Simple Tips to Improve Battery Life for Macs with OS X El Capitan & Yosemite
Some Mac users have noted that MacBook Air and MacBook Pro battery life has taken a downturn with their Macs running OS X El Capitan and OS X Yosemite. While this doesn’t impact all users, and much of the perception of diminished battery is likely due to usage and various features, there are some easy settings changes that users can make to potentially increase how long their portable Macs battery lasts with the latest versions of OS X.
First and foremost, if the battery life is bad every once in a while, particularly right after a system reboot or connecting an external hard drive, the solution is probably as simple as letting Spotlight run its course. There’s nothing to do with that other than wait, though if you want to you can watch the Spotlight processes in Activity Monitor. Also, simply enabling the battery indicator in OS X is a good way to keep an eye on how much remaining battery life is on your Mac, and if it’s actually being impacted or not.
Finally, you’ll find that some of these tips may also speed up Yosemite a bit, which can make these simple adjustments particularly helpful for Mac users on older portable hardware.
Turn Off the Eye Candy
The various transparent visual effects in OS X El Capitan and Yosemite require system resources to render, and increased resource usage can impact battery life. This will be less notable on some Macs, but it can make a difference and it’s an easy settings adjustment one way or another:
- From the Apple menu, go to “System Preferences” and choose “Accessibility”
- In the “Display” section, check “Reduce transparency” (or Increase contrast)
You can either opt to only “Reduce transparency” (which effectively disables the transparent effects of the Mac UI) to just turn off the translucencies, or for an experience that’s generally easier on the eyes, use “Increase contrast”, which notably increases visual distinction between on screen elemnts while also disable the transparent effects seen in menus, windows, and sidebars.
Stop Automatic Updates
While most users should keep Automatic Updates turned on (unless you’re really good at remembering to manually update OS X and your apps), disabling these features can lead to an increase in battery life by reducing background activity.
There are multiple parts of Automatic Updates, but the two you should focus on for battery purposes are automatic OS X System Updates and automatic App Updates – it is strongly not recommended to disable the automatic data and security updates feature, which can push critical security fixes to a Mac.
- In System Preferences, go to “App Store”
- Uncheck “Download newly available updates in the background”
- Uncheck “Install app updates”
- Uncheck “Install OS X updates”
Remember, by doing this you will need to manually check the App Store for new versions of OS X and for updates to your apps.
Disable Unused Location Features
Many apps want to use your location for convenience (and other reasons), but if you don’t use or care about those location driven features, disabling the ones you don’t need can help to prolong battery life.
- From System Preferences, go to “Security & Privacy” and choose the “Privacy” tab
- From the left side, select “Location Services”
- Disable location abilities for apps you don’t need the function for (alternatively, you can disable them all by unchecking the primary “Enable Location Services” checkbox)
- Click on “Details” next to ‘System Services’ and review location options there as well
The effect here is not as strong as it would be for disabling Location Services in iOS on an iPhone, but it does still make a difference.
Lower the Screen Brightness
The UI of OS X El Capitan and OS X Yosemite is really quite bright as-is, and lowering screen brightness on any device, Mac, PC, Android, iPhone, is one of the single most significant things you can do to boost the length of battery life. OS X Yosemite is no different in this regard, so if you can handle a dimmer screen, turn it down using your keyboard (usually the F1 and F2 buttons).
View the Energy Impact Usage Meter of Activity Monitor
Activity Monitor will now tell you exactly what applications and processes are using a ton of energy in the form of CPU, disk activity, RAM use, etc. This is a more advanced method of using the menubar to quickly see what apps are using battery on a Mac, as it lists all processes and tasks which can be energy hungry:
- Hit Command+Spacebar to open Spotlight and type “Activity Monitor” followed by Return key to launch that app
- Click the “Energy” tab
- Sort by “Energy Impact” to see the apps and processes responsible for consuming battery on the Mac
The apps at the top of this Energy Impact use are the ones most responsible for battery draining the Mac. Sometimes this will be apps you’re using, sometimes not. Quit the apps you don’t need open, or manage their resources by closing unnecessary windows and tasks as appropriate. You can find more details about targeting battery hogging processes in OS X here. This can be advanced, so average users may want to quit their open applications, reboot the Mac, and then launch individual apps as needed, that can often resolve battery issues in a similar but less complex manner.
If you want to go further, you can read more battery tips for Mac laptops for some more general solutions. Also, keep in mind that many Mac laptop users have reported an increase in battery life with OS X El Capitan and OS X Yosemite, which is perhaps suggestive that any change in battery longevity is related to individual use and system preferences.