Hot Apple MacBook Pro Battery Drain Issue and Solution

For the longest time, it has been bugging me that my MacBook Pro was running above 80 degrees C and that the battery seemed to be draining awfully fast.

I figured out what was going on (run-a-way programs eating up the processor time), and will show you how to quickly identify and shut these problem programs down. Just so you can compare your system to mine, here are some of the specifications of my computer below. Keep in mind, I changed the name of my computer below to “my” computer.

My Apple MacBook Pro has been upgraded to 8GB of RAM and a 500 GB 5400 RPM Hitachi HD. The original had a 250 GB hard drive and 4GB of memory. Note, I intentionally stayed away from a 7200 RPM drive to extend battery life as much as possible, and I felt that running the hard drive at the lower 5400 RPM would be cooler for the system overall.

The MacBook Pro computer was running hot prior to the upgrades having been installed.

I had also installed the free smcFanControl addon program in an effort to reduce the temperature of the computer by increasing the speed at which the cooling fans turn. This did help a bit to cool it down, but I still felt that the computer was running way too hot and the battery was being drained extremely fast as well.

Battery health is currently 88% with 239 cycles. Monitoring provided by the free iStat Pro app desktop widget.

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2009) – Technical Specifications

Hardware Overview:

Model Name:    MacBook Pro
Model Identifier:    MacBookPro5,5
Processor Name:    Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed:    2.53 GHz
Number Of Processors:    1
Total Number Of Cores:    2
L2 Cache:    3 MB
Memory:    8 GB
Bus Speed:    1.07 GHz
Boot ROM Version:    MBP55.00AC.B03
SMC Version (system):    1.47f2
Serial Number (system):    73942PSH66E
Hardware UUID:    91956E46-2E0F-5A29-9555-6C92323AC385
Sudden Motion Sensor:
State:    Enabled

System Software Overview:

System Version:    Mac OS X 10.6.8 (10K549)
Kernel Version:    Darwin 10.8.0
Boot Volume:    500GB
Boot Mode:    Normal
Computer Name:    My MacBook Pro
User Name:    MY (my)
Secure Virtual Memory:    Enabled
64-bit Kernel and Extensions:    No
Time since boot:    2 days 15:57
SMC Version (system):    1.47f2

I keep the AirPort connection on and use it wirelessly on the various LANs in my daily travels. Bluetooth I keep turned off.

After much research online, where I read about other MacBook Pros running hot and then it started me thinking that maybe a program was running in the background that was essentially using lots of CPU processing power. I use Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, and others for my various Internet Browsers. The reason I use so many different browsers, is that I need to do cross platform evaluations of websites, and verify that everything works and displays okay on each browser. That is when I found out that Mac OS X 10.6.8 has a utility application called Activity Monitor. You will find the Activity Monitor program by going to ApplicationsUtilities — Activity

MacBook Pro Activity Monitor

What I found was Google Chrome, (see second screen capture below of Activity Monitor which shows this happening) while not actually launched at the time, was still running Google Chrome Helper application in the background that was eating up 100% or more of my CPU time. I had to force quit Google Chrome Helper from the Activity Monitor application for it to actually quit. Then, as I watched my CPU temperature, I was able to note that it dropped almost 30 degrees C in five minutes.

Other things that really suck up a lot of processing power is Flash. Flash is no doubt one of those programs that requires a lot of processing to render the video images. I have noticed that using Flash in all the web browsers really makes a huge impact on the CPU and the battery life, not to mention that Flash will also cause the batteries to heat up due to significant current usage. Speaking of current usage, it would be nice to be able to quickly monitor the current draw in milliamps and voltage. I guess there is an app for that too. I’ll have to do more research in that area.

I have since placed the Activity Monitor program on the Dock (simply by dragging the program application onto the Dock), so I would have quick access to it. I still like and use Google Chrome, but I pay a bit more attention to what programs are now running in the background, and what might be sucking up CPU time and battery power. Here is an additional link with info of why your MacBook Pro might be running hot (opens in new window).

What I believe is happening, is that sometimes one of the applications (in this case Google Chrome Helper) gets caught in a loop, and simply runs away using lots of computer CPU processing time and causing the battery to quickly become depleted. This is not only related to Google Chrome, but I have also seen Firefox do the same thing, thinking that the program has been quitted, when in reality it is running in overdrive in the the background. Below is a screen capture with Google Chrome Helper running in overdrive when the actual Google Chrome program is not running.

Activity Monitor Showing Chrome Helper Application Running in Overdrive

So, if your MacBook Pro seems to be running too hot, take a look what background software applications might be running. Try quitting those programs, and then if that doesn’t work, try “force quitting” those selected applications with the Activity Monitor program, and see if your CPU temperature cools down. Then you will know for sure what is causing your computer to run hot.

Digital Power Supply Tester

I can’t believe I waited all this time to make an investment in a power supply tester for PC computers. This tester will pay for itself in one use.

Manhattan Digital Power Supply Tester
Manhattan Digital Power Supply Tester Model 101530

Given that many of us have more than one PC in our homes or businesses, and the fact that given enough time all electronic items will fail and die, the quick and easy digital power supply tester is the one tool that everyone should have.

After looking at all the pros and cons and reading the Amazon online reviews of the various digital power supply testers, I decided on the Manhatton Digital Power Supply Tester for ATX, 20- or 24-pin connectors.

Here is what can be done with it:

  • Quickly diagnose power supply units, saving time, avoiding system damage, and data loss.
  • Accepts 20- or 24-pin ATX, 4-, 6-, and 8-pin CPU, 4-pin FDD, 4-pin Molex (HDD) and SATA power connectors.
  • Voltage indicator safely and accurately detects voltage presence.
  • Easy to read, backlit LDC display with audible alarms and LED indicators.
  • Sturdy, lightweight, and compact aluminum case; ideal for carrying in a toolkit or having it on the technician’s bench.
  • Lifetime Warranty.

The instructions are included with the device, though you have to look inside the sandwiched cardboard display sleeve to find them.

The directions are easy and is actually very simple to use.

  • Make sure the power supply and all the connections are removed from the computer.
  • Plug in the main 20- or 24-pin ATX connector from a power supply that you want to check.
  • Two beeps indicate that the liquid-crystal display (LCD) has updated each voltage and power-good (PG) value based on what is currently being tested.
  • The 12 V, 3.3 V, and 5 V LEDs will light if their corresponding power outputs are good, and reamian off if the power outputs fail. (The voltage sources are to be tested one by one.)
  • Test any of the component voltage cables one at a time by attaching a 4-, 6-, or 8-pin CPU connector, 4-pin FDD or Molex (HDD) connector (+12 V1 / +5 V), or SATA (+12 V1 / +5 V / +3.3 V) connector to the tester, checking the appropriate LEDs for output indications.
  • Remove each non-ATX connector after each test. Caution: Besides the 20 or 24-pin ATX connector, do not plug more than one additional power connector at a time into the tester.
Normal Voltage Range* Display Voltage Range*
Lower (A) Higher (B) Min. (C) Max. (D)
+5 V +4.75 V +5.25 V 4.0 V 6.0 V
-12 V -11 V -13 V -10 V -14 V
+12 V1 +11 V +13 V 10 V 14 V
+12 V2 +11 V +13 V 10 V 14 V
+3.3 V +3.14 V +3.47 V 2.0 V 4.5 V
+5 VSB +4.75 V +5.25 V 4.0 V 9.0 V
PG 0 ms 990 ms

* +/-5% for +5 V, +3.3 V, +5 VSB; +/-10% for +12 V1, +12 V2, -12 V.

Voltage Table and Readings

  • Abnormal voltage will not display on the LCD.
  • “LL” displays when no voltage or voltage lower than a minimum acceptable value is detected.
  • “HH” displays when voltage is higher than a maximum acceptable value is detected.
  • If the detected voltage is lower than table value (A) or higher than table value (B), an alarm beeps.
  • If the detected PG value is lower than 100 ms or higher than 900 ms, an alarm beeps and the reading blinks on the LCD screen.

The tester works as advertised. Quite a handy device.

Check it out: Manhattan Digital Power Supply Tester


Jim’s Computer Life in the Cloud Online

Today I was reminded of my early life in the Apple PC world when someone asked me a question in regards to fixing an old Macintosh Plus computer.

The Macintosh Plus computer was the third model in the Macintosh line, introduced on January 16, 1986, two years after the original Macintosh and a little more than a year after the Macintosh 512K, with a price tag of US $2599.

Let me tell you a short story. Many years ago, I purchased an Apple Macintosh SE and then later purchased a PowerPC 6100 series computer. Both of these computers made life working with a PC fun. Of course, I am using the term “PC” in a generic form here. The 6100 brought color (actual color monitor) into my computer life, and it even trail blazed the path to the Internet when most people didn’t have a clue what the “Internet” was about, nor had they even hear the “Web” term, or being “online” with a computer.

I was an early alpha and beta tester for the Mosaic browser which was the precursor for Netscape Navigator, which ultimately morphed into Mozilla Firefox. Mosaic’s direct descendant on the coder line, via Marc Andreessen, was Netscape Navigator. Netscape Navigator’s code descendant is Mozilla Firefox. It was around this time I started doing some basic website customization and web design for fun.

I knew the early Apples inside and out. However, the business world was using mostly all DOS PCs with software from Microsoft and IBM. So, when Microsoft introduced Windows 95 and then Windows 98 and ME became available, and PC makers were starting to build computers for the masses, my wife and I purchased a Tiny Computer, which was not so tiny after all, but was a brand name manufacturer of computers.

Tiny Computers, was Britain’s third largest computer manufacturer at the time, based in Redhill Business Park in Salfords, Redhill in Surrey, England. The Tiny brand of computers were sold in the United States at retail outlets at extremely competitive pricing. Tiny used the advertising slogan ‘Think big about your PC – think Tiny.” During the late 1990s they were a highly successful firm having units throughout the major retail stores of the UK, but their profits eventually began to fall due to competition from other major computer brands and they were bought out of Administration by their rival TIME. However if you look around now, there seems to be a lot of new tiny computers, i.e. mini laptops such as Acer, ASUS , HP Mini, Dell Mini, other Netbooks, Apple MacBook Air, Apple iPad, and a host of other manufacturers’ netbooks and minis are now on the landscape.

As the electronics in these computer devices have shrunk, the power within the boxes have expanded exponentially. Battery technology has greatly improved along the way, making the devices quite portable in their usage for long periods of time. However, that does not really paint the whole picture of what is going on today. We tend to think of the computer as a device we store things in, and a device we use for emailing, writing, and even research through the Internet. We store documents, pictures, songs, programs, books, track our finances, and do social networking with our friends and relatives all over the world using the PC, and now even using our smart phones like the iPhone and Androids to quickly post a picture, send a message, or check our emails.

What many of us fail to realize is the impact that the cloud is making on our lives, and how the PC might simply be a thing of the past in our thinking. In fact, it is quite likely that the near future, the PC will simply be a device that is so cheap, and common place that it will be like having a watch on your wrist. Just about everyone has a watch, and very few get excited about having one. Yes, you might want a Rolex, but seeing the time on a Timex will do just fine.

First off, what is the cloud? Or, what is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).

Believe it or not, most of us use cloud computing every day. In fact, I am using cloud computing just writing this document. As I type this document on my MacBook Pro, the computer is simply being used as a terminal that is tied into my web host server, where my website is located, where I have WordPress blogging software and content management software installed, and where the physical files are stored.

Another form of cloud computing is Google’s Gmail application, where all the emails are stored online, and access is provided through all types of devices, i.e. PCs, Apple laptops, iPads, netbooks, iPhones, Android smart phones, and even our new smart TVs have Internet access capabilities.  Even the Amazon Kindle, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Fire, Full Color 7″ Multi-touch Display, has Internet Wi-Fi access available for it. The days of using one PC device for everything is long gone. In fact, that is one of the reasons the cloud is here to stay. People want instantaneous access to their information through all the different electronic devices available to them. They want to be able to check their email from the cell phone, or check their friends Facebook pages from their iPad, or conference on their laptop when on the road, or even download a new book to read when ever they want.

No doubt about it, this generation is living in the cloud whether they realize it or not. Now, even businesses are moving to the cloud too. The same things that have occurred in the consumer world is also happening in the business world. Companies are looking for ways of reducing their costs, and one area of expense that are being looked at with a critical eye is the IT department. IT departments have traditionally had their plates full. They have had to juggle all types of activities; server integration, software, backups, computer laptops and desktops, email configuration, email maintenance, email backups, and one of the most important items, security. All of this adds up to big money. The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind, it is in the cloud.

Cloud ComputingGoogle Apps for business is one of the cost saving enterprise solutions available for small, medium, or any large business today. With the adaptation of Google Apps integration for a business, a company can realize enormous savings, reduced headaches, elimination of concern over hardware server problems, backups, power outages, and of having to deal with other interface items related to PC hardware, software, email integration, and more.

Need help with your business? Contact Jim at Professional Web Services today.