Can a New Laptop Battery Go Bad if Unused?

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If you bought a new replacement laptop battery as a precaution, will it go bad if you let it sit around unused until some future date when it might be needed? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post offers advice in response to a curious reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of Quentin Meulepas (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader ‘Dude named Ben’ wants to know if a new unused laptop battery will go bad if left sitting around:

My old 2008 Macbook’s power adapter appeared to die recently and since I was not sure if it was the adapter or the battery causing problems, I ordered a new generic battery along with a new power adaptor just in case.

After I received the new power adapter I discovered that the old adapter was indeed the problem, so I continued to use the original battery.

My question is, can I leave the new Lithium-Ion generic battery I bought in its sealed packaging until I need it? Will it degrade if left unused or should I swap them out once a week to keep the new one alive?

Will letting the new battery sit around unused cause it to go bad or should Ben swap the two batteries out every so often?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Jamie Hanrahan has the answer for us:

Li-ions self-discharge, although very slowly. If you leave it sitting around for a very long time (probably many months), it could discharge enough so that its “electronic fuse” will open. Once that happens, it is nothing more than a paperweight.

It probably came to you with a charge in the 40-60 percent range since that is the most stable charge level for storage.

If you are not going to use it, I would check it every month or so. If it drops below 20 percent, then charge it to bring it back up to around 60 percent or so before storing it again.

If it were me, I would switch to the new battery and keep the old one as a “just in case” spare. The new one should give your laptop a much longer running time.


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .