What to Do When MacBook Pro Turns off When Unplugged

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Sometimes your MacBook might not operate correctly. Nobody enjoys it when this happens but the reality is, any computer can experience problems – even high-end machines like a MacBook Pro.

It could be a small issue that is easy to resolve and caused by user error or the problem could be some sort of mechanical malfunction. Either way, when you experience a problem with your Mac it’s nice to know how to get help.

One alarming issue is that your MacBook suddenly shuts down when the charging cord is unplugged, and it only works when plugged in. This is an infrequent problem but it does occur on this type of Mac and if you’ve found this article, this has happened to you.

Let’s first take a look at what might be causing this issue and then how to fix the problem and get your MacBook back to normal again.

Symptoms of This Problem

If your MacBook Pro is shutting off when disconnected from its charger, you are most likely frustrated and concerned about what is causing this problem.

You are not alone!

There have been a number of reports of MacBook Pro owners experiencing this same issue and while it is not a common issue, it has happened enough to make it a possibility for any MacBook owner.

This problem occurs after the computer is unplugged from a charging adapter and causes the machine to shut off completely immediately after being removed from the power source.

Even if the battery is fully charged, this problem can still occur, making it a confusing and troubling issue if you are experiencing it. Computers affected by this issue seem to only work correctly when connected to a power cord, which limits the functionality of your MacBook.

What makes this problem seem even more strange is that there are usually no signs or symptoms leading up to the computer shutting down unexpectedly.

You would probably think this could be a sign of a bad battery, but many who experience this issue have batteries that are in good condition and operating normally.

What to Do if This Problem Happens to You

The good news is that it is usually not as big of a deal as it first seems. One of the solutions below should work to get your computer operating normally again and prevent it from shutting off when the power cable is unplugged.

If none of these solutions work, you may have to take your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air into an Apple store or other computer repair shop to diagnose and fix the issue.

1. Start With the Small Stuff

If this problem happens to you, start with a quick check on small issues that might be causing your MacBook to turn off when unplugged.

Check on your battery health by clicking the Apple logo from the top left of your screen, then About This Mac > System Report > Power. Under the Health Information row, if the condition of your battery says anything other than Normal, your issue might be with your internal battery.

macbook battery condition normal

Also, check to make sure that the connection between your MacBook and the charging cable is clean and in good order. Clean any dirt or debris from the connection points as these are magnetic and can collect particles, leading to a poor connection.

An example of clean connecting points in a old MacBook Air model

Inspect your charging adapter for any signs of damage. You might need to get a new cable but do not do so until running through all of the steps listed here.

2. Reset SMC and Cycle Battery

A common cause of this problem is due to leave your MacBook plugged in for a lot of the time.

This can cause the System Management Controller (SMC) to believe the power level is below a set threshold resulting in it triggering the computer to go into deep sleep mode and shutting off when unplugged.

You can fix this by resetting the SMC and letting the battery go through a few complete charging cycles.

To reset the SMC:

  1. Shutdown your computer if it is not already.
  2. Press the Shift, Control, and Option keys at the same time.
  3. While holding Shift, Control, and Option, press the power button.
  4. Hold these four keys for about 10 seconds.
  5. Release the keys.
  6. Power your computer back on.

If you have an older MacBook with a removable battery, remove the battery before running through the SMC reset steps above.

Next, let your battery run through a few complete battery cycles. A full battery cycle is from full charge to no charge, so let your battery fully charge and then operate it without connecting to power until it dies.

Do this 2-3 times after the SMC reset and you should not experience the problem any longer.

3. Perform a PRAM Reset

Another option to try and resolve this issue is to reset the PRAM on your MacBook. Do this by following the steps below:

  1. Shut down your computer.
  2. Press the power button to turn back on.
  3. Hold down the Option, Command, P, and R keys all at the same time.
  4. Hold down these keys until you hear 2 startup chimes.
  5. Release keys and allow your computer to start up normally.

If this didn’t work, complete the steps again but wait until you hear 3 startup chimes instead of 2.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, one of these steps above helped to fix your problem of what to do when your MacBook Pro shuts down after being unplugged or only works when plugged in.

I’ve had this happen to an old MacBook I had and the PRAM reset did the trick. If none of these steps worked, you might need to take your computer into a repair shop or get a new charging adapter and/or battery.

Also, run through the resets listed above a few times if the problem isn’t fixed on the first attempt.

Have you ever experienced this issue? What worked to fix the problem?

About Eric
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Eric currently uses a 15-inch MacBook Pro for both work and personal errands. He did all the research and testing to make sure all the fixes and optimization tips shared on the blog are relevant to Apple’s latest macOS updates as well as fact-checking.

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  • Avatar

    Carlos

    Same problem as everyone. Did the SMC and PRAM thing maybe 12 times. That didn’t work, but I read somewhere that I had to hold the power button (while unplugged from the charger) for 10 seconds then while still holding that button, plug it in to the charger. I guess they called it an SMC bypass. I did that 3 times then all of a sudden it works without the charger now.

    Currently at 90% unplugged. Now my problem is that my MacBook won’t charge to the charger lol.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Ali Raza

    The SMC reset kinda worked for me. I have having this issue on my 1 month old MBP for 2 days, and I was so freaked out.
    Just tried the SMC reset once, and unplugged the charger when I logged in normally. Currently typing this comment with a 93% battery, and it is unplugged completely. Hope this helps you guys.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Kathy Holcombe

    I can’t run down the battery if the computer won’t boot on unless it is plugged in and turns off as soon as it is unplugged? Why is there a picture of a plug superimposed on the battery symbol at the top?

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Kevin

    My problem is a little different because when I open my MacBook after a long time (ie after some hours), my MacBook immediately goes black/shuts off and when I plug in the charger it turns on after which I can unplug the charger and use normally

    Reply
    • Avatar

      mouad Bouzidi

      i have same issue ,, did you found a solutions please

      Reply
    • Avatar

      mouad Bouzidi

      pelase if you found any solution tell me

      Reply
  • Avatar

    Cindy S

    I have a full charge,100%, and when unplugged for 10 min my MacBook Air turns off. I tried holding down the Option, Command, P and R buttons for 1 minute .. heard no tones … released the buttons and after 10 minutes my Mac died. When I replugged the computer I had 98%. What the heck? Help!

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Tyanna

      same exact issue and nothings working,
      will you let me know if anyone gives an answer

      Reply
  • Avatar

    Michael

    Macbook Air 2017

    Hello,

    Had this issue for many months so decided to open the laptop and was able to fix, now it works great.

    Basically do like the older laptop models with the removable battery.

    1- Open the bottom and disconnect the battery.
    2- Plug the power adapter and power on the laptop, log in normally.
    3- Do a clean shutdown.
    4- Perform the SMC reset. (With the battery disconnected the LED on the connector is always orange, during the SMC reset the LED will go from orange to green back to orange) I did steps 4 & 5 2 times to be safe.
    5- Log in normally and do a clean shutdown.
    6- Perform the PRAM reset.
    7- Log in normally and do a clean shutdown.
    8- Connect the battery back in and boot-up normally.
    9- Log in, wait 1 minutes and unplug it.

    Hope this works for you guys, i’m very happy, had it on battery for many days now, battery actually performs better than before.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Charlie

    I have the same issue. Battery says 99%. As soon as I unplug it from a.c. power, computer dies.

    I’ve done the reset power cycle thing innumerable times.

    Is there a thermal switch inside the machine that may be disconnecting the battery?

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Stephen Grealis

    The answer is on this page. SMC reset.

    Leave the MacBook off, when the battery is charged disconnect charger and turn on, run it completely flat. Leave the MacBook off and change.. repeat this step a few times.

    No point in trying to run a charge cycle whilst the system is in use.. it must charge whilst off..

    Check your charger! If it says 60w that will be the problem. It needs a 85w charger. But your battery will need conditioning the method that this website suggested.

    SMC reset, do not power the MacBook up until the charge indicator is green! Or press battery level button. Remove charger and turn machine on and drain battery. It’s that simple 🙂

    And buy a 85w charger!

    Reply
  • Avatar

    sabe

    I am experience the same issue and the solutions suggested are not working, anyone have managed to resolve such problems?

    Reply
  • Avatar

    bob

    power down while it’s still plugged in

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Madelyn

    The same thing is happening to me. Have you found an answer yet?

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Jacques

    I’ve seen the reset SMC then power down solution many places. But none explain how u do a complete power down when the computer shuts down the minute it is unplugged??

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Jack

      I’m having the same issues. Have you found an answer yet?

      Reply
  • Avatar

    Andrew

    It is possible that the battery life indicator is broken?

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Rico Haosen

    Hello. I tried both these methods, but my laptop is still unable to survive being uncharged. The battery percentage doesn’t show on the upper right corner, nor will the box that allows the battery percentage to show on the tab be pressed or checked out.

    This happened all of the sudden. I am using a MacBook Air which is pretty old. It doesn’t have a removable battery, though.

    Nothing seems to work.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Iyobosa Ozigbo

      I currently have this same problem… I hope I find a solution soon

      Reply
  • Avatar

    scottf

    PS PRAM and SMC resets performed a dozen times.

    Thank you
    Scott

    Reply
  • Avatar

    scottf

    How does one cycle the battery if the MBP shuts down immediately upon power adapter disconnect?

    FYI New battery, System and Coconut report Normal health and 100% charge.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Cruz

      This is happening to me. Could it be the battery would I replace it with a new one.

      Reply