Scare of My Life: MacBook Pro Battery Weirdness

Okay. Phew. In the interests of people who have run across similar problems to what I’ve run into, here’s a run-down of what I had to do to solve it.

If you don’t own a Mac and aren’t hyperventilating due to weirdness, you can probably skip this, so I’ve put everything else under a cut.

Disclaimer

If you follow any instructions in this article, I’m not responsible if it messes up your computer.

I’m so sorry you have a sad Mac. It’s horrible. :( Maybe this post will give you ideas, or at least a place to start, but no guarantees at all.

Symptoms (The Problem)

It started with the power adapter for my MacBook Pro (aka MBP). (This is a 2010 unibody 15″ Macbook Pro, bought in July of that year.) The power adapter’s LED light sometimes wouldn’t come on, and coincided with the battery status indicating that this was not charging.

This adapter was the newest “L”-shaped adapter for the MacBook/MacBook Pro. It wasn’t obviously damaged. And I found that unplugging the adapter from the wall and the Mac, waiting 60 seconds or more, and then plugging the adapter into the wall (often a different socket) and then to the Mac, and the LED light lit up properly and the battery started charging again.

Sometimes, however, the battery indicator would say the battery was charging… but the LED light remained green.

It gets worse.

If the “L” part of the adapter jiggled out… and it fucked up the battery status badly. In fact, it fucked up power management badly.

How badly? Here’s how badly:

  • The fans ran *high* and constantly, even though the MacBook Pro was cool.
  • The date was unset.
  • It forgot what wireless network it was on.
  • The MacBook Pro was convinced it had no battery. There are two weirdnesses here.
    • For a brief time, the battery status had an X through it. I don’t recall if it was black or red (my impression is that it was black). That meant no batteries available… even though the power source was the battery!
    • After a reboot, the battery status indicator disappeared. Despite going into System Preferences / Energy Saver / clicking the Show Battery Status checkbox, the status simply seemed to crash and automatically uncheck the checkbox.
  • This happened even when the adapter wasn’t plugged in—and obviously the MBP couldn’t do anything but run on the battery it was convinced it didn’t have!
  • The MBP also didn’t think it was running on a power adapter even when the adapter was plugged in. Ho boy.

Further Diagnosis

There’s a useful tool called System Profiler. One of the ways it can be accessed is by clicking the Apple in the top toolbar, and then choosing About This Mac. On the dialog that shows up, click the “More info…” button, which will start up the System Profiler.

First thing to do: write down the Serial Number of your Mac. Or put it on your iPhone. Somewhere.

Second thing to do: select, in the left-hand list, under Hardware, “Power”.

Depending on the reboot, a number of things happened to this unfortunate page:

Type A: No Battery Information section, and no AC Charger Information section.

Type B: A Battery Information section that was quite short and said “Battery Installed: No.”

It seemed random as to whether I’d get Type A or Type B on any particular reboot.

I don’t have more information from these times because I was too busy panicking to write it all down. But for comparison, here’s what a normal listing of information would look like:

Battery Information:

  Model Information:
  Serial Number:	W0022P1WWBWZA
  Manufacturer:	SMP
  Device name:	bq20z451
  Pack Lot Code:	0000
  PCB Lot Code:	0000
  Firmware Version:	0201
  Hardware Revision:	000a
  Cell Revision:	0158
  Charge Information:
  Charge remaining (mAh):	5916
  Fully charged:	No
  Charging:	Yes
  Full charge capacity (mAh):	6976
  Health Information:
  Cycle count:	42
  Condition:	Normal
  Battery Installed:	Yes
  Amperage (mA):	2524
  Voltage (mV):	12510

System Power Settings:

  AC Power:
  System Sleep Timer (Minutes):	0
  Disk Sleep Timer (Minutes):	10
  Display Sleep Timer (Minutes):	10
  Wake On AC Change:	No
  Wake On Clamshell Open:	Yes
  Wake On LAN:	No
  Current Power Source:	Yes
  Display Sleep Uses Dim:	Yes
  GPUSwitch:	2
  Battery Power:
  System Sleep Timer (Minutes):	10
  Disk Sleep Timer (Minutes):	10
  Display Sleep Timer (Minutes):	2
  Wake On AC Change:	No
  Wake On Clamshell Open:	Yes
  Display Sleep Uses Dim:	Yes
  GPUSwitch:	2
  Reduce Brightness:	Yes

Hardware Configuration:

  UPS Installed:	No

AC Charger Information:

  Connected:	Yes
  ID:	0x0100
  Wattage (W):	85
  Revision:	0x0000
  Family:	0x00ba
  Serial Number:	0x00327f11
  Charging:	Yes

Solving the Problem

There were three things I did. I’m not sure if the second thing helped, but the first and third things totally helped and resolved the problem. Thank gods.

Thing 1: Use another adapter

That power adapter that seems broken? Throw it somewhere where I won’t be tempted to try to use it. It’s bad mojo.

Thing 2: Reset PRAM

Not sure if this did anything. Here’s Apple’s support article on resetting PRAM/NVRAM.

I’m writing a shortened, probably not safe-for-you version here for my own sanity. Follow the real Apple article above, not these instructions. Especially if you have a different model or one from a different date than mine.

1. Shut down.
2. Find: Command, Option, P, and R on the keyboard.
3. Turn on.
4. Press and hold command-option-p-r and hold them down simultaneously, before the gray screen appears.
5. Keep holding until the computer restarts again. You should hear the startup sound twice.
6. Release the keys after hearing the second startup sound above.

Thing 3: Reset SMC

Here’s Apple’s support article on resetting the SMC.

I’m writing, again, a shortened version here for my own sanity. Follow the real Apple article above, not these instructions. Especially if you have a different model or one from a different date than mine.

Note to self: “Resetting the SMC on portables with a battery you should not remove on your own” is the relevant section, not the section below that or the section before that.

1. Shut down.
2. Plug adapter into power source, and adapter into Mac.
3. Press left-side shift-control-option keys AND power button at same time.
4. Release everything simultaneously.
5. Press power button to turn on.

The Road Not Taken: If This Had Not Worked

I hate to think what would have happened if the SMC reset hadn’t worked. Sad macs, exponential helpings of oy, and random cursing that I hadn’t bought AppleCare (which you should totally do if you don’t know computers, or even if you do and you simply don’t know Macs as well as, say, Linux boxen. It’s like Apple computers are a different species).

If you have taken similar steps and it hasn’t worked out for you, I empathize with you and give you all the hugs. :(

Apart from hitting Apple Support and/or your local Apple Store’s Genius Bar, here are some things to look at while waiting to get through to the magic Apple support people.

I Can Has Cheezburger—if you don’t like or get tired of LOLcats, you can check out the very bottom of the site and look at the list of Cheezburger network links, including Daily Squee, My Food Looks Funny, and It Made My Day.

If you have fond memories of Harry Potter, check out Mark Reads Harry Potter. That link will take you to the very, very first chapter—keep hitting “Prev Post” to get to the next chapter. Yes, it’s totally backwards, because Buzznet is… Buzznet. Warning: you may have so much fun that you forget you need to call back those Mac Support folks. Keep focused! But also a bit unfocused, because otherwise this day will suck, y’know?

Much love, and good luck.

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3 thoughts on “Scare of My Life: MacBook Pro Battery Weirdness

  1. A Mac from July of 2010 is still under warranty. You have a year from purchase date to make a decision on AppleCare. (It’s not a bad idea to have for a portable.) If you decide you want it, you can buy it online.

    All that’s just to say that you are not totally hosed if your MBP has any more problems, not that you should do or not do something.

  2. THANK YOU! i had all my projects and files all inside this mac and I was afraid that giving it to mac would take forever for it to recover. the SMC worked like magic your a lifesaver

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