Battery Life Draining with MacOS Sierra? Some Tips to Help

Nov 30, 2016 - 16 Comments

Mac Sierra battery life tips

Some Mac users may have discovered after updating to MacOS Sierra their Mac seems to have reduced battery life. While faster battery drain on a MacBook Air, MacBook, or MacBook Pro can be alarming, it’s not always a sign of any particular issue, and there’s often a reason why battery life seems to be draining faster than usual after installing a system software update.

We’ll review a few reasons why MacBook battery may be draining faster than usual with Sierra, and also cover some tips on how to improve battery life on any MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or MacBook running MacOS Sierra.

Wait! Did you just update to Sierra and now your battery life is worse?

If you have noticed your battery life is terrible but you just completed the update to MacOS Sierra, whatever the version be it 10.12, 10.12.1, 10.12.2, you should just wait a while. I know this can sound like obnoxious advice to some users, but any recently updated Mac runs various tasks in the background which can temporarily lead to battery drain and reduced performance.

In fact, the same normal processes that can make a Mac feel slow after updating to MacOS Sierra are often the same tasks that are leading to reduced battery life, including the re-indexing of the drive with Spotlight, Photos indexing and scanning, cleanup duties, iCloud Drive syncing, iCloud Photo Library (if applicable), iCloud Desktop & Documents, and other behind-the-scenes processes.

Just let these run and complete themselves. Sometimes it’s best to let the Mac machine sit overnight for a day or two while powered on (and the screen off or with a screen saver) to allow the indexing and system tasks time to complete. And yes, they can take a while!

Look for CPU Hogging Processes

  1. Open “Activity Monitor” from the “Utilities” folder within the “Applications” folder
  2. Pull down the “View” menu and choose “All Processes”
  3. Now click on the “CPU” tab and sort by CPU to check for apps or tasks that are using a lot of CPU – this may or may not be actionable, for example if you have a third party app running in the background at 100% CPU, you might want to kill the app and then figure out what’s going on with it

Show all processes, sort by CPU

If you see processes like photoanalysisd, mds, mds_store, mdworker, secd (more on that one in a moment), Photos Agent, cloudd, these are typically the aforementioned system level processes that must complete on their own before things return to normal.

Check for iCloud Keychain Processes

Some users have noticed that after they’ve updated to MacOS Sierra, a process called “secd” and/or “CloudKeychainProxy” are pegging CPU and using a lot of energy. This is often accompanied by a notification alert about setting up iCloud Keychain. If this is the issue, you can enable iCloud Keychain (or disable it) and those processes should settle down and battery life improve.

  1. From the  Apple menu, open System Preferences and go to “iCloud”
  2. Setup iCloud Keychain (or disable it completely)

iCloud keychain

The issue seems to be iCloud Keychain being stuck in a limbo of some sorts and the process can’t calm itself down. Fortunately either enabling or disabling the service, depending on if you use it or not, seems to remedy the issue, as discussed here.

Check for Energy Hogs

The Mac offers a way to find apps using battery rather easily through the battery menu, this can be immediately actionable, plus you can go a step further and look at overall Energy use.

  1. Pull down the battery menu and wait a moment for data to load, then look under the “Apps Using Significant Energy” section for obvious energy hogging culprits and take action as appropriate
  2. Next, open Activity Monitor again from /Applications/Utilities/
  3. Click on the “Energy” tab to see what if any apps are using significant energy, this list can vary per computer but take action as appropriate

Apps using significant energy

Again, you’ll want to be mindful of system level tasks and processes that have not completed running, particularly on a machine that has either just updated to MacOS or which has not had sufficient time to run background tasks (for example, if you shut down or sleep the Mac immediately after using it, it may not have had time to run background processes that are required to complete).

Disable Transparency & Motion Effects

The fancy transparency effects throughout MacOS and the various motion animations and movements look beautiful, but they also require some system resources to render. Disabling these features can lead to better performance, and can potentially help battery last long.

  1. From the  Apple menu go to “System Preferences” and choose “Accessibility”, then choose the “Display” settings
  2. Toggle the boxes for “Reduce Motion” and “Reduce Transparency” so they are checked and enabled

Disable transparency and reduce motion in MacOS

Other MacOS Sierra Battery Life Tips

Some broader battery life tip:

Is your battery life better or worse with Sierra? No different at all? Do you have any tips for improving battery life with MacOS Sierra? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

16 Comments

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  1. azdawg says:

    To dim the screen without putting the Mac to sleep, it’s useful for some new users to point out the shortcut:
    control-shift-escape

  2. Tom says:

    On the battery menu example, it’s showing 96% of battery, but only 1:52 remaining. What’s up with that?

    • Speedy Robert says:

      That’s an example of the amazing battery performance you get with Sierra!

      I hear the new TouchBar Pro gets 4 hours!

  3. avenged110 says:

    The best battery life tip I ever discovered for my MacBook Pro was to simply run Mavericks on it.

    • Alex says:

      Mavericks? why not El Capitan?

      • avenged110 says:

        I absolutely abhor the new visual style, but on my machine performance was either the same or worse in various areas (worse battery life, machine ran slightly hotter under a light load, new and excitingly vague errors, etc.). But mostly because I just despise the way it looks.

  4. zebra says:

    Actually there is no way to “saving” battery life longer. Its getting short and short every time updated OS.

    On other hand, its means if you don’t buy new Mac. Don’t update OS. otherwise you get short time to use of battery.

  5. Seva says:

    Sierra is a disaster, I like to reminisce about El Captain, how good and trouble free it was. Once updated, battery life is down, Mission Control is buggy as hell, Siri I never asked for or used, RAM is overused, and this is all while I have 15″ MBP’14 with 16gb RAM. I wonder how this flies on a regular MacBook or Air.

    • expobill says:

      thank, you answered my question!
      lots of websites don’t work well on lion nowadays.
      too bad apple wants us to buy mt lion again.
      i just do not feel like buying another macbook

  6. Adrian Taylor says:

    Could this unusually high current draw explain why I had two 85w MagSafe power adapters fail during a six-months period?

  7. Bobby says:

    Who uses battery power anyways? I use my MBP at home where I have a power supply, and then I take it to work where I also have a power supply.

    I would rather have a MBP with no battery at all. Use that space for extra hard drives and more ram, Apple!

  8. expobill says:

    After uploading Mavericks and finding out my macbook air had 1 hour of battery life (I have 3 hours now on lion), i grew sceptical of Apple and stopped buying their products. Would i be able to use Sierra on my MBA 2010 with normal battery life?

  9. Conrad says:

    Don’t understand all the technical stuff, but followed the advice about fiddling with the CPU, and thank you very much, battery life much better.

  10. 360guy says:

    I have a relatively new battery, only about 300 cycles on it, and OS 12.2.2 has taken it suddenly from about 3.5 hours on a full charge to less than 1 hour. I have looked into the different remedies here, but I have no confidence in them. Granted, it’s a third-party battery because Apple doesn’t make them anymore, but still – a sudden drop of about 75%? I tend to blame the OS.

  11. jerome says:

    Having the same problems here. Running PHP-storm, MAMP and safari.

    Used to have up to 8 hours of battery life on a MacBook Pro Retina early 2015 13 inch.

    Now its only 4 hours since the update 10.12.2

    I hate the latest update. Perhaps 10.12.3 will solve the battery problem.

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