MacBook Battery Is Toast After Being Fully Drained

First, the short version: I went on a quick vacation and put my Macbook into Sleep Mode (and eventually Safe Sleep Mode) before I left. When I got back, the Macbook wasn’t recognizing its battery after being fully drained, displaying a black “X” in the battery icon in the menu bar.This problem is known to Apple and they will replace the battery if your Macbook (or Macbook Pro) is under warranty. It can be easily avoided by shutting your Macbook down if you won’t be using it for more than a day.

The Longer, More Entertaining Version

So I went on a quick vacation, just three nights, down to the seaside town of Sarasota, Florida. The trip would mark several events, all seeming to occur within days of each other. It would also be the first vacation of any kind for a long stretch, months really, without a break.Under these circumstances, as you’re packing up to head out of town, it’s not unreasonable to forget one or two things on the way out the door. At the behest of my wife (always the voice of reason), I wasn’t bringing my Macbook with me. I’d be able to completely unplug for a bit.

The Situation

In the hurry to pack and go, I closed the Macbook’s lid, putting it to sleep in the process, and set it on my desk. Sure, I was aware that this would drain the battery, but Macbooks and Macbook Pros (and late model Powerbooks) have a handy feature called Safe Sleep where the system’s state (even the data in RAM) is saved to the hard drive. So if you’ve put your portable to sleep and the battery runs down completely, your data will be safely cached and when you return, you can plug in and everything will be just where you left it.I’ve done this a number of times on my trusty Macbook and it always seemed to work perfectly.

The Problem

Upon returning home, the time finally came to catch up on email.Out of Town for 3 Days ...I plugged in and hit the power button, but the Macbook didn’t display the “waking from Safe Sleep progress bar”. Instead, it booted up as if from a total power loss.This didn’t concern me initially because Mac OS X uses a Journaled file system, making recovery from a crash a bit easier.Then I noticed that there was a little black “X” on the battery symbol in the menubar. When I clicked on the Battery menu item, the drop-down menu showed me that the Macbook wasn’t recognizing the battery at all.A quick search on Apple’s Support site returned an article about this problem with one subtle difference. The article says (emphasis mine):
If you have fully drained the battery, once you plug in the MacBook or MacBook Pro’s power cord and start the computer up, you may see a red X over the battery icon in the menu bar.
The “X” I was seeing was black, not red, but I figured walking through the steps they recommend couldn’t hurt. So I re-seated the battery a few times, reset the PMU, and reset the PRAM, all to no avail.A quick iChat with my good friend/nemesis Gruber confirmed my suspicion that the battery was toast. Assuming that I’d have to buy a new battery but hopeful that it might be covered, I scheduled an appointment with an Apple Genius at the Apple Store in the Florida Mall.

The Solution

It turns out that, after being left in Safe Sleep for four or five days, the battery wasn’t just drained, it was fully drained of power. There’s a subtle difference here, and it seems that the latter can sometimes cause complete battery death.The Apple Genius was familiar with the problem. After quickly testing with his own power supply and a known-good battery, he let me know that they’ve seen this before with Macbooks and Macbook Pros, and that it was fully covered on Macbooks that are still under warranty.I left with a brand new battery, and learned a nice lesson: shut your Macbook down completely if you don’t plan to use it for more than a few hours.

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