Macbook Air not holding a charge
August 15, 2019 11:57 PM   Subscribe

I purchased it about 3 years old, should this be happening already?

My 13-inch macbook air laptop drops its charge so fast (like 10 percentage points in less than 10 mins if not plugged in). I can get it back to 100 percent, but it drains super quickly from basic use of internet/itunes music/word/photos. I've noticed a pretty rapid decline over the past few days post air travel. The hardware (port and charger) appear undamaged and unobstructed, charger lights up to orange/amber when plugged in, computer gains power pretty fast - but then once unplugged it dies fast too.

OS Sierra 10.12.6

Ideas on what's going on and how to fix it? I hope I don't need a new one yet?
posted by CancerSucks to Technology (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does the charger ever go green? A certain percentage of batteries are duds. I'd take it in for service.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:18 AM on August 16

The biggest factor is the cycle count of the battery – how many times its capacity has been cumulatively charged/drained. You can check this for your battery: Determine battery cycle count for Mac notebooks.

According to the table from Apple, all MacBook Air computers from 2010 and newer have a maximum expected life of 1000 cycle counts. If yours is approaching 1000, that could be the issue.
posted by reeddavid at 1:04 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]

At 3 years, it could be at the end of its service life if you've used it heavily. It might also be that there is something running on your computer now that is using lots of energy. You can check both things. If it's getting to 100% and the light on the charge plug turns from orange to green then the charger is working ok.

Laptop batteries have a limited number of cycles they can do before they're worn out. A cycle is defined as a full discharge - 100% to 0% - followed by a full recharge. MacBook Airs after 2009 have batteries rated for 1000 full cycles before they're considered unserviceable but it does depend on how the machine has been used. If you have fully discharged it every day for 3 years then it will be at the end of its life. If you've done less than that but left it flat for weeks or months or let it get hot then it may also be finished.

The two most damaging things you can do to a battery are to let it go flat and then leaving it that way for any length of time, and letting it get too hot. Batteries produce their own heat under charge or discharge, so they especially need to be able to stay as cool as possible under these conditions, i.e., not sit on a bed where the internal cooling system can't work effectively.

To check the number of cycles and the capacity of the battery, follow the instructions on this Apple Support page. Batteries can be replaced and that's what I would recommend if you're otherwise happy with the machine and aren't about to sell it. In Australia it costs about $300 to get it done by Apple. I would not bother with an aftermarket battery, but that's just me.

To check if there is something using a lot of power, I would use Activity Monitor. Find this with Spotlight or in the Utilities folder which is in the Applications folder. Activity Monitor has a tab called Energy which shows which apps are using the most power. If there is something there that doesn't look right - using way more power than anything else and/or isn't a name you recognise - try quitting it and seeing if that makes a difference.
posted by mewsic at 1:21 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]

Three years is about when to expect degradation to occur - batteries are basically consumables and you are describing exactly what happens at the end of their lives.

Sometimes you can coax some more life by letting it drain completely, leaving your computer off overnight, then charging it to completely full. This allows the batteries internal monitoring system to recalibrate, but after three years you probably need a replacement.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:53 AM on August 16

If your laptop is no longer under warranty you can probably also replace a battery yourself. I am not the most technically minded person but I can follow a set of instructions and it was fine. I spent a bit of time on research to make sure I ordered the correct battery and mini toolkit because Apple insists on making this more difficult than it has to be by using some special screws. After I had the kit I watched a Youtube video with step by step instructions twice. It was definitely not a complex procedure although I had a slightly older model than you. Total cost was something like €80.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:16 AM on August 16

Battery mysticism: Charge it to 100% and then keep charging it overnight, use it or not it doesn't matter. Unplug and drain the battery down until it's completely out of juice. Put it in the corner and make it contemplate how it's been a bad battery over night. Then charge it all the way up - don't turn it on or use - just charging. Maybe that will reset the PSM and exercise the ghosts.

Or replace the battery - in my experience is a regularly used machine will have battery performance degradation that is noticeable to the user after that three year/ thousand charge cycles. I've done it - it's not particularly involved with the right tool to open the case and a decent guide.
posted by zenon at 11:51 AM on August 16

System Profiler has a Power section which will show you all sorts of info about the battery, like number of cycles, and health.

Replacing the battery on these is simple, as no glue is used.
posted by tomierna at 11:57 AM on August 16

Our current MacBook Air was purchased in 2012. Our battery started to fail around year 4, but we basically just used it plugged in for another year. We took it to an Apple Certified place after that and spent about $200 to have the battery replaced with one they had on hand that was not new but had a lot of cycles left.

My goal now is to keep using it till 2022. I would encourage you to have the battery replaced if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:20 PM on August 18

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