MacBook Battery Problems
April 5, 2008 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Two, almost certainly related problems: My MacBook has taken to turning itself off while still showing as having a high battery charge. It has turned itself off while showing it at 36 minutes of battery time left. coconutBattery says that my current battery capacity is only at 54% of the original. Anything I can or should do about this?

The macbook is about 15 months old.

1) When I first got the macbook, I recall the battery running down all the way to 2 or 3 minutes left of battery charge until it would shut itself off. Even if the battery is only at 50% of its original capacity, it still seems wacky to me that it would shut down when it is showing 20 or 30 minutes of battery time remaining. Any way I can get my macbook to stop doing this?

2) Regarding the battery itself, is being at only 50% capacity at 15 months mean I'm doing something wrong? AppleCare (which I have) said online: "However, the AppleCare Protection Plan for notebook computers does not cover batteries that have failed or are exhibiting diminished capacity except when the failure or diminished capacity is the result of a manufacturing defect."

Anyone have any advice that can help me convince apple to get my battery replaced? Is there any way to refresh my battery so I can get it to hold more of a charge?
posted by andoatnp to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Apple's site has some battery conditioning tips. I condition the battery about once a month and avoid the wackiness that you're having.

Don't know if you have a defective battery, but my MBP is 16 months old, and coconutBattery says that I'm at 45% of original capacity, so there's another data point for you. Based on my fiancee's experience with her three-year-old PowerBook, Apple laptop batteries perform to my satisfaction for 18 months. Apple did replace her original battery, but it was defective.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:25 PM on April 5, 2008

do you keep up with software update? there were a few updates for battery issues and random shutdown problems.
posted by mrg at 1:44 PM on April 5, 2008

Response by poster: mrg: yeah, I run all the updates that apple has prompted me about? Would I get notified about all of the ones that might affect battery issues?
posted by andoatnp at 1:51 PM on April 5, 2008

Yes, the battery conditioning tips above should theoretically fix the bogus time remaining/% remaining predictions.

In my experience having a modern laptop battery wear out that much in 15 months is pretty much normal if you use the battery frequently.
posted by dixie flatline at 1:57 PM on April 5, 2008

For what it's worth, I got a battery replaced under AppleCare for a sudden rapid degradation after about a year of use. I called them, told them what was going on, and they had a new battery out to me next day, no questions asked. It was amazing. I think there may be a replacement threshold for how many charge cycles it's been through (you can see this in coconut or in System Profiler), like, if it's been through x number of cycles they won't replace it, but they didn't even ask when I called.

I would suggest calibrating the battery like others have mentioned first (Apple will ask you if you've done that), but don't be afraid to call once you've tried that. You paid for the service, after all.
posted by Kosh at 2:04 PM on April 5, 2008

Nothing useful as far as SOLVING your problem goes, but I thought this data point might be useful.

I've seen a similar problem in a MacBook that's 23 months old (where does the time go) on a battery with 81 percent of it's original capacity left.

It's a hard-shut off, (as opposed to entering sleep mode), accompanied by a sharp PING sound and usually happens when I'm watching an online Flash video and the fans are going hardcore. Most nights I take this as a sign to stop surfing in bed and go to sleep, but the times I've needed to stay up and finish what I was working on I've been able to turn the machine on without problem and continue to use it on battery.

I've thought this behavior was either heat related, or had something to do with the high power needs that streaming flash video brings to the table.

I've had crap luck when it comes to laptop batteries. I managed to run my original iBook's battery down to the point where it wouldn't hold a charge anymore. I've been doing occasional battery conditioning as described above with this MacBook and seem to be doing better, but there's soo much voodoo surrounding rechargeable batteries it's hard to tell what's going on.
posted by alan at 2:38 PM on April 5, 2008

These batteries are only rated for 1100 complete cycles or so, something I was surprised to learn about them. 15 months is about 450 days, so it's a little soon for the battery to wear out, but if you're a heavy user or don't always discharge the battery it's possible that the battery's just at end-of-life.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:25 PM on April 5, 2008

Hi. I've gone through this exact same problem, so I hope this will be of some help to you.

If you haven't already, go through Apple's battery troubleshooting steps, which you've obviously discovered from the post. They probably haven't, since you're asking.

If they don't help, the battery's toast -- there's nothing to be done about it but, as Kosh said, attempt to get it replaced.

Now the good news -- Apple's had some serious problems with batteries on MacBooks, to the point that they're really quite good about eating replacement costs on these things. Unhitch the battery and give it a good look. If it's deformed at all, go in to your local store (or call) and make the case that it's a manufacturing defect, and they'll almost certainly give you a new one gratis. If it looks okay but it's obviously not working, there's a really good chance they'll give you a new one anyway, but your mileage may vary, etc.

But don't do what I did, and spend a ton of time trying to reset the battery over and over, scratching your head, and keep having it fail. The battery's not working, and the solution is to get one that does.
posted by dmz at 3:59 PM on April 5, 2008

Response by poster: I'm at 788 loadcycles. Will that help or hurt my case with apple?

Should a battery with less than 800 loadcycles only be at 54% of capacity and shut down the computer when it says it has 36 minutes left?
posted by andoatnp at 5:39 PM on April 5, 2008

The % capacity left is only a guesstimate based on what the PMU & battery/charge controller are reporting. That, coupled with the fact that it's shutting down when it says it has 36 mins left, indicate that the laptop's power management is a little confused as to the exact state of the battery.

Follow the Apple battery conditioning tips as everyone has suggested, then start wondering whether things are right or wrong for a 16 month old battery with 788 cycles on it.
posted by Pinback at 8:08 PM on April 5, 2008

Also, your cycle count may be inaccurate—mine reset when I upgraded to Leopard and currently says my battery has gone through 4 loadcycles.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:58 PM on April 5, 2008

I have this problem with my MacBook Pro. Around the time it started doing this, it also developed a bulge. I got it replaced because it was subject to a recall program.

The next battery I got had the exact same problem. The laptop would die while still showing a 70%+ charge. Then it started to develop a bulge. I called Apple, and it turns out that the battery was also defective and part of the same bad batch.

They sent me a third battery. Four months later, same problem, unannounced hard shutdown while the battery had over 85% charge. I called Apple, and they informed me that this battery wasn't subject to a recall, and furthermore, the replacement batteries sent out with their recall program only offered a 90 day warranty instead of the full year.

They offered to sell me another (presumably defective) battery to replace the defective battery I already had, but I declined. At this point I've given up and resorted to never using the battery for anything more than insurance when the laptop is accidentally unplugged. Without being plugged in it has less than 15 minutes of battery life.

YMMV but I'm shopping for a non-apple battery. Doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results is a kind of insanity.
posted by mullingitover at 5:46 PM on May 16, 2008

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