MacBook users seeing 'Service Battery' message after Mavericks upgrade

MacBook users seeing 'Service Battery' message after Mavericks upgrade

Summary: A number of MacBook owners are receiving battery warnings and reduced run times after upgrading to OS X Mavericks.

TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
The dreaded Service Battery warning - Jason O'Grady
(Picture: omardroubi)

If you've noticed odd behavior from your MacBook battery after upgrading to OS X 10.9 (a.k.a. Mavericks) you're not alone. 

According to a three-page/30 reply thread on Apple's discussion forum, a number of MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners are seeing a new "Service Battery" message appear under the battery icon in the menu bar (pictured at right) immediately after upgrading to Mavericks

CNET's Topher Kessler wrote an excellent post on the various battery conditions that are displayed in OS X. According to Kessler "Service Battery" means that "the battery is experiencing an error (regardless of how new it may be) that could result in an unstable capacity. While it should continue to function, it is recommended you have it serviced."

Users that purchased MacBooks between 2008 and 2012 have been reporting issues after installing Mavericks. The general theme is of a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air battery was working fine under Mountain Lion (10.8) but immediately began displaying the "Service Battery" message after upgrading to Mavericks (10.9). Some users also reported a dramatic decrease in battery run time after the update – some dropping by as much as 50 percent.  

One user got the "Service Battery" message on a 13-inch MBP with only 145 charge cycles on the battery. Another poster took their late 2009 MBP to the Apple Store after seeing the battery warning message and was told that they needed to purchase a replacement battery for $129 to remedy the issue. 

Some users have reported being able to reset the Service Battery alert with a restart or by resetting the System Management Controller (SMC), but the reduced battery life complaints persist. Another option is to try recalibrating your battery. One poster noticed that Activity Monitor (CPU) shows kernel_task for root taking up 75 threads and over 200 wake-ups and theorizes that the issue could be related to that. 

You can locate your battery's charge cycle count by launching the System Information application (located in the OS X Utilities folder), then navigating to Power > Health Information in the resulting report, as seen below. If you prefer seeing information about your MacBook's battery in a simple, clean application, you can use Coconut Battery (free).

Check your MacBook battery's charge cycle count here - Jason O'Grady
Picture: Jason O'Grady

According to Apple, modern MacBook Pro or MacBook Air batteries are designed to deliver up to 1000 full charge and discharge cycles before they reaches 80 percent of original capacity, although that number can drop to as low as 300 cycles for older MacBook models. It would appear that the recent spate of "Service Battery" warnings after installing Mavericks are either erroneous, or the new operating system is more sensitive to potential battery problems. 

The thread currently has over 5,000 views and the number of replies is only anecdotal at this point. Apple has yet to acknowledge the issue and I'll update this post with more information as it becomes available. 

Have you noticed the "Service Battery" warning or decreased battery life after installing Mavericks? Post your model info and cycle count in the comments below.

Topics: Apple, Hardware

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  • I have a Fall 2011 MacBook on Mavericks

    And I've seen nothing like this. My daughter has the same (but on Snow Leopard) and she has had this problem... so I wonder if this isn't a MacBook (rather than Mavericks) issue?

    Anyone with the battery message should try resetting the SMC. Works wonders.
    • I've done it a dozen or more times

      And the words 'service battery' are hit and miss as to whether or not they're going to show up. I have a MacBook Air, 2012 model.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • You're wrong!

    This can't be right! Apples simply work. Everyone knows that.

  • Not Maverick issue

    I have an 2011 MacBook Air, that was showing this message from time to time over the past few months, while still running Mountain Lion. The message will be gone after an complete recharge cycle. It is just annoying, but I have not notices any reduced battery life while it is being displayed. My battery is over 2.1 years old and has accumulated just over 200 cycles. For some reason it was always at around 82-85% charge (calculated according to the theoretical capacity). It might be just that battery wasn't very good initially -- but it hardly degraded.

    After upgrading to Maverick, this message appeared again for a day, then went away. I did not bother to have it serviced, as it still works fine.
  • Replacement Battery Cost Me $160

    I saw this notice just prior to taking my early 2011 MacBook Pro in for service and before installing Mavericks. I made an appoint with the Genius Bar at a local Apple store which I found was a huge mistake! You see, I installed a SSD and moved the original HDD to the optical drive slot. I also added 8 GB of memory. My MBP was running great except for that battery error.

    Once Apple saw what I had done, they wouldn't touch my MBP, even though the battery had nothing to do with my changes which were done almost a year ago! So much for my Apple Care warranty!

    Fortunately, I found a local authorized Apple repair shop who replaced my battery with no charge for labor! I didn't check the battery cycle reading. Wish I had now!

    I also read about a possible glitch with the graphics cards on early 2011s!
    • Not legal

      This is a violation of the Moss-Magnusson Act, and is illegal, You should return to the Apple store, confront the manager with this fact, and demand they compensate you for the repair you paid for.
      • Terms of Moss-Magnusson? Cases? Net sources?

        I did some digging on this... could you explain why this would apply or work? Apple's warranty terms, and Apple Care terms, must surely mention no internal modifications of the hardware are permitted or the warranty is voided.

        Their lawyers are smart and would craft language that would support the store's action and blocking warranty service when innards have been changed. Plus, if this were so easy, it would be all over the net!

        If you can point to some info on modifications--and even better cases-- that would helpful to all of us!
        • more probably

          That 2011 MacBook was likely out of warranty -- it's 2013 now. Also, it is user modified, that voids the warranty anyway.

          Apple need not do anything else, but charge you for the replacement of the battery. Their out of warranty service is usually not free though. This is what they would have actually done.

          If you are cost conscious and already modified your MacBook yourself, why just not order an replacement battery and do it yourself? Just as you did with replacing the HDD/DVD etc?
          (this question is for the original poster)
        • The Moss Magnusson Act

          The whole point of there Moss Magnusson Act is to allow owners to freely modify their property without fear of warranty violations, as long as that modification dod not lead to the warranty issue under consideration. If I want to install new doors on a car, and break the hinges in the process, MM does not protect me. But if I replace the doors, and a week later the tail pipe falls off, the fact that I replaced the doors does not invalidate my warranty.
          More to the point the TOS crafted by Apple, contrary to misinformation here, EXPRESSLY allows for such modification. Please read it and you will see. Apple's lawyers are indeed smart, which is why NOWHERE in the TOS are such modifications disallowed.
    • battery

      Simple do it yourself update. Just youtube how, and do it. Costs a fraction.
  • This isn't a new issue.

    When I upgraded my wife's MBP to Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion (while still under AppleCare), I'd get that message EVERY TIME. It has to do with how the laptops read the battery, and it's changed with every major revision of Mac OS X since Leopard (as an effort to thwart those that would make a Hackintosh laptop, most likely).

    Just you wait - when the next beach-themed OS X is released (Pismo, anyone?) you'll see a plethora of these again.
  • 2013 Macbook Air - less battery life

    I updated a week ago on my one month old 2013 Macbook Air, i7, 8gb RAM, 256gb SSD.

    My battery life on Mountain Lion was between 10-13 hours. After updating to Mavericks, battery life is 6-8 hours. I have done SMC reset, PRAM reset, cycled battery several times, nothing works. I have not installed any new programs whatsoever, just Mavericks.

    I was actually going to wait to update the OS for a little longer just in case there were some bugs, but after reading multiple articles about Mavericks increasing battery life from 15-18 hours on the MBA, I made the leap.

    I won't make that mistake again, next time I wait a few months before upgrading :D
    • Appreciate the news...

      John, thanks! That's good to know-- and will remind many of us to hold off!

      We'd be getting greedy, given that 10-14 hours is incredible already!
  • Battery issues

    I don't get the 'Service Battery' dialog but the battery life of my late 2011 Mbp seems to be only the half since I updated to Mavericks.
  • 2012 Macbook Air - less battery life

    I was getting about 6-8 hours of battery life prior to the upgrade. Now I get 3-4 even when no Applications are open. Battery looses charge faster than before even when "sleeping".
  • 2013 15" Retina Macbook Pro - 512G SSD, 16G RAM

    It would seem that my new system has some included features, including the battery problem. I have never updated the OS, seeing how it came with Mavericks. And I've only had the thing for 2 days, now. Not a great experience coming out of the gate for a first time Mac owner...
  • Mid 2010 13" MBP

    I started seeing this with Mavericks. Prior to that I was getting about 6 hours, now I get half that or less. I am try the recal and resetting the SMC, but it sounds like that only works to reset the "Service Required" flag.

    Charge Information:
    Charge Remaining (mAh): 1950
    Fully Charged: No
    Charging: No
    Full Charge Capacity (mAh): 4399
    Health Information:
    Cycle Count: 289
    Condition: Service Battery
    Battery Installed: Yes
    Amperage (mA): -2029
    Voltage (mV): 10938
    • This is what I'm getting

      I'm running 10.9 build 13A603
      Model Information:
      Serial Number:
      Manufacturer: SMP
      Device Name: bq20z451
      Pack Lot Code: 0
      PCB Lot Code: 0
      Firmware Version: 201
      Hardware Revision: 000a
      Cell Revision: 157
      Charge Information:
      Charge Remaining (mAh): 5615
      Fully Charged: Yes
      Charging: No
      Full Charge Capacity (mAh): 5691
      Health Information:
      Cycle Count: 490
      Condition: Normal
      Battery Installed: Yes
      Amperage (mA): 0
      Voltage (mV): 12480
      I hate trolls also
  • BTW - resetting the SMC...

    • As is to be expected

      In order to "fix" that issue you actually need to recalibrate the battery. It has it's own CPU inside that keeps track of how much it is charged etc. That CPU sometimes gets confused.

      For instructions, see