How to get your Mac battery 'time remaining' estimate back — but don't

Rene with gold 12-inch MacBook
Rene with gold 12-inch MacBook (Image credit: iMore)

With macOS 10.12.2 Apple has removed the "time remaining" readout from the Mac menubar, the one that told you you had 3:14 — or whatever — left on your battery. That leaves only the percentage indicator to help you guess how much power is left on your MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro battery. Needless to say, not everyone is happy about the loss. If you wish you could get it back, the bad news is you can't. The good news is, there are a couple of alternatives.

Why you may not really want "time remaining" back

I'm not going to miss "time remaining", and I'm not going to replace. In my experience it was often inaccurate to the point of being farcical, especially when load changed frequently, which is what load does on a laptop.

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Here's what I wrote in my MacBook battery life troubleshooting tip:

The Mac's menubar shows the percentage of battery life left, just like iOS. When you click on it, though, you get an estimate of how much time is left — 4:35 remaining, for example. Ignore that.It's almost impossible to correctly guestimate how much time is left on a battery in a highly dynamic environment but, worse, Apple's battery API has been wonky for a while. You'll see it go from an impossible 14:21 to a stress-inducing 1:35 and back with the launch or closing of an app or the start or completion of a task.You might think it's useful to have a rough idea of how much work time you have left, but that's not what you're getting. What you're getting is a constant source of stress. Pretend it doesn't exist and stick with the percentage. After a week or so, you'll figure out what that means just like iPhone and iPad.

If your experience has been different or you simply really, truly, want to see "time remaining" on your MacBook, read on.

Activity Monitor

When Apple introduced battery shaming — sorry, "apps using significant energy" — on the Mac, they set it up so that it could take you to Activity Monitor, where more specific information was available. Though "time remaining" is gone from the Menubar, it remains in Activity Monitor.

To get to it, you can:

  1. Click on the on the Battery icon on the right of the Menubar.
  2. Click on the name of an app using significant energy.
  3. Look at Time Remaining at the bottom of Activity Monitor, once it launches.

Alternatively, you can:

  1. Launch Activity Monitor with Spotlight, LaunchPad, or Finder.
  2. Click on the Energy tab at the top.
  3. Look at Time Remaining at the bottom.

FruitJuice and iStat

In addition to its own "time remaining" metric, Apple provides an application developer interface (API) for developers so they can pull a "time remaining" number as well and use it in their own apps. The numbers third party apps get from the API doesn't always match the number Apple shows, but if you're this far down already you skipped my advice about ignoring this lunacy and really want a readout. So, here are your options.

FruitJuice is a an app that tries to help you optimize battery life on your MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro by keeping detailed records, analyzing them, and recommending best practices based on them. For me, it's more trouble and stress than it's worth, but if you love to micromanage that stuff, FruitJuice is awesome at it. It even includes — wait for it! — a "time remaining" indicator all it's own.

iStat Menu is more of a multitasked that tracks and displays everything about your Mac, including time remaining on battery. It's like having Activity Monitor available, in highly polished form, at the click of a menu item.

Full disclosure: The developer of iStat is a friend of mine, but I used the app for years before we met. I still use it to see if my chips are really being pegged by video coding, especially when it seems slow.

Will you be adding your time remaining back?

I'm fine with percentage but what about you? Will you be using Activity Monitor? FruitJuice or iStat? Something else? Let me know!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • It's worth noting to any web devs out there, that the Battery API provided in Chrome and Firefox, report the time remaining as well
  • I thought that is "Apps using sufficient energy"..
  • The "battery.dischargingTime" provides the time remaining in seconds. You just convert that to hours:minutes:seconds
  • This Rene dude is so out of touch it isn't even funny. Ok, it is a little funny.
  • I wouldn't say he's out of touch, but probably the attitude of him saying "you shouldn't get the time remaining back" isn't great. As many people have stated, they found it useful. At least there are solutions in this article
  • I agree, what irritated me was the tag line, "-but don't". Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • i'd like to see it back. This could also be one of those "We puled home sharing from an iOS beta, and we put it back after doing something" kind of things.
  • Apple hasn't identified any issue with the batteries as of yet, so it's difficult to say whether they've done it because of that or just because of general complaints about the time-remaining not being accurate. Technically they've not really hidden the problem, because you can still see how fast it drains by the percentage, or in activity monitor where Apple's own time-estimation is still there. Not to mention the other easy workarounds in this article.
  • But u don't pull something just because its inaccurate (meaning battery time adjusts based on what user is doing/playing) U fix it, but seems to me Apple's pulling this from the battery indicator is just saying "well we can't do anything, and we didn't even try" While there are other areas u can see the 'battery remaining', in activity monitor, or use third party apps for "close to accuracy measurement", its still not the solution... It's a workaround .
  • The time left remaining on my Macbook Pro 2011 has been very accurate for the entire length of time I've owned it. Its been really helpful to me. Seeing 30% doesn't really mean much to me, but it saying i have 2 hours remaining is great. so sad to see it go. Apple must sort it out. Plus they must not advertise 10 hours when its practically impossible unless the screen is turned off. Especially since the battery is 23% SMALLER than last year. (15" inch)
  • I can see why the algorithm would struggle for a power user like Rene, who probably switches between a multitude of apps pretty frequently. He is also probably using pretty recent hardware, which is more efficient and therefore the software makes more of a difference to the estimate (it used to be that screens, fans, hard drives etc all needed a lot more power even when the laptop was idling). However for most of us it has been pretty reliable and very useful, but because Apple can’t get it working for their latest hardware they have decided to remove it for everyone. This sort of attitude is only going to discourage users from updating their operating systems to the latest versions, which is one of Apple’s strengths. I certainly won’t be upgrading to Sierra anytime soon, which is what I usually do after the latest OS has been around for a few months.
  • You can always update the OS then use FruitJuice or iStat to put it back in the menu bar. I know it's not exactly the same, but there's been many situations where I've updated an OS, be it Windows/macOS/Android, and something has been changed/removed in a way I don't like, it's an unfortunate nature of updates in general. There's only so far you can hold off OS updates, and usually the benefits of the update outweigh the negatives
  • Apple has lost their freaking minds! Its like they're on a frenzy with taking away everything thats useful and beneficial to the Apple/Mac experience. Its like Apple is purposely crippling their products by making you carry a million dongles,take away useful ports, and now this. I guess my late 2013 Macbook Pro will be my last Mac. Im so glad Ive bought Chromebooks and they actually "just work." Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple didn't take away useful ports, they just replaced legacy ports with newer ones. Yes you need dongles for now, but the fact that the new MacBook Pro has only USB-C ports means that manufacturers will start making USB-C peripherals at a much quicker rate, so it works out better for the consumer in the long-run, even though it's a bit frustrating to start with. Apple replacing ports with USB-C has nothing to do with this.
  • There are still plenty of people using Macs. Almost every graphics design studio uses them, some other jobs pretty much just use Macs as well. Although it's small in terms of how many Windows computers there are, that small sector is still very large in terms of how many people use them
  • The only thing the Surface offers that the Mac doesn't, is the ability to draw on the screen. It obviously depends how much the graphics studio works with drawing rather than just image manipulation. But like I said, although the usage of Macs is small compared to Windows computers, the amount of people using computers in general is so incredibly large that there is still a market for creating Mac peripherals that manufacturers need to cash in on.