How to check a MacBook’s battery and see if it needs replacing

As with any laptop, one of the most vital components that keeps a MacBook running and functioning is its battery. As the years go by when using your MacBook, the battery will inevitably be subjected to degradation because of charging and draining the battery as it’s used. Eventually, you’ll notice your device is not providing the same amount of charge as it did when it was new.

Here are the most effective methods for checking the current state of a MacBook’s battery, in addition to finding out whether it needs replacing.

Use the MacBook’s battery condition checker

Apple has conveniently integrated a useful battery status menu that outlines key details. This is located at the top-right corner of a MacBook’s screen next to the Wi-Fi icon.

Upon clicking the battery icon, the first line at the very top showcases the current state of the battery. Here, one of the following four conditions will be shown: Normal, Replace Soon, Replace Now, or Service Battery / Service Recommended.

These status indicators are fairly self-explanatory. Normal confirms the MacBook’s battery is operating as it’s supposed to, and the fact that it’s healthy means you won’t have to take any action to replace. Meanwhile, Service Recommended means the battery’s charge output has decreased compared to how it was when you first bought the MacBook. Alternatively, it can also mean that the battery is not functioning correctly.

Apple itself says Service Recommended doesn’t necessarily require you to take immediate action. Your MacBook can still be used safely. However, Apple stresses that the battery should be evaluated when this specific status indicator appears. The company recommends taking the device to an Apple Store or Apple-authorized service provider in order to run diagnostics.

Finally, the remaining two status indicators Replace Soon and Replace Now tell you that the system’s battery is now approaching or has reached the end of its lifecycle. When these two statuses are displayed, the battery will have a lowered charging capacity, so you’ll notice that you’re getting less time between charges compared to when the system was brand new. Therefore, it’s time to consider replacing your battery.

That said, you can still use your MacBook when you see Replace Soon or Replace Now, but you may experience the MacBook shutting down unexpectedly at random times, in addition to the aforementioned fall in battery health.

Checking battery cycle count

Another way to determine the current state of the MacBook’s battery is by checking the battery cycle count. The battery maintains around 80% of its original charge capacity at its maximum cycle count, but the general performance of the battery itself will only continue to diminish once this cap has been reached.

A charge cycle is completed once the battery’s full power has been used up. It should be noted that a single charge doesn’t always result in one cycle; half a charge could be used during the day, after which you could charge it to full capacity again. Should another half a charge be used on the next day, only then would it complete a charge cycle, as opposed to two.

The exact amount of cycles that can be expected to be used before noticing a reduction in battery performance can be determined by finding out the specific model of the MacBook. To do so, click the Apple logo on the top left of the screen, select About This Mac, and then see your model in the Overview panel.

Now, hold the Option key and click the Apple menu, after which you’ll need to select System Information. Here, choose the Power tab located within the Hardware section. Your cycle count is found under Battery Information.

There are different cycle count limits between the various Mac ranges. You can find the maximum cycle count for a specific model on Apple’s website. Generally, the maximum cycle count is around 1,000, but for earlier, less-powerful versions of the notebook, it ranges between 300 and 500.

As we’ve stated, you can still use your MacBook even if you’re past your specific model’s cycle count, but you’ll have to increasingly rely on retaining power by utilizing just the charging cable. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether to replace the battery or live with continuing drops in performance.

Overheating and random shutdowns

While overheating may be associated with faulty parts such as CPUs, it can also mean the battery is malfunctioning. As a result, you may notice your MacBook can become considerably hot in a short amount of time. This may even occur when non-intensive tasks are being run on the system.

In addition, your MacBook may unexpectedly shut down at random times, which can suggest that there’s a problem with the battery. In the case of both overheating and random shutdowns, it’s recommended to visit an Apple Store or Apple-authorized service provider to get your device checked.

For more information, check out our guide to common MacBook problems and how you can fix them.

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