Hardware Stability

Rechargeable batteries

The latest policy from Apple

Did you know that your rechargeable batteries for powering your Apple PowerBook and iPods will have to be replaced more regularly than usual because it cannot reach full charge?

It began around 1997 (possibly earlier) when PowerBook 5300 users noticed how a free Apple battery reset update (version 1.0) had suddenly made them recharge the laptop battery more often than usual. It was like before the update, the battery behaved normally and you could get a good solid 2 hours or more worth of work done on your computer before you had to recharge the battery.

Then Apple made a big deal about a battery reset update utility presumably required to re-calibrate the battery so that your battery indicator would correctly show the level of power remaining in the battery. Unfortunately, users who downloaded the utility and ran it had noticed a marked decrease in the time available to work in battery mode. It would not be surprising if you got 15 to 45 minutes of battery time despite doing everything you can to fully recharge the battery and often with virtually no warning of impending sleep or shutdown when the battery loses enough power, forcing many to purchase new rechargeable batteries from Apple because of their unique design.

Some users have complained about this utility. Since then, Apple Computer, Inc. has suggested users should reset the power management unit (PMU) for an improvement.

Today, Apple Computer, Inc. has gone one step further by introducing into the latest OSX version 10.3.x an update that forces many PowerBook users to accept a greater consumption of power from their rechargeable batteries for no discernibly good reason other than it is a necessity according to the unspoken word from Apple. This is despite users able to do their work under OSX version 10.1.x and early versions of 10.2 with less power. For observations of this, please read this.


To make things more difficult and expensive for users to solve the battery problem on their own, the cigarette-packet-sized iPod with its capacity to hold over 10,000 MP3 files now have the rechargeable battery permanently attached and soldered to the internal circuitry and there is virtually no way users can replace it, except to get an Apple authorised technician to do the work if you pay for Applecare 3-year extended warranty or else the full price of a new iPod if not under warranty. Despite everyone knowing the simple fact that rechargeable batteries do not last forever, Apple chose to make it difficult for users to replace.

Does Apple think consumers are dumb and won't notice these things?

And to replace the battery, Apple technicians have recommended to many iPod users without Applecare to buy a new iPod due to cost considerations when repairing it compared to the price of a brand new iPod.

Apple must think it is smart by finding ways to make a bigger profit from the consumers.

What can I do to solve the problem?

For iPod users, there is not a great deal you can do unless you are an electronics engineer (i.e. remove the old battery and put in a custom built permanent solution of your own that allows you to replace the batteries). As normal consumers, you either have to buy a new iPod (maybe the newer credit-card-sized iPod will be better in this regard), or look to the new range of third-party iPod-look-alike products coming onto the market from people like Microsoft and iRiver as these will provide the option.

As for PowerBook users, you will have to decide whether to upgrade your hardware to a version from Apple that can give the proper battery times needed for you to do your work. Or you will have to downgrade the OS to a respectable version like 10.2.2 and then reset the power management unit (PMU). This may have to be coupled with the purchase of a second rechargeable battery to give you adequate time in battery mode for PowerBook models capable of handling two batteries at the same time (e.g. the PowerBook G3 Series), or can be swapped with relative ease.

Or pay an electronics engineer to build you a radio wave-to-DC converter circuit to fit inside the casing of an old PowerBook battery unit, install it, and then permanently plug up the AC power adapter port. Then you will have unlimited and free electricity to power your laptop 24/7 for the rest of your life (or life of your computer given the way Apple seems to build them or perhaps some users like to use them).

How do I reset the PMU?

The PMU is controlled by an integrated circuit attached to the logic board of your computer. This integrated circuit is responsible for managing backlighting, hard disk spin down, sleep and wake functions, some aspects of charging of the battery, and making sure the serial port and modem does not go to sleep when connected.

On occasions, the PMU may store incorrect data about the state of your computer and how the power to it should be managed. Symptoms of this problem can manifest itself as a battery not recharging, not being able to see the AC adapter is plugged in, and in not turning on or waking up from sleep.

In other situations, the time provided by the battery to power your laptop can also be affected by an unusuable PMU.

There is a simple technique to reset the PMU on virtually all PowerBooks produced by Apple (also known as the System Management Controller or SMC for Intel-based Macs). It is just a question of knowing the key combination to press or where and which switch to push down for this to occur for certain models.

Here is the essential information on how to reset your PMU:

  1. PowerBook G3 Series (M4753)

    (i) Turn off the computer.

    (ii) Press the Shift + Fn (function) + Ctrl (control) keys and the Power button simultaneously.

    (iii) Wait 5 seconds.

    (iv) Press the Power Button to restart the PowerBook computer.

  2. PowerBook G3 Series (Bronze Keyboard) (M5343) and FireWire computers

    (i) Turn off the computer.

    (ii) Between the external video and modem (RJ-11) ports at the back of the computer is a reset button. Press it.

    (iii) Wait for 5 seconds.

    (iv) Press the Power button to restart the PowerBook computer.

  3. iBook and iBook (FireWire) computers

    (i) Turn off the computer.

    (ii) Disconnect power adapter and remove battery.

    (iii) Get a paper clip and press the reset button located above the Power button at the base of the display.

    (iv) Reconnect the power adapter and battery and restart the computer.

  4. iBook (Dual USB), iBook (late 2001) and iBook (14.1-inch LCD)

    (i) Perform the same steps as for the other iBook except the reset button is located above the Audio/Video port at the back and on the left side.

  5. iBook (16 VRAM) and later models of iBook

    (i) There is no physical reset button. So turn off the computer.

    (ii) Press the key combination of Shift + Option and the Power button simultaneously. Do not press the fn (function key).

    (iii) Wait for 5 seconds.

    (iv) Restart the computer as usual.

  6. PowerBook G4 and PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet)

    (i) Turn off the computer

    (ii) Between the external video and modem ports at the back is the reset button. Press it.

    (iii) Wait for 5 seconds

    (iv) Press the Power button to restart the computer.

  7. Titanium PowerBook G4 (DVI) and PowerBook G4 (1GHz/867MHz)

    (i) Turn off the computer.

    (ii) Lift the keyboard by disengaging the latches between the Esc and F1 keys and the F11 and F12 keys. There may also be a keyboard locking screw to remove between the F5 and F6 keys.

    (iii) Properly ground yourself on the large metal chasis inside to reduce stray electric charges.

    (iv) On the upper right side of the keyboard near the Power button is the reset button. Press it.

    (v) Wait for 5 seconds.

    (vi) Put back the keyboard and locking screw into position.

    (v) Restart the computer as usual.

  8. Aluminium PowerBook G4 (12-inch), PowerBook G4 (12-inch DVI), PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW800), PowerBook G4 (17-inch) and PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.33GHz)

    (i) There is no physical reset button. So turn off the computer.

    (ii) Press the key combination of Shift + Option and the Power button simultaneously. Do not press the fn (function key).

    (iii) Wait for 5 seconds.

    (iv) Restart the computer as usual.

  9. Intel-based Mac Mini

    (i) There is no physical reset button. So turn off the computer.

    (ii) Unplug the power cord and all other cables (keyboard, printers, USB thumb drives and so on)

    (iii) Wait for 10 seconds.

    (iv) Plug in the power cord which simultaneously holding down the power button on the back of the computer.

    (v) Let go of the power button.

    (vi) Press the power button once more to restart the computer.

    (vii) Plug all remaining cables back in.

  10. Intel-based MacBook Pro

    (i) If the computer is on, turn it off.

    (ii) Disconnect the AC Adapter and remove the computer's battery.

    (iii) Press and hold down the power button for 5 seconds and then release the button.

    (iv) Reconnect the battery and AC Adapter.

    (v) Press the Power button to restart the computer.

NOTE: All other Intel-based Macs have their own dedicated power management resetting switch on the logic board.

Where to purchase new Apple batteries

Due to the shorten battery life, some US companies have decided to build better "high capacity" batteries to replace Apple's own OEM supplied, low-powered and cheaper versions. You could say these companies are making a killing in selling the batteries until enough Apple computers eventually have to give up the ghost, which is usually sooner than expected.

For example, Newer Technology will happily supply (at a price) new batteries for Apple models going back to the original PowerBook G3 series "Wall Street" computers. For titanium PowerBooks, the price for a NuPower battery is around US$137 as of January 2006. If you do intend to purchase a new battery, pay a little extra for a high capacity version for your laptop. For instance, you can purchase a high capacity 4,800mAh titanium PowerBook battery from Newer Technology for US$159.95, giving you better performance. This means instead of the usual 2.5 to 3 hours for an ordinary battery, you will enjoy up to 5 hours with a high capacity version.

Or if you have a PowerBook G3 Series "Pismo" computer, a mid-range 6,600mAh battery valued at US$149.95 as of December 2005 would give you 4.5 to 5 hours of use compared to around 3 hours for a standard 5,400mAh Apple OEM battery. Or better still, the top-of-the-range 7,200mAh high capacity battery for US$159.95 would give nearly 6 hours of use per charge. Buy two and insert them into the computer and theoretically you can enjoy up to 12 hours continuous use before you need to plug in the power adapter.

NuPower batteries have a 1-year warranty and a US$19 rebate for your old battery sent to Newer Technology.

We don't recommend you purchase secondhand batteries on eBay or any company for US$50 or less. They will only last a few months. You are better off with a brand new battery, preferably the high capacity ones. As they say, you will get what you pay for.

Where to purchase new Apple batteries

In August 2006, Apple announced a massive lithium-ion battery recall for users of PowerBook G4s and G4 iBooks sold from October 2003 until this month. The MacBook Pro battery problem is being handled by a separate battery exchange program so as not to affect sales of the new laptop. This latest battery recall affects 1.8 million Apple G4 laptops (700,000 outside the US).

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said:

"We discovered that some Sony batteries in previous models of PowerPC-based iBooks and PowerBooks do not meet Apple's standards for safety and performance.

Our No.1 priority is to recall and replace the affected batteries free of charge." (The Canberra Times: Fire threat sparks Apple to recall laptop batteries. 26-27 August 2006, p.6.)

Here is the correct information for the faulty batteries:

12-inch iBook G4, battery model: A1061

* ZZ338 through ZZ427

* 3K429 through 3K611

* 6C510 through 6C626

12-inch PowerBook G4, battery model: A1079

* ZZ411 through ZZ427

* 3K428 through 3K611

15-inch PowerBook G4, battery models: A1078 and A1148

* 3K425 through 3K601

* 6N530 through 6N551

* 6N601

NOTE: The affected batteries are not the original US18650GR lithium-ion batteries produced by Sony Fukushima (as used in the Apple titanium G4 PowerBook).

How to recalibrate a lithium-ion battery

Sometimes your PowerBook or MacBook may suddenly shutdown near the end of the battery charge without warning. This is the time to recalibrate the internal microprocessor inside the battery to ensure it gives an accurate estimate of your energy.

For lithium ion batteries, the method of recalibrating involves fully recharging the battery and leaving it fully charged for two hours. Remove the power adapter and use the computer in battery-mode until the computer goes to sleep. Just before it sleeps, make sure you have saved your files. Now fully recharge the battery (battery indicator lights should indicate when full charge has been reached eg. light goes from amber to green). This should recalibrate the microprocessor.

This is the general approach. For more specific information regarding your Apple model, please check this article.

Where to purchase new Apple batteries

Probably as a result of a European Union decision, Apple has decided as of February 2010 to provide free battery replacement on any laptop, iPod, iPhone or iPad device sold to consumers where the advertised usage time suggested by Apple before recharge is not consistently being met and/or is significantly below the standard advertised times. This is especially true of iPods as all you do with them is play music, or perhaps watch a movie or read an eBook for the newer iPod models.

This includes any device no longer covered by the limited warranty or an AppleCare Protection Plan.

Note that all lithium batteries do have a limited number of charge cycles and may eventually need to be replaced. If you suspect your battery is relatively new and you use the Apple device normally in the manner intended and advertised by Apple yet the battery is not providing the consistent amount of power per charge, seek a replacement from your local Apple authorised reseller or repair centre.

For iPod users wanting more information about this battery replacement program, check the Knowledge Base article at the Apple web site.