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!
When I had my battery replaced I asked if I should do calibration as well. The Genius at the store said it wasn't really necessary. I also have a friend who rarely uses the battery on his MacBook Pro (late 2007 model). It stays plugged in almost all the time. His battery is still in the 90% range of health after 2 years.
The Lenovo laptop I have stays plugged in most of the time as well. The battery has never been as long life compared to the Mac, but it hasn't degraded very much since I've had it, either. I've had it at least 6 months longer than my Mac, too. It still has the original battery.
It also seems when I run my MBP on battery, the health declines faster than if I just leave it plugged in. I don't run it completely empty every time, but it does get down to the "red zone" at least a couple of times a month.
Glad you got yours replaced. I've heard nothing about batteries not covered under AppleCare from the Genius when I had my current battery checked last.
The genius I spoke to mentioned that while she does see this happen with previous generation machines she personally had not seen a single of the newer MacBook Pros with the non-removable batteries have a problem. Of course, all of those machines are still pretty new but it's an encouraging sign.
If what you had was not a defect, then what do they consider a defect, explosion, fire??
I had the exact same results. The reason they stated they would replace my battery was the low number of cycles. Ironically, if you followed their recommendations, you would have had a much higher number of cycles so they might not have replaced it free.
I'm not saying that's the right plan or the best way to take care of a battery, just that Apple's warranty/Applecare policy seems to favor those of us who abuse our batteries. :)
As a former electronics technician, I can tell you that the shop I worked in ran into battery problems frequently. Some devices, like the early Technics portable CD player, clearly marked in its instructions that you should never let the battery completely discharge or you would damage the battery. The problem was, they didn't include a 'sleep' mode in the player that would shut it down before the battery died. Nor did they provide any kind of circuit to prevent those last few volts from discharging on their own. End result, the only way you could prevent it from discharging completely was to recharge it after every use or keep it plugged into a power source all the time. As you can guess, the battery soon developed a 'memory' that reduced the operational life by half or more.
On the other hand, other batteries required you to run the device to full discharge to give you the longest possible battery life. The drawback here was that if you'd already partially drained the battery on a previous use, you either risked giving it a 'memory,' or the device quitting in the middle of the party.
Either way, battery 'memory' was the primary issue. The batteries used by Technics couldn't be 'reconditioned.' The other batteries could sometimes be saved by a series of full charge/discharge cycles using a lamp/resistor/voltmeter circuit to monitor the battery drain. The 'memory' was usually quite obvious by the lamp staying bright for a certain amount of time as the voltage slowly dropped, then suddenly going dim while the battery still showed usable voltage. By cycling the battery 5 times or so, we could just about double the 'memory' time of the battery, but we usually recommended the customer locate and purchase a replacement battery before the original completely died.
Apple's system seems to be somewhat similar to the second example; they want you to cycle the battery fully as much as possible to get the longest life out of it. I believe they also chose to make the battery non-replaceable to reduce the risk of third-party replacement batteries damaging the computer. In my own case, I have a 900Mhz G3 iBook (not one of the 'Hello Kitty' clamshells) still giving me between 3 and 4 hours of use on the original battery. But then, I don't run it plugged in all the time, either. On the other hand, my 1st-gen Intel MacBook is lucky to give me about 3 hours at best at half the age.
I've had a few cases where the "Full Charge Capacity" (a percentage based on the current maximum mAh compared with what the normal maximum is) had dropped to the low 80 percentile (or lower) doing a full calibration (drain until it goes to sleep after reserve power warning, then fully charge), and after the full charge, the FCC had gone back up to 95%, which I verified by doing a run test on the battery. It indeed was holding more charge than before the calibration.
As for Apple's advice on both running the battery down once a month and on calibration, they are both complete bunk. I run my batteries down at least once a week, and 99% of the time once the battery has started to go bad, the calibration process fails because the computer runs itself out out power completely, rather than going to sleep.
I'm currently on my third battery, it's been in for about a year, and sure enough, in the past month, it dropped from 99% to 49%, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I've been using the Coconut Battery utility to track the health over time, and once it starts to go bad, even running it down daily doesn't seem to help.
This problem is too consistent to be just bad batteries. There must be something wrong in the power charging and power management chips of the laptops that are having this issue.
To quote Isidor Buchmann:
The battery compartment on many laptops rises to about 45°C (113°F) during operation. The combination of high charge level and elevated ambient temperature presents an unfavorable condition for the battery. This explains the short lifespan of many laptop batteries.
Had two batteries in my MacBook Pro die early, not holding charge. Although the batteries did get a good number of discharge/recharge cycles, the MBP also spent a lot of time on my desk, plugged into the wall... including overnights. When that happens, the battery gets warm and stays that way.
For my third battery, I got one of those raised cooling stands under the MBP, and added a fan for ventilation. The underside (and battery) is much cooler now. It looks like this battery is holding its charge a lot better, which is good, as my 3-year extended AppleCare has expired!
According to support documentation at http://www.apple.com/batteries/notebooks.html:
For Apple notebooks with removable batteries — such as previous generation MacBook and MacBook Pro computers — a properly maintained battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 300 full charge and discharge cycles.
The built-in battery of the MacBook Air is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at up to 750 full charge and discharge cycles.
The built-in battery in the new 13-, 15-, and 17-inch MacBook Pro is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at up to 1000 full charge and discharge cycles.
I have a MacPro 17" Dual Core (first 17" out). The first battery was one of those that swelled up and it was exchanged with Apple care over the phone, no fuss. I wish I remember when that was for this post, I'd say somewhere after 2 yrs. That would make the current battery say 1.5-2yrs.
As of today (thanks for the Coconut Battery tip), I've got 450 cycles and 90% capacity (5675mAh from 6300mAh originally).
For the better part of this battery's life, the day begins on battery then off to work where it gets charged and mostly only used at lunch. Back to home it's used on battery, at least half the time down to the low battery warning. A couple times a month it gets run down past that. Back to work again and it gets charged up...
So, without thinking about it, I'm sure I 'service' the battery more than once a month.
On the heating side, early on I installed clear ~3/4"square x 1/2"high feet. Got 'em at the hardware store, don't know the brand but they're with cabinet bumpons and non-skid/scratch stickons for stuff you put on tables/shelves. Can hardly see the clear and they *stay on* in and out of my carry case (bumpons were too short and fell off).
I also have Temperature Monitor installed. I was running smcFanControl but am now running FanControl as it cycles fan speed on it's own.
Apple replaced that one, then 6 months later it started going wonky again, and Apple replaced it a second time. There was no "talking to a manager" involved, the genius was pretty cut and dried about the requirements for a free replacement... it seemed very routine. This is Palo Alto though, so they probably see this a lot.
That was a couple months ago. My current battery has 50 cycles and is holding 98% still. Hopefully this one will last until the next MBP refresh at which point I will be upgrading anyway.
Just noticed my THIRD battery says "service." iStat Pro says: Health 75%, Cycles 24 (!?). I also use a cooling stand for my MacBook and I run down the battery at LEAST a couple times a month.
This can't all be heat. Gotta be some kind of power management chip problem, no?
I have a macbook pro. Both of my batteries would only last about an hour. This weekend after working on the back porch with a space heater on the battery would not hold a charge at all (I was plugged into the same outlet as the heater). So, I surmise that I burned the battery. But then the second battery did the same thing. Now the third battery won't charge (from my wife's pro). I have also used 3 different chargers. Obviously, it is my Macbook pro, not the batteries or chargers (they work on other systems). What the heck could be wrong with my computer to prevent charging (runs fine on any charger, just won't charge any battery, but runs on a charged battery fine).
His old iMac was having display trouble again. It was three years old, a machine that is probably three generations out of date. The AppleCare warrantee was almost over. The Genius guy saw that it was a repeat problem, that it had originally been bought at the Apple Store, and realized the hassle of waiting for the backordered repair part.
To make a long story short, the Genius guy walked into the back of the store and five minutes later, he emerged with a brand new 21.5" iMac to replace my Dad's old one.
Wow. The only money my dad spent was for a new AppleCare warrantee for the new machine.
I've had a similar experience, being handed a brand new computer to replace a failed computer that was a couple of generations out of date.
So realize that the Genius Bar people are your friends. Treat them well and they can do amazing things for you. Just tell them your story. Be assertive if you need to be, but never have an attitude or be aggressive. You are not entitled to have the rules broken for you. Certainly do not ask to see a manager. They *are* managers. They have the authority to do what it takes to make something right.
Also, If you originally bought the item from the Apple Store rather than from a reseller, they are more likely to do something amazing like this.
Enjoy your Apple service.
If you had 500 cycles on that 18 month old battery Apple wouldn't have replaced it.
So by leaving it plugged in and NOT cycling the battery you have the best chance of having a bad battery replaced.
I had an unrelated question but seeing as you also use visual studio via vmware fusion on the mac (or did at some point) I thought i'd ask anyway as its driving me nuts. Did you ever come across an easy way of typing the '#' whilst in vmware fusion? Its easy enough in mac os, typing option-3 works, but when in vs it doesn't seem to work.
The blog is great by the way always an interesting read.
Good to hear that apple has replaced your battery. Let me explain my case. I bought a MACBOOK 2,1 in August 2007. It worked fine until one day i noted the battery information column in system profiler as well as coconut battery utility. Even after about 200 cycles the health information was showing me around 3700mAh and this value keeps changing all the time. I don't plug-in the macbook to the AC adapter all the time. I noticed this in July 2009 and promptly called apple customer care. I was told that since it had been almost 2 years since i bought the MAC, they would not cover it under warranty. Neither my battery has completed 300 cycles nor is it 3 years old. Now the cycle count is 257 and the full charge capacity keeps varying form 200 to 3700. I'll be really grateful if you can suggest something.
Thanks for your time,
Best of luck...
My husband and I are considering switching to Macs (we're a Dell family) and your blog has been incredibly interesting to go back and read, so thank you for documenting your experience. I wanted to let you know that it has been useful for us!
All the best,
Don't use it. :-)
Seriously, what I've done is to simply remove the battery when I'm using my MacBook Pro at the desk (which honestly is 95% of the time).
That way, the battery isn't getting charge-cycled, and is effectively just "in storage."
I don't know if it'll actually prolong its life, but that's what I've been trying, after having my PowerBook G4's battery die an all-too-early death.
CAVEAT: One major downside is that you have to be really careful to remember that you've removed the battery!! Also, despite the MagSafe connector being a wonderful invention, it makes it much easier to accidentally unplug it, which normally isn't a big deal, but catastrophic if the battery has been removed.
You may also want to check out a blog post I did on <a href="http://www.davidalison.com/2011/04/replacing-macbook-pro-battery.html'>finding a replacement battery for a MacBook Pro</a>. There are some excellent aftermarket batteries out there that are less expensive than the Apple version. The one I purchased (NewerTech NuPower) has been outstanding and I highly recommend it.
Great blog. I have a 2009 MacBook Pro and I am undecided about buying a replacement battery. The charge indicated 100% but does not last 5 hours. The diagnostic indicated service battery. Do I go to the Apple store and ask them to replace the battery $129 right on the spot or what do you suggest?
Sounds very similar to my situation. 123 cycles with a 2yr old battery. The Cussed customer service at the genius bar took an attitude, chiding me that the laptop should be treated as a mobile device, and not persistently connected to a power source. He was offering advice willy nilly on prepping a new battery, and when asked to show an Apple document on the website that reflected his advice, he could not. Like you, I am amazed that Apple has retained its rabid fan base. I also would consider other brands on my next go-round.