Dead Laptop Battery


Dennis Cheung’s rant about PC laptops reminded me of some battery problems I’ve been having with my iBook
laptop.

Essentially, I only get 20 minutes of battery life. When the
laptop was new, I got a good 6 hours worth. Now, the battery indicator says I get about 4 hours worth, but
after 20 minutes, the battery’ll just die and the iBook will go to sleep.

I searched a little on the web, but couldn’t find a good solution. Just
lots of
people complaining
about the same problem. So, I decided to bring my laptop into the local Apple store to the Genius Bar.

For the uninitiated, the Genius Bar is a brilliant idea. Basically, if you’re having any sort of Mac-related problem, you
can walk up to the bar in any Apple Store and ask a “Genius” free of charge.
These are Mac experts working for Apple who are there just to answer your tough questions.
You can walk in and talk to a real person, without having to pay a thing.Â
Other retail stores could learn from this.

This isn’t to slight PC manufacturers’ tech support. About five years ago, I had a problem with the Microsoft Keyboard Elite that I bought from Dell
where basically the “A” key stopped working. Rather than trying to pin the problem on Microsoft, which
Dell easily could have done, they promptly mailed me a new replacement keyboard, free of charge. I didn’t even have to mail the broken one in.

Anyway, the Mac Genius (imagine because able to write “Genius” as a
job title on your resumé) said that the problem was that Apple’s lithium-ion laptop batteries die after 18 months of use.
They last longer per charge, but have a shorter overall life span.  Since I’ve had my laptop for about 32 months, he said I was lucky it lasted for as long as it did.

Since I was well out of warrantee, to fix the problem, I’d have to buy a
new battery for
$120
.

Devastating…

It’s probably the
Apple fan boy
in me talking, but I can’t say I’m terribly upset with Apple in particular since I’ve had an
identical battery experience with every other laptop I’ve ever owned. It’s still the best laptop
I’ve ever had.

But still, I can think of
better things to spend $120 on.
Having to pay $120 for a battery every 2 years or so seems pretty steep to me.


Comments (36)

  1. joe says:

    Nothing you can do about it. Laptop batteries always die. We all have to suffer through it. The best you can hope for is an employer who will replace the battery for you free of charge!

  2. Phil Weber says:

    I bought a replacement battery for my ThinkPad on eBay for $30. You might try that for your Mac.

  3. Doug Thews says:

    I just happened to post about this same subject earlier this week. I too went to the Genius Bar and they told me the same thing. I bought the new battery, and I now get over 4 hours per charge.

    A word of caution. You might check the color of the battery. Some of the newer ones don’t match that white translucent color of the G3 iBooks. I’ve also heard that the 3rd party batteries don’t work as well – but I don’t have any concrete evidence on that one. But that’s the primary reason I ponied up the $129 – so I could get a guarantee on the battery life.

  4. Dean says:

    This isn’t really an Apple issue, but an issue with the battery chemistry, and lithium ion is the exact same battery technology used in Windows laptops with the same expected lifetime. 18 months is the short end, it’s more like 18-36 months or around 500 charges whichever comes first. If you want to know how all this works you should do some reading on this site:

    http://www.batteryuniversity.com/parttwo-34.htm

    Lots of good information there.

  5. bear chow says:

    It is a reality of chemistry, batteries always drain over time, 32 months is a good deal, most Li-Ion batteries Apple uses last about 300-500 recharging cycles. Remember the older types of batteries that had memory issues? Hopefully in the future, science and technology will improve the situation …

  6. Olle Jonsson says:

    This is also the fact for Powerbook Titanium 400/500. I hade my bozz TiBook at home after that an authorised apple dealer wanted to switch the logicbord, saying that it was broken. That would have cost my bozz alot and he didn´t want to pay that. I toke those 4 smal PMU-batteries out from the PB and then the machine started just fine… OK the internal clock didn´t work – but with this I found what was wrong. We returned the PB to the apple dealer and now they was very humle and we didn´t hade to pay for their big misstake in not knowing enough. ( Sorry for my poor spelling – english is not my first languish ). Then those PMU-batteries ( Panasonic VL2330 ) gets older it will be impoisble to either boot or charge the large battery. 3 out of 4 PMU-batteries hade nearly 0 volt and one hade 2,5 volt. It should be 3 volt on each batterie then they are new and charged.

  7. Olle Jonsson says:

    Forgot to post an URL to my bozz dead PMU-batterys, here it is with some swedish text.

  8. Olle Jonsson says:

    Forgot to post an URL to my bozz dead PMU-batterys, here it is with some swedish text.

    http://homepage.mac.com/olle/99bilder/pb400bat.jpg

  9. Tom says:

    Have you tried reviving your battery by resetting the NVRAM using Open Firmware? Sometimes it’s more successful than resetting the PRAM via the key-combination during 5 startup chimes. Recalibrate the battery again afterwards.

    http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=2238

    USING OPEN FIRMWARE:

    1) reboot while holding option-command-o-f (boot into open firmware)

    2) type: reset-nvram (return)

    3) type: reset-all (return)

    4) the Mac should restart on its own, if the commands have been typed correctly.

  10. Rolando says:

    Doesn’t the IPod have a worse version of this problem ? you can’t replace the battery and you’ve to get a new IPod..

  11. Oh wow… I’ve been wondering why one of my batteries lasts only an hour all week.

    Now I know!

  12. George Stamas says:

    I wonder how much electricity a laptop uses? And if you just plugged the machine into a wall outlet and used it for the same amount of time what would the cost of operation be? Of course, the battery itself uses power to charge and that adds to the real cost of portability as well…

  13. Bob says:

    Rolando,

    The iPod has the same problem (same type of battery), but it isn’t worse. For $49 you can get the iPod battery changed. Apple will also sell an extended warranty for the iPod which covers battery replacement.

  14. While the Genius Bar is a cool idea, I can’t see other retailers offerring it. I mean, isn’t it things like this that are part of the reason that the Mac Stores are bleeding red ink? Perhaps, though, the Genius Bars account for only a small percentage of the loss, while the trendy decor and high-rent locations is what’s really doing them in.

    Is there really a future for such places like Mac Stores? I mean, didn’t Gateway just announce they were going to close a large chunk of their Gateway Direct stores? And thinking back it’s not hard to recall what happened with up and coming stores like Babbages and EggHeads when the Internet started to take off……

  15. Don says:

    "didn’t Gateway just announce they were going to close a large chunk of their Gateway Direct stores?"

    There is a huge difference between Gateway stores and Apple stores:

    Gateway (from what I hear):

    Located in cheap real estate like strip malls.

    Showrooms only: You looked, placed an order, went home and waited for a shipment. No stock was on site.

    Never really made money.

    Apple:

    Located only in high-traffic, boutique locations and high-end malls. Translation: You put your store in those places, the clientele won’t flinch about higher prices that sustain higher profit margins (helps pay the rent).

    You can touch, buy, take it home right away.

    Are now profitable.

  16. Ron Bannon says:

    Make sure you buy a new battery (there should be a date stamp on it). Old Li-ion battteries will die even if they are not used.

  17. Herbavida says:

    I had an iBook battery go bad after 16 months of use—out of warranty—but I bought my iBook wih my AMEX and they extend the warranty an extra year and paid for a new battery. Something to consider whan buying another Apple or any computer for that matter. I’m not usually one to shill for a credit card company but their extended warranty policy has saved me hundreds.

  18. LD says:

    Contrary to what Battery University says, it is usually possible to revive most any type of rechargeable battery to some degree of usefulness. I have a Wintel laptop with a completely dead, 6 year old Li-ion battery (i.e. you unplug the AC adapter and the computer cuts off, doesn’t even have time to go to sleep). After a week of patient cycling, it now gets over an hour of use on a charge. All I did was put the computer to sleep, then unplug the AC adapter and wait for the battery to completely discharge. Recharge, then test to see how long the battery lasts. Repeat as necessary. My theory is that the laptop cannot get sufficient power from the battery fast enough, it cuts off, leaving the battery still charged with the old energy that’s gone bad. But if you let the laptop drain the battery slowly, like in sleep mode, it uses all the old energy, and empties the battery so it can be charged with fresh energy. This might sound silly and completely unscientific, but it does work. I’ve also done this with my camcorder and Newton battery (NiMH) and numerous other batteries. The new battery types were supposed to put the old Ni-Cad "memory problem" behind us, but I don’t think so.

  19. Steve says:

    To Olle Jonsson

    I have the same problem with my Tibook 500-is it a tricky operation to remove the batteries?

    Thanks Steve

  20. weta says:

    ive heard a rumour..that has worked (supposedly) (if you got the balls to do) im still searching before i try this. ive heard that if you short the battery out, you can recharge it to full capacity…however, do it wrong and you can also blow the f#*ker up. as you can see its a risky solution. i’ll advise once ive tried it.

  21. tudor from romania says:

    I have acer travelmate 529 and my battery do not want to pas the line of 46% charged.

    what can I do?

  22. Tim Burnham says:

    Please don’t short out the battery terminals. It really doesn’t work. At all. I did that with the 2600 mah battery in my old Toshiba Portege 7010ct (which, BTW, still had almost 2 hours of battery life remaining-not much less than when it was new) and results were catostrophic. The laptop wouldn’t even detect that the battery was inserted. Bad idea, weta.

  23. These have been hard days for Microsoft laptops. First Dennis Cheung’s Acer doesn’t autosuspend, then…

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