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Ask HN: Does Apple slow down old Macbooks as well?
96 points by jakobov on Dec 24, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments
Has anyone actually tested it properly? If so what are the results

I keep thinking Intel should have something like big.LITTLE - chips with fast/power-hungry cores with other slower cores with low-power running the same ISA. Processes with lower priorities (or causing less load) could be moved to the power-conserving cores while stuff that creates large loads could occupy the faster ones. The threshold should be configurable so you could have as much or as little running on your power-conserving cores as you want your batteries to last. That, in addition to aggressively managing clock as we already do for power/thermal reasons should yield a very interesting generation of laptops.

Never thought of that. But, I'm very sure Apple will use those big.LITTLE chips and use a dramatically smaller battery to give you 10 hours of battery life and thinner laptop. /S.

I feel like in the past few years, processors are remaining as fast but better power efficient, but the end-user never sees longer use out of them. Because manufacturers skimp on battery catching up with power efficiency :-(

If I built a computer as heavy as my first Thinkpad using a modern processor and filling the rest of the machine with batteries, I'd have a month of continuous use ;-)

There are regulations on how much li ion battey a machine may have to be allowed in the cabin pn a plane. I think many companies won't cross that limit. So something like the removable / modular batteries from the past might be great


Up to 100 Wh / battery, up to 160 Wh with airline approval. All laptops I know of have a 100 Wh battery at most. Macbook pro's used to have that size, but the latest gen has a smaller capacity. You can carry spare batteries, as long as they are for "personal use".

Word on the street was that the new MacBook Pros came with shrunken batteries because they couldn't get the terraced design to fit within design spec (thermals, I think) like they did with the MacBook. Hopefully in their next design iteration, they'll be able to fit a 99.5Wh battery back in the laptop.

Well... 100Wh at Core i7 + discrete GPU consumption is one thing, but if only an Atom-like core is half-asleep while I edit a field and the big cores only kick in while rendering a page, I would expect generously more than 10 hours.

I'm wondering why it's not possible to run some cores multithreaded and some just singlethreaded? I would like to see something like that.

Maybe it will happen through ARM getting traction in the PC market. We've already had Google's new OP1 chip, and apparently ARM licensees are also having another go at Windows laptops:

> Later this year, ARM will appear in Windows 10 laptops powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. The laptops are being called "cellular PCs," which will include smartphone-like capabilities of cellular connectivity and long battery life.


I have a mid 2014 mbp i7 with almost 900 charge cycles that received a new battery from Apple while in for a system board.

Running Sierra, I noticed an immediate speed increase on tasks I have done hundreds of times. Everything was snappier again.

Comparing the i7 I have VS the latest i7, there is only about a 25% difference 3 years later. I can say my mbp likely dropped 25% in speed before the battery swap.

I wish I had taken more geekbench diagnostics before sending the laptop to Apple. I did notice several mbp's with the came cpu ad mine had a geekbench score in the 6000's while the spec was in the 8000's. The battery condition may be a factor.

It would be interesting to correlate geekbench (or something comparable) scores to charge cycles. This question is likely worth asking with Google made Android devices that have had battery issues like the Nexus 6p too.

Yes, it actually can happen that degraded battery will cause the CPU to be locked into low power state. However on all the models I've seen that happen it was also accompanied by a clear error message that battery is dead and it should be replaced.

I have a 2013 rMBP in this state now with a bad battery. It strangely alternates between "Replace Now" and "Service Battery" [1] depending on the day, but I do think performance is degraded.

It seems less significant but still noticeable when connected to power than on battery, even when the battery is full charged. IIRC my battery is around 50% design capacity with 1000–1500 cycles.

It would be nice to be able to definitively tell if macOS is underclocking or something.

[1]: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201957

I asked the same yesterday in another topic. I have mid 2012 MacBook Pro that behaves terribly with High Sierra, while it was fairly snappy with Sierra. Now it takes about 5 seconds to start any app, even for simple apps like iTerm2.

Since I can't find too much complaints on the web about laptop slowing down and the reply to my yesterday question was that some users don't see much difference, I am now downloading Sierra and will install it on another partition. This should answer this question precisely.

I can't leave High Sierra as is because it made my MacBook Pro unusable.

Same issue here! Mid 2012 slowing down drastically since High Sierra. It's a common issue apparently! [1] I'm guessing it's a bug/feature in the WindowServer [2].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBCPtcfL_Fs [2] http://www.openradar.me/35122177

Do a clean install. My 2010 runs just fine on HS with none of those issues.

Thanks. I suspect the same since I don't see too much complaints online. It is most probably just a weird timing when I got fed up with slow MBP while we see all the iPhone slowdown reports.

I had a similar problem with late 2012 rMBP starting from El Captain - often after a touchpad click anywhere a rolling ball appeared for a few seconds before allowing to do anything, which was making it unusable. Then logic board died. So it might be a symptom your MBP is moving towards end of life or to "hot oven maintenance" checkpoint.

I find it weird that there isn't enough outrage about this and it is already beginning to be the new normal. In a more ideal world, Apple would have been forced to issue a patch that reverses this forced obsolescence on consumers.

Except it's debatable whether it is forced obsolescence or a sensible approach to battery management.

They could just give the chance to change it while setting the default behavior for better battery management. So the common user would be ok and the power user could decide what to prioritize. The problem is, indeed, the fact this is a no reversible decision atm

Definitely feels like an advanced setting they could bury in the battery settings.

Yes, when I got the Macbook battery needs servicing thing couple of years ago, the processor was permanently in a low power state of 800Mhz. You can verify it using the Intel Power Gadget thing or terminal.

I have a 2011 Macbook Air (13-inch) and my battery has a “Service Battery” alert. It’s very slow when the battery is not at full capacity but it’s fine when the battery is full.

I ordered a replacement battery off Amazon last week.

Be aware that most "genuine" replacement batteries are counterfeit. I bought a replacement battery for my 2011 MBA too, but it only worked good for a couple of months.

> or terminal


In my experience my 2009 MBP didn't slow down as the battery wore down. But I did read somewhere that if you remove the dead battery without replacing it, then the MBP will only run at about half speed on mains power alone. Depleted batteries have a habit of bulging and damaging the internals. I ended up buying a third party replacement battery, but it never restored the MBP to its original run-time capacities.

That's because older MacBooks could draw more power under 100% load than the power adapter could provide. Instead of shipping with a bulky 90W adapter, apple decided that 65W one is sufficient for almost everyone, and if you need to run your machine under 100% load it would just draw extra power from the battery. Hence, if you don't have a battery or its dead, the machine will never allow 100% load(this might be different if you actually plug in a 90W adapter, but I don't remember the details now).

So it was literally impossible to run the device at full load for extended periods? Presumably the battery eventually hit 0 and the devices was then power limited? That's insane. I assume thermals prevented it before the battery did, however for premium devices, it seems like a profit protection measure for Apple, rather than a cost saving feature for uses.

If the battery was full and you were running at full load it would take over 5 hours to discharge the battery to zero - and if you are running CPU+GPU at full load for over 5 hours on a laptop then I'd say you are probably on a wrong device for this. I'd take a smaller (lighter) power adapter + max 5 hours of full load than a heavier adapter and unlimited full load. I actually know someone who carries a 45w adapter with his macbook 15" because it's smaller and the laptop runs from it fine unless you run some heavy loads on it - for normal browsing/coding work it's fine.

Lenovo did (still does?) the same thing. My old T420 shipped with a 65W charger but required 90W peak power to run at full clocks. At some point it decided that even with the battery in place and fully charged that it will only run throttled down to exactly 800MHz! With the cpupower tools I could make it run at full 2.7GHz but without frequency scaling of any kind. It was either 800MHz or 2.7GHz.

This happens to a first gen retina macbook pro. So not sure if they stopped doing this.

I don't see battery life going down when plugged in on a current MBPr15, even when torturing it w/ recompiling all my ports tree.

Maximum CPU load is not enough - you'd need to run full load on cpu, GPU , hard drive and have the display on full brightness - it really is an edge case.

Gaming. Though that's usually not done at 100% brightness. IIRC my mbp with geforce 750 came with a 90W adapter, but that would also not be enough when running the 45W CPU and the 35-40W GPU at max with ram and screen power usage.

Not sure about slowing down, but I'm afraid to update my mid-2012 rMacbook anymore. High Sierra crippled my external 32" monitor earlier this year; I spent a whole weekend downgrading it to El Capitan. Now my bluetooth devices stopped working right after Security update 2017-05 last week.

I generally have ended up staying 1 release behind the current MacOS for this reason while keeping up with security updates.

Apple has a special talent of breaking what was working just fine. While I'm sure some of it is is very worthwhile improvements under the hood that doesn't get the appreciation it deserves, do the pros outweigh a laptop that no longer runs for me?

The latest mbp's while looking great, have lead me to wonder if they are for technical creators/pros anymore..

The cpu is regularly at least a generation behind.

A missing escape key is humorous, while I can remap my escape key to the ~ key if I had a touch bar..

The fact that there's no Apple made dock for a mbp's after a decade of having flawlessly operating docks with HP. Apple display doesn't cut it for everyone as a dock.

Still I continue to use macos because it's the most usable linux/bsd out with respect to available apps. Maybe the Chromebooks will push on this front.

Can we get a positive answer from Apple that the company doest not slow down the CPU for older MacBook Pros?

We just need a truthful answer from Apple when we do not have any evidence for that, or it's hard to get an evidence.

I had the older MacBook Pros (mid 2012 and 2013) and they are getting slower than years ago. So we need to make sure Apple is not doing the slow down like it does to old iPhones.

All computers have the potential for slowdown as they age because 2 things naturally happen: cooling systems clog with dust and thermal paste degrades. Both of these eventually reduce the efficiency of the cooling system, resulting in higher CPU temps. Unchecked, this can result in CPU throttling by the hardware itself.

3 things. Hard drive/SSD. Full ssds rUn slower naturally. Hard drives with bad and remapped sectors can go dramatically slower.

I would assume that if you had no fan, then the only things that could “degrade” on a computer would be the battery, thermal paste, and the capacitors (and maybe the screen backlight in a laptop.)

I’ve been wondering the same thing about the iPad Mini. My mom and mother-in-law both have the same vintage (v1, I think) and both complain of browser crashes when loading some web sites and playing video on Facebook. My guess is it’s a combination of terrible bloated sites and only having 512MB of RAM (a 2-year-old HTC Desire with 1GB RAM works fine for the same purposes), but recent news does make one wonder if a battery would make a difference.

I haven't tested it properly, and n=1, but I recently cleaned a MBP 2010: dedust, replaced battery (was at 85% with approx 900 cycles), replaced both fans, and reapplied thermal paste (I'd already replaced the RAM and HDD with SSD earlier, and dedusted numerous times already). If you follow iFixit guides and have the right tools (mentioned in the guides) its fairly easy to do. I'm not good with this stuff at all, and I managed. The problem was that the machine got very hot very easily. It still gets hot very easily (seems to even spike quicker now) but the fans need to work less hard.

The Nvidia GPU is also on life support on this machine due to a bug which isn't covered under warranty. For that I use Gfxcardstatus and keep the machine's GPU in Integrated mode (the slower Intel CPU). Its a widely known problem with the 2010 series. All apps which use Electron or Chrome put the machine's GPU at boot in Dedicated mode. Which is annoying. Firefox doesn't do this, and since 57 yields good performance. Although I'm not sold on watching videos in Firefox; Chrome/Safari might yield better performance on Mac according to certain anecdotal evidence I found (including my own).

Now, there's a few reasons why newer macOS versions are slower than older. One reason being APFS [1] [2] (Reddit thread [3] [4]). Especially when using FileVault. Keep in mind thats a state of the art MBP; its from 2017.

Regardless, we need benchmarks.

[1] https://malcont.net/2017/09/apfs-vs-hfs-benchmarks-on-2017-m...

[2] https://malcont.net/2017/07/apfs-and-hfsplus-benchmarks-on-2...

[3] https://www.reddit.com/r/osx/comments/72z2v5/apfs_vs_hfs_ben...

[4] https://www.reddit.com/r/mac/comments/6nnaex/i_made_some_ben...

If you’re comfortable with a soldering iron, there is a pretty easy fix for the GPU. I fixed mine earlier this year and it has been rock solid since.


It looks like the first link is current and concerning. Why would APFS encrypted be so much slower than HFS+ encrypted?

Which battery did you get for it?

This one (new) [1]. Note I'm from EU, so I bought it from the iFixit EU store located in Germany. Delivery took a few days during Black Friday peak. Little bit more than half a week IIRC.

When I first checked earlier this year they weren't in stock, so I asked when they'd be in stock which was soon. Once they were in stock I lacked time IRL so had to postpone order. Hence I only replaced it a good month ago. Had to order some kit and accessoires to open up the machine (was on sale during Black Friday) including the magnetic project mat which you can use to group the screws (you can add notes as well on it). 10/10 recommend that! (I'm not affiliated btw.) I recommend to just check the guides. They're good, and if you need help you can ask questions over there. The people there are much more knowledgable on this subject than I will ever be.

Only bad thing is that the guide told me to not worry about disconnecting the iSight camera. I managed to break that cable. That was during thermal paste application guide though; not battery replacement. The other disconnections of cables all went very well or flawless. Nothing broken in these departments. In a way, no iSight is a plus anyway.

[1] https://eustore.ifixit.com/en/Parts/MacBook-Parts/Macbook-Pr...

Thank you. Unfortunately I'm not in EU and package forwarders don't accept lithium batteries anymore.

If you're in US, there's also iFixit US. Just check the main site [1] and see if its possible. You can select language on top right.

[1] https://www.ifixit.com

My 2011 iMac was quite fast until upgrading it. Now I can’t open anything without waiting 10 seconds at least. It’s been painfully slow since the upgrades.

Do Apple operating systems updates slow down older Mac minis? My 2012 Mac mini slows each time I update--and it has no batteries.

My MBA12 gets slow when the % charge is low, but I don't know whether they do it based on absolute charge as well.

Curious. Do older MBPs run Linux with better support? Perhaps longer battery life with the laptop project and stuff...?

I've been running debian on one of the first unibody MBPs (5,1) for maybe 3? years, all drivers work (closed source nvidia driver needed for proper graphics though) and it's mostly excellent, but not without a couple manual tweaks that I found necessary, mainly:

1) I can't speak for the newer models but many of the older models have an extremely blue monitors without colour profiles, however it's relatively easy to fish the icc colour profile from OS X, then it's just a matter of deciding on how to apply it to your xsession (simplest and lightest is manually with xcalib).

2) Dual graphics... these are a pain and I believe affect most of the newer models also, the solutions differ slightly depending on both the model and the combination of graphics cards. This can be confounded by old nvidia drivers that lack kernel mode setting and give you a nice black screen on ttys. My solution was to adapt my own tiny little utility for controlling the gmux switch (Apple specific, and also slightly model specific), this just basically just provides a switch between integrated and descrete graphics using slightly model specific GPIO ports... Once adapting and compiling that you need to automate calling the switch at various points, I found it was best to initiate the gmux (just by selecting you prefered GPU) when the xsession startsup, (this preserves the tty until X starts, and works around the annoying nvidia mode setting issue for startup at least), than also on wake when the gmux seems to forget itself.

The main reason to do the whole GMUX thing is not necessarily to have choice of GPU (my discrete one doesn't actually work properly with nvidia's linux driver anyway) but to allow it power off the unused one GPU, without this selection you will have an instant cooker and it's really not pleasant to use.

Newer MBPs or those without nvidia cards might not need so much messing around... a single card is always the preference because then you can forgo the whole GMUX nonsense (my model is 10 years old now). The linux kernel actually has some gmux stuff built in, but it didn't seem to work on my model, it may only apply to newer ones.

I switched from 10.6 when OS X was still pretty lean, but even then I noticed many performance improvements... It's difficult to do direct comparison though because I don't run a full DE, just i3wm, the main advantage really is customisability, and being able to run something relatively far lighter. Graphics were noticeably faster though, Although I suspect that's because there was some sort of soft underclocking going on in the OSX drivers (these were the models plagued by the low lead solder micro fractures on the discrete GPUs, which apple "fixed" (read: pushed out of warranty) by underclocking)

Arch runs pretty well out of the box on my 2013 Air, it falls down slightly on battery life (3-4h rather than 8-10h with macOS) and CPU fan running wild with no load.

Both things are much more configurable under Linux than macOS of course, and you should just be able to set it up once and forget it. (Or keep a note, in case you want to replicate it on another machine...) But the flip side being that it is something you'll have to configure.

falls down "slightly"...

This what I was talking about. The laptop Project : http://linrunner.de/en/tlp/docs/tlp-linux-advanced-power-man...

Does it bring down power usage in laptops enough to make it efficient?

Everything works with Debian 9 on my Macbook Pro 11,1 and it's noticeably faster than macOS Sierra and High Sierra.

Does Apple slow down old Mac Minis too? It seems to get worse after each OS update.

Every† OS update includes new features: they're generally not just bug fixes. These new features will generally increase the amount of work the machine needs to do, and often is made feasible by the availability of the new hardware.

If the older machine doesn't have the same power as newer hardware, it will likely be slower: it's doing more work. Anyone developing a system needs to make a choice: allow the new feature to run on older hardware and accept that it may be slower, or don't allow it to run. They also need to make tradeoffs in what feature sets they make available to platforms (e.g., version-x-for-platform-a, version-x-for-platform-b). Each additional version/platform configuration is additional work to maintain. You may disagree with the choices they make, but they do have to make these choices depending on where they want to distribute their resources as a company.

If the underlying assumption is that Apple is doing this on purpose to make machines obsolete, I think that's mistaken. If OS updates make an older machine run slower, that happens because the update includes new features which requires more resources, and older machines may not have as many resources available.

† At least major versions, and most minor versions.

i am NOT TECH SAVY at all and am about to Purge all Apple products. My IMAC is sooooooo slow now.......Freezes..... Mouse cursor not available etc.... And NO not so stupid to not have check the batteries....... Can I save my IMAC?

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