Understanding MacBook Battery Cycle Count

You can find your MacBook's battery cycle count in System Information. A cycle is a complete charge of the battery and will not count partial charges as a full charge. So you can feel free to use your battery as needed. Do not be afraid to charge your battery after only using a fraction of the power. Apple maintains a page with expected battery cycle counts for different MacBook models.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Understanding MacBook Battery Cycle Count.

So if you own a MacBook you maybe wondering how your battery is doing. How old it is really because you figure if you leave your MacBook plugged in most of the time then it's got to be in better condition than say somebody that's using their battery everyday. You'd be right.

Or maybe you've already heard of something called Battery Cycle Count and you're wondering how to find out what your cycle count is for your MacBook and what it means.

So here I am on my MacBook Pro and if I go to the Apple menu you can see I've got About This Mac. But if I hold down the Option key About This Mac changes to System Information. That brings up system information about my Mac with a whole bunch of different categories here on the left. If I go to Power then I get information both about AC power here at the bottom and also about my battery. There you'll find the Cycle Count. In this case the cycle count for my MacBook Pro is 48.

So what does the cycle count mean. Well it's the total number of times you've used your entire battery. So, for instance, if you start at 100%, you use your battery all the way down to zero, then that's one. But if you use your battery only down to 50 and then you charge it up again that's only half. So you have to do that twice to be one cycle count.

Now with modern MacBooks you don't have to worry about how far down you discharge your battery while you're using it and how often you charge it up. It doesn't matter. Just use it plugged in when you can and not plugged in when you don't have power nearby. Don't worry about discharging your battery the entire time. It's perfectly okay to use your MacBook without ever getting close to zero and charging it up. It's not going to increase your cycle count. As a matter of fact it'll lessen your cycle count if you keep it plugged in all the time when it's using regular AC power rather than battery. So don't ever feel that you need to completely use your battery up at any time to calibrate it or do something else. A lot of information on the internet is talking about old style laptop batteries. Not the modern MacBook batteries that have been around for years now.

So your Cycle Count gives you a general idea of health. If you're using your MacBook a lot, like say you use it everyday on battery then it's typical to see a number around 300 for a year because 365 days of the year maybe minus some weekend days. You're going to use the battery up about once a day. But if you're someone like me who keeps it at their desk most of the time and maybe on weekends or on trips uses the battery you're going to be at 48 even after only six months of use. If after several years you see that number getting closer to a thousand then you've got to be thinking about maybe that the battery is maybe at the end of its life. But don't worry about it too much as long as you see the Condition of the battery is equal to Normal.

Now if you want to know more about Cycle Count you can go to this page at Apple.com, right here, and you can read more about Battery Cycles. They have lots of information here and they even give some suggested cycle count limits. For instance for the latest MacBooks you can see that they consider a thousand to be the maximum cycle count. For older ones, much older ones, you can see it was only at about 300. For the MacBook Pros you can see for a long time here it's been at about a thousand. So you can get a good general idea of when your MacBook's battery life may be near its' end and needs replacement.

Comments: 11 Responses to “Understanding MacBook Battery Cycle Count”

    2 years ago

    hello Gary, the stats for my MBP 17″ early 2011 are as follows. I almost always have it connected to power source. Question is it shows ‘fully charged’ yet ‘charge remaining’ is 99.13% of ‘Full Charge Capacity’. Why would it be so?
    Charge Information:
    Charge Remaining (mAh): 8357
    Fully Charged: Yes
    Charging: No
    Full Charge Capacity (mAh): 8430
    Health Information:
    Cycle Count: 22
    Condition: Normal
    Battery Installed: Yes

    2 years ago

    It would be 99.13 for three possible reasons I can think of: first, it is a 6-year-old battery, so you can’t expect it to work 100%. Second, the way charges and battery capacity are measured are not exact. I wouldn’t even be surprised with a 10% or 20% difference for a battery that old, let alone a < 1% difference. Another reason is that I believe the software that handles battery charges only strives to get the charge to close to 100% and in fact will let the battery lose a little power before adding some more back. Think about it -- batteries lose power even when not in use. Whatever the reason, you have a remarkably well-preserved battery for one that old!

    2 years ago

    Very informative. After I finish using my Macbook Pro, I usually just shut the lid and let it go to sleep, then I just charge it when it needs to be. Should I be shutting down my MAcbook each night after I am finished (or plug it in) and then restart the next time?

    2 years ago

    Also, When I check my Cycle Count (544) the condition reads: Service Battery. What does that mean? Thank you.

    2 years ago

    Ken: No. There is usually no reason to shut down your Mac, ever. See http://macmost.com/shut-down-or-sleep.html
    Service Battery means that it is time to think about getting it replaced.

    2 years ago

    Does this charging process apply to iPhone and iPad too?

    2 years ago

    Gene: Not sure what you mean by “process” — if you mean my advice about just using your device and not worrying about it, yes. I actually charge my iPhone at night while I sleep, and then use it all day, repeat. I don’t worry about it beyond that.

    Fran Schroeder
    2 years ago

    When I bought my MacBook —probably 3 years now—I was told to unplug and use battery even if power was available. Then recharge.
    This seems to differ. Please clarify.
    Also if the battery totally “dies” the MB will usable if plugged in. Am I right?

    2 years ago

    Fran: Use battery even if power is available? Who told you that? That’s completely wrong. You’ll just run through your battery life faster if you use the battery unnecessarily. Use it plugged in if power is available. Use the battery if not.
    As for using your MacBook after the battery fails, it depends. If it fails — as in it is damaged — then you shouldn’t use the MacBook until it is fixed. If it fails — as in just doesn’t hold much of a charge — then you don’t need to worry about battery charge at all if you plug it in.

    2 years ago

    A few months ago, I updated the OSX and received a ‘service battery’. So I did a SMC reset by holding down shift, ctrl, option and power button simultaneously for 5 seconds, and then turn on MacBook Air. The ‘service battery’ was gone and all was well.

    Now, I did another OSX update and the ‘service battery’ returned. I tried the SMC reset again with no luck. Should I just replace the battery now?

    2 years ago

    mayang: If your cycle count is past the number given on the page in the video, then probably, yes.

Comments Closed.