How to get Low Power Mode on your Mac right now

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This rare photo shows the moment that Michael came up with the idea for K.I.T.T's Turbo Boost.
This rare photo shows the moment that Michael came up with the idea for K.I.T.T's Turbo Boost.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iOS Low Power Mode is fantastic, letting you squeeze the most possible uptime from your iPhone or iPad. But what about the Mac? Why isn’t there a Low Power Mode for MacBooks? After all, they’re just as likely to be used away from power as an iPad.

Well, here’s some good news. Using third-party software, it’s easy to put your Mac into Low Power Mode whenever you like. You can get around a third more battery life using an app called Turbo Boost Switcher.

iOS Low Power Mode boosts battery life by cutting out background processes. Mail and other services don’t update themselves in the background, “Hey Siri” is disabled, and the screen auto-locks after just 30 seconds (along with several other energy-saving reductions).

There are some power-saving features in macOS — Time Machine can pause backups when on battery power, for example. Reaping iOS-like power savings on the Mac isn’t that simple, though.

However, there’s another way to save power on your laptop: You reduce the speed of the Mac’s CPU. By throttling the speed of a MacBook’s brain, you can extend battery life by another few hours in many cases.

How to throttle the Mac CPU for better battery life

There’s pretty much just one step to this how-to: Download and use Turbo Boost Switcher Pro for the Mac. As its name suggests, it can switch off the MacBook’s Turbo Boost mode.

Turbo Boost is a feature that boosts the performance of the CPU when the Mac needs it. Unfortunately, this also boosts the battery drain. Switching it off will improve battery life, at the expense of performance, which may be a tradeoff you’re willing to make.

Turbo Boost Switcher Pro

Turbo Boost Switcher has plenty of options, but can run automatically.
Turbo Boost Switcher offers plenty of options, but can run automatically.
Photo: Ruben Garcia Perez

Just install it, switch it on, and you’re done. From now on, your Mac will never use Turbo Boost (at least until you re-enable it using the app).

There are two versions of Turbo Boost Switcher. The regular version gets the job done, but the pro version adds several extra features, including one super-useful one — it can engage power-saving mode automatically when you unplug the MacBook from power. That alone is probably worth the $9.95 asking price, but there’s more.

You decide which apps get throttled

Turbo Boost Switcher Pro can also be configured to switch on and off when you use certain apps. You just create groups of apps, and whenever you use one of the apps in that group, the CPU throttler kicks in, disabling Turbo Boost. So, you may choose to have full power available for your photo-editing work, or your GarageBand session, but switch to low power when you’re browsing the web or checking email.

You can also have Turbo Boost Switcher kick in whenever the battery level drops below a certain percentage.

How much power does the app save? That depends, but users report a battery life increases between 25 and 30 percent in normal use, which is a pretty big deal.

LOL airplanes

Perhaps Apple will one day add a proper Low Power Mode to the Mac. But until then, Turbo Boost Switcher does a decent job.

Whenever battery life is mentioned, people immediately start talking about using their computer on a plane, as if we all spend half our lives flying.

A more likely scenario is the coffee shop, where there are no free power outlets. Plus, many people use their MacBooks on battery power most of the time, even at home. And saving power doesn’t just make for longer stretches between plugging in. Because you’re charging it less often, your Mac battery will also last longer.