macOS Big Sur battery draining issues are for real (Here are some probable fixes)

MacBooks have left users with Big Sur updates recently, it’s still rolling out across the globe. In some regions, the next iteration of the major release is rolling out.

There have been so many fluctuations around the update on the web regarding the exciting features of the update, but there have also been pop ups of the issues that the update has come along with.

Putting all the exciting features of the Big Sur update, I’ll jump straight to the point. There have reports & I myself have found the battery draining issues on my MacBook pro (2019) almost a week after the update.

The performance has turned so poor that I hardly had 60 minutes of on screen usage after the update. Let me remind you, when my machine was running 10.x Catalina version, the on screen usage on single charge would go as high as 12 hours.

I was able to juice out every single ounce of the power the machine had to offer, and the machine wouldn’t even flinch. This has been happening for over a week now.

This post is about all my discoveries about the battery draining issues. Read along to help yourself.

Related: New to mac? Here’s a beginner guide to get you to speed

Initial diagnosis of battery draining issues

When I first discovered the issue, I found my MacBook dead out of charge. At first I thought, I must’ve forgot to put it on charge after work previous night.

And it happened again the next morning, this wasn’t cool. I quickly did some Google search. Found some interesting opinions where some claim it’s just another way to push people (with older devices) to buy new ones.

It’s evident because this has happened just after the release of devices with the latest M1 chips. It’s hard not to believe this. While some claim it’s the side effect of the latest OS release.

With these many opinions on the extreme ends of the spectrum, it was difficult to decide if it was update or there were seriously some issues.

I quickly checked my battery preferences ( > System Preferences, click Battery, then select the Battery tab) 

First diagnose revealed astonishing results. I was literally shocked.

Less than 60 minutes of usage still the battery drained from 100% to 50% in less than 10 hours. While running on Catalina, the battery would run for days if the machine is left asleep.

I remember days when I was away for a holiday & running the machine for a whole week. The only usage was to check emails & respond. That was usage of hardly 15-30 minutes per day.

This was a shock. By this time I started believing that this is another one of those typical Apple move to buy a new device.

However, I still had in faith in Apple. The next step I did was check battery settings If I’ve left any taps open. Things were fine. It wasn’t the settings that were behind this drainage.

Second, this was to check the activity monitor (typical windows move) if there are some apps sucking the juice out of the battery. At first, I didn’t find anything alarming.

But upon digging the web further I found out that the Spotlight app was consuming a huge number of CPU cycles in Big Sur 11.0.1 (which got fixed in 11.1, I’ll be talking about it in a bit)

Many users found “kernelmanagerd” consuming a lot of CPU cycles, which in my case wasn’t true so I don’t have proof of it on my machine.

Meanwhile, I figure something, I sent a tweet to Apple support. Twitter is amazing for customer service, totally reliable.

Though I didn’t expect a reply, at least any soon, they did show up in my inbox. After sharing the relevant details, I was told the apple is aware of this issue & have rolled out Big Sur 11.1 with the fix for this battery draining issue.

By this point, I was expecting the issue to be fixed after the update to 11.1.

Updating to Big Sur 11.1 partially fixed the battery draining issues

As instructed by Apple Support, I updated to 11.1 which is a massive update in terms of downloadable file size.

I didn’t really care about the other fixes the update came with (it can wait for my attention) the first thing I checked was battery preferences & one thing I found that wasn’t there in 11.0.1.

Once you update, go to  > System Preferences, click Battery, then select the Battery tab.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take the screenshot of the battery preference before the update. But if you have Big Sur 11.0.1, you’d not find the highlighted option which seems to do the job.

The update has partially done the job of fixing it. The power drain (with Big Sur 11.0.1) was so severe that my on-screen usage was just 60-90 minutes even after charging 100%.

The problem that still remains...

I wouldn’t say the update has fixed the issue completely. The real problem with the battery was that it would drain even when the machine isn’t in use, i.e. when left to sleep.

The issue still persists & the battery is acting weird. Yesterday, the battery lasted for over 24 hours, including 9-10 hours of sleep time & 12+ hours of on screen usage.

Even today, the on screen usage was 9+ hours, which leaves me even more confused.

I’m in touch with the support team & also check the web for more hints related to this. The support team has suggested SMC & PRAM reset which is risky for non-techy users.

Note: I will try running SMC & PRAM reset test but only if that’s what I’m left with. I’ll keep this post updated with my discovering. Also, I’ll push it on Twitter for better & instant access.

However, the battery draining issue on your mac might not be because of the same reasons as mine. So here are some reasons (and fixes) I found on web that have proven to be working.

Best practices (and fixes) to prevent battery draining on macOS Big Sur

Spotlight has been the most common issue that’s causing battery draining in mac. So let’s check if you too have the same issue.

#1 Check if Spotlight is taking up CPU cycles

  • Click on the spotlight icon in the top menu if you’ve removed it. Alternatively, press command+space to trigger the spotlight app.
  • Search something in the search bar. It can be meaningless too 😜
  • If you see “indexing…” it indicates that the app is consuming CPU cycles.

In my case, that’s not the case. So it means Spotlight app isn’t consuming CPU cycles. I even cross checked it in activity monitor as shown below.

You can also try to uncheck some categories of what the spotlight app can index. Simply head over to  > System Preferences, click on the spotlight, and on the search results tab, go through to uncheck the results you don’t want to index.

This should give the app some breather & slow down the CPU for better battery life.

Updating to 11.1 has got rid of the issues. Though I didn’t have the issue even before updating. But chances are your mac would have the problem.

If you do, update your machine to 11.1 right away.

#2 Reduce the CPU load

I’m poor at maintaining tabs in my browser. I have several tabs parallel opened in multiple windows of multiple browsers.

This is the biggest reasons why CPU has poor battery performance. But the macOS is known for battery performance. I’ve used Catalina for almost a year with similar habit of running several tabs of browser opened along with softwares like Photoshop & Illustrator.

This version is peculiar & significantly newer, so I don’t have much to comment. If closing the unwanted tabs help, why not do it?

I haven’t tested several tabs of multiple browser windows, though. That’s a good scenario to put the latest update to test.

#3 Review login items

Login items are the applications that run right after you login to your machine. In my case, I don’t login. I leave it asleep & resume it from the point I left previously.

However, I had a couple of login items I don’t need at the time of starting up. I removed the unwanted ones for better performance.

To remove the login items, head over to  > System Preferences, click on User & Groups. Then switch to the Login items tab & remove the unwanted services/applications by clicking “-” at the bottom.

#4 Check battery health

This is elementary check that should be done in the beginning, but since my machine is just a year old & has been recently gone a full service (that included a brand new battery)

So I didn’t bother doing that for me. You can check the battery health by going to  > System Preferences, click on Battery then click the battery tab to find the Battery health button at the bottom right corner as shown below:

This will take you to a pop up that will tell you the status of your battery. In my case, it is shown as normal. Which tells me that there’s no hardware issue, it’s the software that’s causing the problem.

You can find more information about the longevity of the battery here that discusses feature in detail.


Update 1: It’s been almost a week since I updated to Big Sur 11.1, the issues seems to lowering its power. The battery still drains ‘only’ when the machine is put to sleep, but not at a significant rate. While using the battery is usual. I have a heavy usage (several tabs opened across multiple browser windows, along with other apps) so I have a battery life of around 5-6 hours. I will test further & keep this post, up to date with my findings.

Final thoughts on battery draining issues on Big Sur macOS (TL;DR)

After digging up a lot on the web, there isn’t any conclusive evidence that tells me if this is happening because of a bug or it’s a typical apple thing. The battery issues aren’t new, there have been reports of battery draining issues in previous versions of Mojave & Catalina.

Though, it wasn’t this poor. At least I didn’t find it this poor after I updated to Catalina last year.

If you’re finding poor battery performance & if you’ve updated to Big Sur 11.0.1, hold on for version 11.1 update which fixes a lot of things.

You can check for software updates by going to  > About This Mac then click on the Software update… button

This will check for updates, if there are any updates, you can download & install updates to see the fixes for the battery draining issues. I have the latest version of the macOS installed hence I have no updates to download & install.

Bottomline is that the battery draining issues on macOS is a software bug which seems to a tradition since last three major OS release (Mojave, Catalina & Big Sur)

I hope you’ve found this post helpful & help you solve you daily life problem of using you mac machine. With this blog, I’m determined to help you work better with the digital products you’re surrounded with.

I’d be glad to have you in the my journey on Twitter & the newsletter.

P.S: Keep in touch for all the updates related to the battery draining issues. The issues don’t seem to be fixed. I will post it here & share it on Twitter.

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