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Service Battery Warning on Mac – Do You Need to Replace the Battery?

Posted by Jamie on November 26, 2018

There is one alert on your MacBook that is even worse than the “Battery Low – Your computer will die if not plugged in.” It’s the “Service Battery” warning, and it appears in the drop-down from the battery icon in your taskbar.

But when you see the Service Battery Warning appear on your MacBook, do you really have to replace the battery? Or is it a little more like the Check Engine light in your car, where sometimes you just need to fiddle around under the hood to get things running well again?

What To Expect from MacBook Batteries

Before answering those questions, you should understand the type of performance you should expect from your MacBook’s batteries. While computers have advanced in leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades, one technology still lags behind: batteries. Battery technology has advanced a little, but compared to the rest of the industry, batteries are now one of the most significant bottlenecks to performance.

The most recent MacBook or MacBook Pro provides about 10 hours of wireless web browsing or iTunes playback. Older MacBook models with a decent battery in them should get around 8 hours of the same activity.

Service Battery Warning on Mac

Your MacBook monitors the health of its battery, using its original capability as a base. When its functionality starts to become impaired, it will issue a “Service Battery” warning.

When you get this warning, the first thing you should do is check the System Report. This will tell you the cycle count and condition of your MacBook battery. To view the System Report:

  1. Select the Apple Menu (the Apple icon in the top left of your computer), then “About This Mac.”
  2. Select “System Report…” and then “Power.”
  3. Check the “Cycle Count” of the battery.

 

Apple has determined the maximum number of cycles a battery in any given Macbook model can go before the battery is considered to be consumed. If your battery is under the theoretical maximum limit for its model, you should not need to replace the battery.

A MacBook or MacBook Pro battery from 2010 or later should be good for 1000 cycles. For the complete list, check out this page on the Apple website.

Mac OS is quite intelligent when calculating cycles. If you like to top up your battery after a few hours of use, that does not count as an additional cycle. Mac OS generates an equivalent, and combines several smaller charges into a single cycle. That way, you will not burn through a battery every year or two just because you like to keep your battery full.

Reset the Service Battery Warning on Mac

If your MacBook’s battery cycles are relatively low and you’re seeing the Service Battery warning, you can do one of two things: calibrate the battery or reset SMC. Start with recalibrating your battery, as resetting SMC also resets some of your settings.

Battery recalibration takes a few hours, so it’s best to do it overnight. You should have calibrated your battery the first day you unboxed your MacBook; if you didn’t, here’s how to do it.

  1. Fully charge your MacBook to 100% – until the MagSafe light ring goes green or the drop-down from the battery icon indicates that your MacBook is fully charged.
  2. Keep the laptop running while connected to the power supply for a couple of hours.
  3. Unplug the MacBook from the power supply, but leave it running until you see the low battery warning. If you are working on it, save any work you are doing.
  4. Allow the MacBook to run until it shuts down due to lack of power.
  5. Leave the MacBook overnight with no power.
  6. Charge the MacBook again the next morning until it is full.

This process calibrates your MacBook battery; in other words, it helps your MacBook more accurately determine the status of the battery. It should not only reset the Service Battery Warning but also synchronize the actual battery power and the Mac OS battery indicator.

If that does not work to clear the Service Battery warning, it’s time to reset the SMC.

Reset SMC to stop Service Battery Warning on Mac

The System Management Controller (SMC) is a hardware chip that controls some hardware settings, including power. While very reliable, it can occasionally have issues which require a reset. The process is straightforward, but any customizations to power plans or hardware settings may also be reset.

  1. Shut down your laptop.
  2. Press left Shift + Ctrl + Option + the power button at the same time and hold.
  3. Release all keys at the same time.
  4. Turn on the laptop.

The process should reset the Service Battery warning. As mentioned, it may also reset other settings too. SMC controls the computer fans, backlights, and indicator lights, as well as some aspects of the display, ports, and battery. Resetting SMC forces your MacBook to revert back to its default settings. If a corruption or issue has occurred with the SMC, this should address it.

Other Ways to Address the Service Battery Warning on Mac

If your battery is still well within its theoretical cycle count and you have tried both calibrating it and resetting the SMC and the Service Battery warning still appears, you only have one option left: take it to an Apple Store.

Do you know of any other ways to get rid of the Service Battery Warning? Have you had any particular issues with your MacBook or MacBook Pro battery? Tell us about it in the comments below.

One thought on “Service Battery Warning on Mac – Do You Need to Replace the Battery?”

Bryant says:
Hi I’m looking to buy a used MacBook Pro from a friend and they say the only thing wrong is the service Battery Warning. How it expensive to replace the battery? Just want to know if I was getting a good deal.
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