Why your MacBook runs like crap


I use a MacBook Pro as my my main computer, plugged into a desktop set-up. Like any right-thinking geek with such an arrangement, I removed the laptop’s battery to prevent it suffering from being charged all the time — the MacBook Pro is never used away from mains power and can’t be accidentally unplugged.

I only switched to Mac OS relatively recently (I ran Windows XP via Boot Camp for a spell), but in the few months I have been using it, one constant complaint has been about speed. Mac OS X 10.5.X seemed very slow in some circumstances and I was seeing the spinning beach ball far more often than I would see the hourglass in Windows (when simply switching to an open Firefox tab, for example).

After simply blaming this on the vagaries of Mac OS for a few months, something occurred to me this morning. I vaguely remembered reading a while ago about how MacBooks run slower when the battery is removed. Since I wasn’t a Mac user at the time, I didn’t follow the story that closely and assumed it only affected the new unibody MacBooks (which were launched around that time). I was wrong.

It seems that all MacBooks drop their processor speed when the battery is removed. I won’t go into Apple’s idiotic reasoning for this — read the official Apple statement for the full details. So, I ran Xbench to see how big a difference removing the battery made to performance. Short answer — a lot. Here are the results:


As you can see, removing the battery causes performance to drop by 40%! Or to put it another way, putting the battery back into the MacBook Pro improves performance by 68% (typo corrected…). That’s both incredible and ridiculous. (Full Xbench results available here).

So, the battery is back in the MacBook Pro and I’ve set up a fortnightly reminder in iCal to disconnect the battery from the mains to cycle it. I suspect that this won’t make too much different to the battery’s lifespan — sitting unused on a shelf with a 50% charge won’t do it much good, either. I was really more concerned about the safety aspects of leaving the battery plugged in 24/7, particularly after experiencing the swollen battery problem that resulted in a warranty replacement a while back. So, we’ll see, I guess.

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