Like most of the stuff I write here at AppleToolBox, this article is coming from personal (and recent) experience. Today, we’re going to be talking about your MacBook battery.
About a month ago, I got a notification on my MacBook 12″ from 2017 that said my battery needed to be serviced. This caught me off-guard at first, but then I thought about the age of my MacBook, and it seemed pretty reasonable.
Still, I decided to put it off for a bit. I wasn’t experiencing any serious performance issues, so not a problem, right?
Well, two weeks later I was holding my MacBook and noticed that one of the seams on the bottom didn’t feel so smooth. I compared this to the seam on the opposite side and confirmed it – my battery was swelling!
I talked to Apple Support that night and took it to the Apple Store the next day.
In this post, I’m going to share my experience with you, everything I learned along the way, and I’ll be covering some extra tips and insights that I wish I would’ve known before all of this happened.
Let’s get started!
Is your battery swelling? READ FIRST
FIRST! If your MacBook battery is swelling, you need to shut your MacBook down right now and schedule a repair asap.
Lithium-ion batteries can explode, and it’s not a small, cute explosion. You could lose fingers or even a hand, start a fire, and if it’s near a vital organ, potentially die.
Do not take this issue lightly! Battery swelling is a serious problem, whether you’re talking about an iPhone, MacBook, or any other device. Let the experts handle it for you, and get it out of your home!
I had been putting my battery replacement off for weeks (which I would not do again in hindsight) without realizing that it had started to swell. That’s like carrying a literal time bomb with you everywhere you go.
Shut your device off and start talking to Apple Support or a repair shop ASAP!
When should you replace your MacBook battery?
Alright, that’s my PSA! Now back to the rest of the article.
There are a few ways to know when you should replace your MacBook battery. And most of the time, your MacBook will tell you. Here’s a quick way to check.
First, try clicking the battery icon in your Menu Bar. If you need to replace your battery, you’ll see a Service Recommended notification. My battery was just replaced, so I don’t have this notification:
For a more in-depth report, you can click the logo in the top-left of the Menu Bar, then click About This Mac.
Click System Report….
As in the above screenshot, click Power in the left-hand pane of this window. On this tab, you can see information like how charged your battery is, how many charge cycles it’s been through, and the current condition.
My cycles are low and the condition is normal because my battery was just replaced. Yours could look like this, or it might say Replace Soon, Replace Now, or Service Recommended. Replace Soon means you’re fine for now, Replace Now means replace now, and Service Recommended means replace your battery right now.
This is also a good way to check if your battery was actually replaced after a repair!
What is a charge cycle?
For those that don’t know, a charge cycle is counted whenever your battery is charged from 0% to 100%. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your battery started at 0%, though, or that it was charged to 100%.
For example, if my battery is at 75% and I charge it to 100%, my current charge cycle is at 25% (that’s the difference between the two numbers). Then if my battery drops to 50% and I charge it back to 100%, my current charge cycle stands at 75%.
Once I charge it another 25%, it’ll hit 100% and restart. That counts as a single charge cycle.
So when you see that my MacBook battery is at 7 cycles, it means my battery has gone from 0% to 100% seven times, even though I haven’t let it drop to 0% in the week that I’ve been using it.
Hopefully, that makes sense!
Typically, a MacBook can go through about 1,000 cycles before it can’t hold a charge anymore. You can still use your MacBook at this point, you just have to keep it plugged in for it to work. Otherwise, it’ll die after a few seconds.
Somewhere between 200 and 300 is when you’ll start to notice issues. That’s because your MacBook battery will start to hold a smaller charge, reducing how long each charge lasts and potentially leading to performance drops and random shutdowns.
Can you keep using your MacBook after you get a “Service Recommended” notification?
Technically, yes. As we just covered, you can completely deplete your battery’s ability to hold a charge. My partner’s MacBook is actually at this point – it has more than 1,000 cycles on it and will die if it’s off of its charger for more than five minutes.
While that is pretty annoying, she’s been using it for several months like that. There are no signs of swelling and she never notices any drops in performance. So despite being annoying, it doesn’t get in the way, either.
However! This won’t be the case for everyone. I noticed that my MacBook battery was beginning to swell, which is a serious hazard (see the beginning of this article!).
You CANNOT keep using a MacBook after you notice the battery beginning to swell. Turn off your machine completely and get it repaired/replaced asap.
Will an old battery affect your Mac’s performance?
Yes, but probably not as much as you would think.
Regular readers of AppleToolBox will know that I’m a firm advocate of replacing your iPhone battery before replacing your iPhone. Most of the time, this will fix any performance hiccups you’ve been experiencing, and it’ll cost you a fraction of the price of a new iPhone. And it’s more eco-friendly.
That said, I haven’t noticed a bad battery hurting a MacBook’s performance all that much, nor a good one improving a MacBook’s performance.
I’ll use my MacBook as an example. For the last year, I’ve been having performance issues. Simple apps like Messages and Preview lag for upwards of thirty seconds, even when they’re just opening. Sometimes even copy/pasting can slow my whole MacBook down.
Whenever I realized that my battery needed to be replaced, I thought, “Oh! That explains it. Replacing it will solve the problem.” But it’s been a week now with my new battery, and I’m experiencing all of the same issues.
Conversely, my partner has had a bad battery for more than a year and has little to no performance issues. She’s a graphic designer, so she does more intensive work than I do and yet never encounters hiccups.
So while I’m sure you can experience minor performance issues, it seems like your MacBook’s specs have far more to do with your performance. My MacBook is newer than her MacBook Pro and has a fresh battery, and still can’t keep up with anything that her’s is capable of.
Luckily, my new M1 iMac is on the way – stay tuned for that review!
How much does it cost to replace your battery?
The majority of MacBook battery replacements are going to cost $199 if you go through Apple. A few will only cost you $129, though.
That might sound like a lot to some people, and for some it is. But it’s a pretty minor repair, it only takes a day or two to complete most of the time.
You’re essentially paying for the battery itself and not the labor. Even an independent repair shop will charge you between $100 and $200, so this isn’t a case of Apple overcharging customers.
If your MacBook is less than a year old and experiencing battery issues, then Apple should replace your battery for free. That’s because it falls under the limited warranty.
While I didn’t experience any extra costs for my swollen battery, I have seen stories of people who were charged upwards of $500 for this particular problem. That’s because a swollen battery, if bad enough, can damage the internal hardware and external enclosure of your MacBook.
Think of it like a toothache – the longer you take to have it fixed, the more expensive it’s going to be!
Click here for specific prices from Apple.
How to replace your MacBook battery at the Apple Store
Alright, now it’s time to get to the good stuff – actually replacing your battery!
If you’re like me, then you prefer to have Apple handle most of your repairs. Independent repair shops are fine, they just tend to be less consistent.
I’ve had independent repairs that seemed good at first end up failing after just a few weeks, and I’ve been charged extra because the repairman ordered the wrong part – even though I gave them the serial number to my device.
Apple rarely messes things up and will even make repairs/replacements free a lot of the time, so I stick with them most of the time!
Anyway, to get your battery replaced at an Apple Store, you’ll want to set an appointment. You can chat with Apple over text or make a phone call, depending on your preference. I always go with text since it’s convenient, quick, and un-awkward.
Appointment times will vary depending on where you live and how busy your store is. I was able to get an appointment for the next afternoon at my local Apple Store. It took about 40 minutes to complete the in-store process.
Sometimes, Apple will repair your MacBook in the back of the store in just a few hours. Mine couldn’t, though, so my MacBook was shipped to a repair facility a few hours away. I dropped it off on a Monday and had it back by Wednesday!
Apple might decide to not replace your MacBook battery…
I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this article that while my battery was just replaced, my partner’s MacBook is still running on a dud battery. That wasn’t the plan, though!
We both set an appointment at the same Apple Store for the same time. We sat at the table together, paid the same price for a replacement, and both had our MacBooks shipped off for their repair.
Although mine came back two days later, we didn’t hear anything about her’s until late in the week. For some reason, her MacBook had been shipped several states away rather than just a few hours away, as mine had.
When we finally heard back from Apple on it, we got a message saying that they had found additional repairs that would add $600 to the repair. I’m assuming this is because the hinges of her MacBook Pro are cracked (a common issue with the Pro due to its size).
I don’t know for sure, though, because Apple never told us what was wrong with it. That was a major screw-up – I can’t believe anybody would ask someone else for $600 without telling them why.
We didn’t want to spend the extra $600, though, so we picked one of two options, which was to not go forward with the repair. Of course, we assumed that this meant the battery would still be replaced.
That was another major screw-up. The MacBook returned several days later completely unrepaired. It’s the same dud battery that we shipped it off with. So there was seemingly no option to just have the battery replaced – it was an all-or-nothing repair, which no one at any point before or during the repair told us.
Apple removed the initial $200 charge on her repair, at least (though they didn’t tell us that, either – we had to spend thirty minutes with support to figure that out). But the experience was still the worst I’ve ever had with Apple.
- No one at the Apple Store mentioned that the battery replacement could be rejected if we didn’t agree to more repairs that may or may not come up.
- Even though the damage on my partner’s MacBook Pro is visible, no one at the Apple Store mentioned that it might cause problems in the battery replacement process.
- We never received confirmation from Apple on why it wouldn’t replace the battery without an extra $600, even after getting the MacBook back and talking with support on the phone.
- It took eight days to get the MacBook Pro back, even though we were told it would only take three to five days in total.
- No one told us if or when we would receive a refund, which led to us spending another thirty minutes on the phone after getting the MacBook back.
I bring this up not only to vent my frustrations a bit but also to let you know what could be in store for you. One MacBook came back faster than Apple claimed it would with no issues, while the other took four times as long and returned unrepaired.
I’m 100% sure that an independent repair shop would have communicated better and most likely would have replaced the battery despite the cosmetic damage to the hinges.
Something to consider!
How to replace your MacBook battery at home
A more affordable alternative to taking your MacBook to the Apple Store or an independent repair shop is to fix it yourself. Like most DIY projects, this will take more time, tools, and risk, but it’ll also cost less money and educate you a bit.
In general, replacing a MacBook battery is one of the safest and easiest repairs you can make at home. I would, once again, advise you to NOT attempt this if your battery has started to swell. Let the experts handle that for you.
To replace a battery at home, head over to this iFixit guide and find your MacBook. You’ll be guided through the exact steps for your MacBook model and even have the option to easily order the battery and tools you’ll need to complete the repair.
I will note that after skimming a few of the guides on this site, it doesn’t look like you’ll be saving that much money. The batteries tend to cost around $130 and the tools can cost about as much. It looks like the average repair is expected to take around three hours as well.
If you already have the tools to make this repair, then you can save around $70 doing it yourself. Just remember that your battery can explode, especially if it’s at all swollen. Don’t pierce it or expose it to heat!
Also! You cannot throw a laptop battery in the garbage. You shouldn’t throw any battery in the garbage, but especially not these. They’re hazardous, making it illegal and dangerous to dispose of them.
Which MacBook models you can (and can’t) fix at home
I did want to point out that not all MacBook batteries can be easily fixed at home. On a few models, Apple has glued the battery to the keyboard and other internal components.
Removing this adhesive is dangerous! You either have to heat things to melt the adhesive, which risks exploding the battery. Or you have to use a solvent (iFixit sells this) which is flammable and dangerous to breathe in.
Models where you can just take the battery out and put a new one in are much safer and easier to work with. But the following MacBook models should not be repaired at home unless you are a technician:
- MacBook Pro 13” with Touch Bar (All Models)
- MacBook Pro 15” with Touch Bar (All Models)
- Retina MacBook (All Models)
For a list of the MacBook models that are safe and relatively easy to repair at home, click here.
Replacing your battery vs. Replacing your Mac
As we near the end of this post, I did want to touch on an interesting dilemma, and that’s whether to replace your MacBook battery or your Mac itself.
I bring this up because I ended up ordering a new iMac at the same time that I ordered this battery replacement. Both were something I had been meaning to do for a long time, and once I realized I had the opportunity, I did move forward with both purchases.
My fear when doing so was that my MacBook would return in high-performing condition, making the purchase of a new iMac kind of superfluous (and expensive). I had been having serious performance issues with my MacBook for several months as well as keyboard problems. So a new computer made sense.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the new battery didn’t improve my MacBook’s performance whatsoever. The only benefit I’ve noticed is that my MacBook gets way more use between charges.
I can carry it in my bag all day, work on it for several hours, and return home without needing to charge it. Before the replacement, I could maybe get two hours of work in before it dropped below 20% charge.
My advice: Unlike with an iPhone, replacing a MacBook battery won’t fix other issues with your Mac. If you’re experiencing slowdowns, lag, and especially hardware issues, I would save your $200 and put it towards a used/new Mac.
For a MacBook that has no other issues, though, a battery replacement is an affordable way to keep your machine going.
How to maximize the lifespan of your battery
Lastly, I wanted to touch on some things you can do to keep your MacBook battery lasting for a long time. The longer it lasts, the more value you’ll get for your money!
1. Keep your MacBook plugged in
There have been a few experiments where people kept their MacBook plugged in 24/7 for more than a year, and it didn’t do any damage to their machine.
That’s because when your MacBook is plugged in and charged to 100%, it stops accessing the battery for power and switches to the power cable. Your battery is essentially resting in this state.
This keeps your battery from accruing cycles and aging. It took me a few days to write this article, and I’ve had my MacBook plugged in that whole time. The cycle count started at 7 and is still at 7.
2. Use a charging adapter and cable that are in good condition
A bad adapter and cable can charge your MacBook incorrectly and/or ineffectively. That can lead to wear and tear on your battery that shortens its lifespan.
An easy way to avoid this is to replace your cables and adapters when they start to look worn out. Adapters are more expensive but also shouldn’t get damaged very easily, even after years of use. Be gentle with them, and replace them if you notice issues with the port or prongs.
When it comes to cables, look to replace them if you start to notice discoloration or tearing. Both can affect its performance, which can affect your MacBook battery.
Both of these parts are recyclable as e-waste. Take them to your local electronics store (e.g., Best Buy) or Apple Store and drop them off for free!
3. Be gentle with your computer usage
This tip is pretty simple – don’t overwork your Mac if you don’t need to! Don’t leave a bunch of apps open that you aren’t using, don’t keep a hundred Safari tabs open, try to keep background processes to a minimum, etc.
The more work you throw at your Mac, the more often it will need to be charged. The more you charge it, the faster you’ll run through your battery’s lifespan.
Don’t stress over your MacBook battery replacement
And that’s it! That’s everything you need to know about replacing your MacBook battery.
In short: It’s an important and normal repair to make. And it’s not too expensive or difficult, so don’t overthink it!
I would warn users who have other issues with their Mac (like cracked hinges or potential water damage) to ask the Apple Store reps if that will affect your ability to receive a battery replacement. If so, then look to independent repair shops instead.
I hope this article was insightful and helpful! I didn’t know what to expect when I went nor did I know how quickly a battery issue could become dangerous. Now you know, so you should be better prepared than I was!
For more guides, insights, and news on all things Apple, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog. We’re going to be covering the upcoming California Streaming event (iPhone 13 incoming!) so check in to get all the news!
See you then!