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.