last while preserving the memory in sleep mode.

Three days later I lost patience and tried to wake it from sleep mode while still disconnected from power. Though the light was still pulsing I couldn't wake the machine. Not completely dead, it appeared to be in a coma. I reconnected power, turned on the machine and it quickly restored itself. The battery gauge was registering numbers all over the map and after it charged fully it indicated that I needed to "Service Battery":


At this point I'll try taking it into to my local Apple store and see how they deal with it. I have an Apple Care extended warranty though I'm not sure if they will cover the battery with that. Stay tuned and I'll post an update once I learn the outcome. I posted a note about this on Twitter and got lots of responses telling me that Apple quickly replaced their batteries for them. Then again, I also got a link to this page about Apple's battery policy.

Had a battery issue with a MacBook Pro? Did you get a resolution that worked for you? Drop a note in the comments and let me know!

Follow Up: Apple resolved this problem for me. You can read about it here.