Here’s what to do if your MacBook turns off when it’s unplugged

One of the areas in which Apple Macs have improved significantly in recent years is battery life. It’s not just that batteries last longer between charges, but how the battery is managed in macOS extends its total lifespan. Knowing that, what a surprise it is to encounter an issue like this…

MacBook shuts down when it’s unplugged.

Scary, right? In this article, I’ll explain why your MacBook might turn off when it’s unplugged and what you can do about it.

Why does my MacBook only work when it’s plugged in?

There are two likely reasons why your MacBook might refuse to run on battery power:

  1. The battery is damaged or too old and can no longer supply enough power to run your MacBook.
  2. The system management controller (SMC) on your Mac is faulty and, consequently, unable to manage the battery power correctly.

A damaged or old battery is the most serious and the least likely to happen. Unless your Mac is ancient and you’ve been charging it every day for years. I doubt you’ve used up all of the battery’s charging cycles. And what’s more, modern laptop batteries rarely develop faults.

Important tip

Some older laptops may still develop battery faults that cause the battery to swell—noticing something like that on your Mac? Jump to this article with handy tips to help you deal with the issue.



What to do if your Mac turns off when it’s unplugged

There are some questions to help you identify the problem. Let’s star with this one:

Is the battery charging?

Check if the battery is charging while plugged into the power source. There should be a lightning bolt in the battery icon in the menu bar. If it’s not charging while it’s plugged in, it won’t be able to run on battery power when you unplug it. Clear as a bell? I know, but still worth mentioning.

The second question would be this one:

Have you checked battery health?

To check battery health, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Apple menu and choose System Preferences.
  2. Select the Battery pane in the bottom row.
  3. Click Battery Health.

A window will appear telling you battery status, capacity, and other helpful information for you to explore.

Tip

To avoid running into problems with your Mac’s battery, you should take regular maintenance seriously. It can include repairing permissions, reindexing Spotlight, thinning out Time Machine snapshots, freeing up RAM, etc.

The easiest way to do that is to use a professional application that can do all that. CleanMyMac X does just that and a great deal more! The app effortlessly runs maintenance scripts to keep your Mac running smoothly. It’s quick, simple, and safe (officially notarized by Apple). You can download it for free here.

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Have you tried to reset the SMC?

The SMC is responsible for managing power on your Mac, and if something is wrong with it, it can impact your battery. The steps to reset differ depending on whether you have an Apple Silicon Mac or an Intel Mac.

For Apple Silicon Macs, just restart your Mac with the power supply plugged in. That will reset the SMC.

For Intel Macs, there are different steps depending on whether you have a Mac with a T2 security chip or other, whether it’s a notebook or a desktop. Check out Apple’s instructions on resetting the SMC for your Mac here.

Have you checked the connection?

If your MacBook uses the MagSave charger, check that the plug is properly connected to the socket. Look at the end of the charging cable for debris. Use a small soft brush to clear anything in there. If your MacBook uses a USB-C charger, it’s less likely to have debris on the cable, but you can still gently brush around the socket to clear anything that shouldn’t be there.

If your MacBook charges using USB-C and has more than one USB-C socket, try using that to charge your Mac. You should also try using a different USB-C cable. Not all USB-C cables are the same, and not all will charge your MacBook’s battery. So make sure you’re using one designed for that purpose.

Whether you’re using a MagSafe charger or a USB-C charger, make sure it’s the correct charger for your MacBook. If it’s not delivering enough power, it won’t charge the battery.

Still not working? Book a repair!

If none of the steps above worked and your MacBook still turns off when it’s unplugged, it is probably a hardware problem preventing the battery from charging. Back in the day, we could replace the battery on our own to check if it worked.

However, MacBooks no longer have removable batteries. The only remaining thing to do is contact Apple and book a repair. Alternatively, take it to your local Apple Authorized Service Center or a Genius Bar.

If your MacBook turns off when it is unplugged from the power source, there are several possible causes. That could be an issue with the battery itself, hardware or software problems related to power management, or something else. Follow the steps above to identify the problem and take the appropriate action to fix it.

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