Keep your MacBook and MacBook Pro batteries happy and healthy

The latest sales figures from Apple show that more and more people are using a portable computer as their primary machine.

My last four “main” computers have been Apple laptops. I bought a G3 iBook in May of 2001. It was replaced with a 15” PowerBook G4 in the fall of 2003. Then I bought a Core 2 Duo 17” MacBook Pro in late 2006. I recently purchased the new unibody 17” MacBook Pro.

During my years of ownership I have changed from a computer lab environment to being on the road every day and now to working from home.

Each setting required spending at least some time running my computer from the battery instead of from the power adapter. During some days I found myself eeking the last bits of energy out of my battery, so I have learned ways to stretch battery life to its fullest potential.

So how do you make a battery charge last longer?
The latest sales figures from Apple show that more and more people are using a portable computer as their primary machine.

My last four “main” computers have been Apple laptops. I bought a G3 iBook in May of 2001. It was replaced with a 15” PowerBook G4 in the fall of 2003. Then I bought a Core 2 Duo 17” MacBook Pro in late 2006. I recently purchased the new unibody 17” MacBook Pro.

During my years of ownership I have changed from a computer lab environment to being on the road every day and now to working from home.

Each setting required spending at least some time running my computer from the battery instead of from the power adapter. During some days I found myself eeking the last bits of energy out of my battery, so I have learned ways to stretch battery life to its fullest potential.

So how do you make a battery charge last longer?

Dim the screen – turn down the screen backlight as much as you can comfortably tolerate. This change can make a huge difference in battery life and your tolerance for the dimming of the screen will increase over time. An extra benefit is less eye strain. Be sure to check the brightness setting as you move to different locations. I find that one bar is sufficient light at night and in the early morning. I will add several bars in the middle of the day, and then begin dimming the screen in the late afternoon.



Turn AirPort off – While I seldom turn my AirPort off when I am home, I keep it off when I am away from home, both for computer security and to increase battery life. If your computer is not connected to a wireless network, it is constantly looking for one to join. This is a major energy saver.



Turn off Bluetooth – Unless you are using a wireless keyboard, mouse, or headset, there is no reason to have Bluetooth powered on. The energy savings is not nearly so dramatic as dimming the screen, but it will give you more than a few minutes in energy savings. Of course, using the built-in keyboard, trackpad and speaker saves the most battery power.



Remove unneeded CDs and DVDs – If there is a disc in the drive, the computer frequently checks the drive to see if anything has changed. When the drive is empty, the computer ignores it.



Suspend Time Machine – Once each hour, your computer will attempt to back up. If the drive is not present, battery power is wasted as your attempts to find the drive, so suspending Time Machine stops that activity. The act of backing up uses quite a few system resources, so if you cannot plug the computer in, temporarily turning the backup off will save battery power. The danger in suspending Time Machine lies in forgetting to turn it back on. I wish Apple gave us a signal in the menu bar that Time Machine is off. Until they do, I leave a prominent note on my screen that reminds me that I am not backing up!



Unplug iPods and iPhones – Plugging in an iPhone or iPod uses the computer battery to recharge the device battery, so unless you need to steal some energy, have your devices stand on their own!

Check your Energy Saver Settings – Why is this last? The items listed above are not controlled in the Energy Saver System Preference (execept for parts of screen dimming). Even if you have good settings in Energy Saver, those items can save additional energy.



There are two separate panels for Energy Saver. Be sure you are making changes to the settings for the Power Adapter. The default setting suggested by Apple are probably optimal for most uses, but to make your battery last even longer, lower the settings for computer and display sleep. When I am flying with my computer, I often have it go to sleep after about 2 minutes of non-use. If I am distracted (or if I fall asleep), my computer quickly sleeps too.

Because I have the unibody MacBook Pro, my computer has two different video cards. One uses much less power than the other. If you have a different laptop, you will not have the Graphics settings.

Watch movies in iTunes – One final tip. It takes less energy to watch movies from iTunes than from a DVD.

Good luck with keeping your computer running from the battery for as long as possible!

--Pat


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