Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

Mac2c

macrumors member
Original poster
Feb 17, 2017
50
11
I'm wondering if there are any issues of having a macbook pro connected to a 4k monitor in clamshell mode 95% of the time?

The first concern is heat and ventilation related. I noticed on my MBP 15" 2015, it heats up and I can feel some heat on the keyboard area. We all know heat is a destroyer when it comes to computers. So if I plan to use it in clamshell mode, almost 100% of the time, wouldn't this heat accumulate facing the retina screen, potentially causing some harm/damage over time? At the same time this would disrupt better cooling of the computer and decrease its life span?

The second concern is battery. If it's always plugged in and the battery is not being used, will any issues arise after a while? I read that some people discharge it to 35% every two weeks just to keep the battery healthy. Is that frequency sufficient enough to keep the battery life optimal?

My goal is to keep the computer optimally maintained for a prolonged lifespan.
 

Gav2k

macrumors G3
Jul 24, 2009
9,216
1,608
First clamshell mode

The keyboard isn't a vent it just radiates heat. Nothing more. The Macbook is designed to run like this don't worry. Many of us use our MacBooks in this way 99.9% of the time.

Second battery

You should try to cycle the battery every few weeks. This will extend its life.
 

bartvk

macrumors 6502
Dec 29, 2016
386
149
The Netherlands
If you're concerned about the heat, install something like Macs Fan Control. You can set the preferences such that it spins up the fans somewhat earlier, leaving your MacBook somewhat cooler during the day.
 

smirking

macrumors 68040
Aug 31, 2003
3,784
3,769
Silicon Valley
So if I plan to use it in clamshell mode, almost 100% of the time, wouldn't this heat accumulate facing the retina screen, potentially causing some harm/damage over time? At the same time this would disrupt better cooling of the computer and decrease its life span?

You bring up an interesting point. I'm sure Apple has accounted for the MBP's heat dissipation needs whether it's in clamshell or laptop mode, but if you're concerned that you're overheating your machine, why don't you just get a stand that will allow you to use the MBP as a second monitor with the lid open?

My new 2016 MBP replaced a mid-2012 that I used extensively in clamshell mode running some very heavy processes. The fan was always running. The only failure I suffered was in a cable that connected the wireless card to the logic board. That happened after four years of heavy use.

If it's always plugged in and the battery is not being used, will any issues arise after a while?

I'm not sure what's optimal, but I've done both extremes with my previous MBP batteries and had bad results. I hear that you don't need to power cycle lithium ion batteries, but they do need to get some regular exercise. I'm curious myself as to just how much exercise they need to get.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jagooch

ascender

macrumors 603
Dec 8, 2005
5,006
2,891
I've never had an issue with using an Apple laptop in clamshell mode, sometimes for years and years.... My last MBA was always in clamshell when in the office and three years later it was still working perfectly with good long battery life.

I didn't think we had to bother about cycling batteries anymore, i thought that was only applicable for older battery tech?
 
  • Like
Reactions: VMMan

bartvk

macrumors 6502
Dec 29, 2016
386
149
The Netherlands
If 100% in clamshell mode, why laptop?

I can't speak for the topic starter, but personally I work at my own office and at my client's office. In both cases I've got an external monitor. I could buy two desktops but I like the fact that I can bring it home as well, and that I only have to maintain one computer.

What's also nice, is that with one computer, you don't need syncing software to get to your files. In the end, it's just a hassle and/or a cost for me.
 

ZapNZs

macrumors 68020
Jan 23, 2017
2,310
1,158
I use it and I try not to worry too much about the implications. I personally believe that constant clamshell mode use can (not will) decrease the service life of the computer, based on my own accounts. This may very well have to do with the increased heat of using an external monitor (and consequently driving a dGPU if applicable) more than simply being in the state of clamshell mode, given, to my understanding, it does not obstruct airflow. I personally use the mRain stand (or whatever it is called) now for my workstation, and that vertical clamshell do-whopper $50 for a tiny piece of aluminum and two rings of silicone stand for a MBP I use connected to a dumb TV.

Unless you keep you battery at 35% constantly (which is indeed good for it but not easily possible when on AC power), discharging it to 35% only to recharge it to its surge voltage only increases wear. The battery dislikes being at 100%. The battery dislikes deep discharges even more. Pretty much, I've concluded that lithium ion batteries hate everything about laptops.
 

ascender

macrumors 603
Dec 8, 2005
5,006
2,891
I use it and I try not to worry too much about the implications.

I think that's the important point here. Users obsess about so much these days that I genuinely wonder when they have time to do any work without focusing their energy on worrying about, or posting about something or other like battery cycles and health. Just get on and use the kit and 9 times out of 10 you won't have an issue.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jagooch and snaky69

dumastudetto

macrumors 603
Aug 28, 2013
5,349
7,964
Los Angeles, USA
It definitely is risky and will shorten the life of your MacBook Pro. My advise is always buy a dedicated desktop machine to compliment your laptop. Apple makes some phenomenal desktop computers including both the stunning iMac and the insanely powerful Mac Pro. I can't think of a single reason why anyone would want to use their laptops in clamshell mode while Apple is still making great desktop machines.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jagooch

ascender

macrumors 603
Dec 8, 2005
5,006
2,891
It definitely is risky and will shorten the life of your MacBook Pro. My advise is always buy a dedicated desktop machine to compliment your laptop. Apple makes some phenomenal desktop computers including both the stunning iMac and the insanely powerful Mac Pro. I can't think of a single reason why anyone would want to use their laptops in clamshell mode while Apple is still making great desktop machines.

How will it shorten the life of your Macbook Pro? Genuinely interested to hear the facts on this one.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Kes.Siebring

jerryk

macrumors 604
Nov 3, 2011
7,418
4,207
SF Bay Area
I am concerned about this.

When you have the display open you can feel heat being pushed out near the bottom of the screen. When you close the screen it comes out the back bottom, but the rate seems lower. I was a bit concerned about this and did not want to bake my screen. So I put a 1/2 inch Windows 95 book under the unit to raise it off my desk. It gives the vents on the sides more room to draw in air, and more space for the hot air to exhaust under the back.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mac2c

Ethosik

Contributor
Oct 21, 2009
7,907
6,846
The older Macbook Pros seem to have problems with heat. That was one of the major pros for me with the 2016 Macbook pro.

I run my new one and old 2013 rMBP in clamshell mode the majority of the time. My older one does get hot and I can clearly hear the fans. But it is still running fine.
 
  • Like
Reactions: callea

snaky69

macrumors 603
Mar 14, 2008
5,908
488
The older Macbook Pros seem to have problems with heat. That was one of the major pros for me with the 2016 Macbook pro.

I run my new one and old 2013 rMBP in clamshell mode the majority of the time. My older one does get hot and I can clearly hear the fans. But it is still running fine.
Getting hot and having the fan run is totally normal. It's a lot of power crammed into a tiny space, it's bound to get hot.
 

Ethosik

Contributor
Oct 21, 2009
7,907
6,846
Getting hot and having the fan run is totally normal. It's a lot of power crammed into a tiny space, it's bound to get hot.

Yes but having the fans operate at 100% when I connect to two monitors is not acceptable. My 2016 one is completely silent. It is also proven that the older laptops needed to be thermal throttled if you are running an intense task for some time. While the newer ones are more silent and less prone to thermal throttling.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jagooch

Trey M

macrumors 6502a
Jul 25, 2011
961
329
USA
OP, to your first concern, I think the verdict is out on this one. I wouldn't expect it to be resolved in this thread, however I think it comes down to several factors. As someone said above, utilization of the dGPU & powering a hi-res display, especially 4k/5k, will absolutely increase the heat produced by the laptop. That's a fact, not opinion. Could this impact longevity? Hard to define the impact in terms of months/days, but I will say that I personally would NOT run my MBP in clamshell for this very reason. I'm not saying running your Mac in clamshell once or twice will have any impact on longevity. However, repeated use in clamshell over a long period of time, especially when performing heat-intensive tasks, IMO could impact the longevity when thinking 2-3 years down the line. Are there users who have run in clamshell for 5+ years with no issues? Yes. But you're trying to make the smart decision for your personal laptop, and IMO running in clamshell increases the likelihood of a heat-related failure down the line.

To your other question about keeping the battery always plugged in, I wouldn't worry much about doing this. There are a very large number of users who keep their laptop plugged in a majority of the time, something which battery manufacturers and Apple are very aware of. This is not an unsafe practice or something to really be concerned about. Inevitably, I think this is one of many factors which could cause the need for you to replace your battery in ~4 years. But, this is one of several factors when taking into account the health of your battery. I personally run my work MBP plugged in all-day.
 

Ethosik

Contributor
Oct 21, 2009
7,907
6,846
OP, to your first concern, I think the verdict is out on this one. I wouldn't expect it to be resolved in this thread, however I think it comes down to several factors. As someone said above, utilization of the dGPU & powering a hi-res display, especially 4k/5k, will absolutely increase the heat produced by the laptop. That's a fact, not opinion. Could this impact longevity? Hard to define the impact in terms of months/days, but I will say that I personally would NOT run my MBP in clamshell for this very reason. I'm not saying running your Mac in clamshell once or twice will have any impact on longevity. However, repeated use in clamshell over a long period of time, especially when performing heat-intensive tasks, IMO could impact the longevity when thinking 2-3 years down the line. Are there users who have run in clamshell for 5+ years with no issues? Yes. But you're trying to make the smart decision for your personal laptop, and IMO running in clamshell increases the likelihood of a heat-related failure down the line.

To your other question about keeping the battery always plugged in, I wouldn't worry much about doing this. There are a very large number of users who keep their laptop plugged in a majority of the time, something which battery manufacturers and Apple are very aware of. This is not an unsafe practice or something to really be concerned about. Inevitably, I think this is one of many factors which could cause the need for you to replace your battery in ~4 years. But, this is one of several factors when taking into account the health of your battery. I personally run my work MBP plugged in all-day.

These things are tools, use it how you want. If you run in clamshell mode and you have Apple Care, and it dies within the three years, then you have it under warranty. I have used my 2013 rMBP almost exclusively in clamshell mode. It is still running strong.
 

Trey M

macrumors 6502a
Jul 25, 2011
961
329
USA
These things are tools, use it how you want. If you run in clamshell mode and you have Apple Care, and it dies within the three years, then you have it under warranty. I have used my 2013 rMBP almost exclusively in clamshell mode. It is still running strong.

All I'm saying that in my personal opinion it increases the risk of failure vs someone not running in clamshell. How much I could not quantify without some kind of surveyed data. Again I noted in my post there's others who have 5+ years with no issues, I did not debate that. To your point, what if something happens 3 years and 1 day later?
 
  • Like
Reactions: jagooch and Mac2c

Mac2c

macrumors member
Original poster
Feb 17, 2017
50
11
Thanks everyone for your experiences and replies.

I have been a PC user for nearly two decades, my last PC was one that when I built it, I loved it, and so I maintained it well. I did a thorough dusting of all the tower components every 6 months (sometimes earlier) to ensure the cooling was optimal. Dust that is trapped doesn't allow optimal cooling to happen. I think this is what enabled me to ensure it's incredible longevity of 13 years going strong and even then it wasn't broken, I just got a hand me down PC faster than that one, otherwise it was still working like clockwork.

Point being, that enabling optimal cooling/ventilation ensured the computers long lifespan greatly and I didn't have any crazy water cooling thing going on just a normal setup with 2 fans. One in the front, one in the back and the CPU heatsink+fan inside the tower.

So while I believe having the MBP which is a different thing all together, in clamshell mode, it just doesn't make sense that it'll be optimal because heat is still dissipated from the keyboard and the surrounding surfaces and heat is a killer of electronics. In this case it sounds like you can still do pretty well for 4-5 years but have yet to hear anyone cross those milestones in clamshell mode.
[doublepost=1488243579][/doublepost]
All I'm saying that in my personal opinion it increases the risk of failure vs someone not running in clamshell. How much I could not quantify without some kind of surveyed data. Again I noted in my post there's others who have 5+ years with no issues, I did not debate that. To your point, what if something happens 3 years and 1 day later?

I agree that it would increase the risk down the line. Maybe I should just upgrade every 3 years to mitigate that risk, that's one way to go about it it.

You bring up an interesting point. I'm sure Apple has accounted for the MBP's heat dissipation needs whether it's in clamshell or laptop mode, but if you're concerned that you're overheating your machine, why don't you just get a stand that will allow you to use the MBP as a second monitor with the lid open?

My new 2016 MBP replaced a mid-2012 that I used extensively in clamshell mode running some very heavy processes. The fan was always running. The only failure I suffered was in a cable that connected the wireless card to the logic board. That happened after four years of heavy use.

I would find the extra monitor from the laptop to be distracting if it were open, that's why I prefer it closed. Dual monitors or more actually don't help me as well, I do better working on one thing at a time.

Also... Apple's recent laptops have gorgeous HIDPI screens. You should use them for something.

Even if your big 4K screen is centered on your desk... leave the laptop open for a 2nd screen.

Seems like a waste not to have it open for something.

Hopefully when I'd be moving around or travelling is when the screen would get used. This is just a seamless way to have one computer that can act as a desktop and a laptop if required, without buying an iMac + MBP. Also all the data is one convenient place, although that makes it risky too in some respects. But I do like the iMacs, it's just buying both is just overkill when it comes to price.

It definitely is risky and will shorten the life of your MacBook Pro. My advise is always buy a dedicated desktop machine to compliment your laptop. Apple makes some phenomenal desktop computers including both the stunning iMac and the insanely powerful Mac Pro. I can't think of a single reason why anyone would want to use their laptops in clamshell mode while Apple is still making great desktop machines.

Are you speaking from experience? Please tell us some more details.

Yes but having the fans operate at 100% when I connect to two monitors is not acceptable. My 2016 one is completely silent. It is also proven that the older laptops needed to be thermal throttled if you are running an intense task for some time. While the newer ones are more silent and less prone to thermal throttling.

Is the 2015 MBP still considered as one of the older MBP's with that thermal throttling issue?
 
  • Like
Reactions: jagooch

Hieveryone

macrumors 603
Apr 11, 2014
5,627
2,339
USA
I'm wondering if there are any issues of having a macbook pro connected to a 4k monitor in clamshell mode 95% of the time?

The first concern is heat and ventilation related. I noticed on my MBP 15" 2015, it heats up and I can feel some heat on the keyboard area. We all know heat is a destroyer when it comes to computers. So if I plan to use it in clamshell mode, almost 100% of the time, wouldn't this heat accumulate facing the retina screen, potentially causing some harm/damage over time? At the same time this would disrupt better cooling of the computer and decrease its life span?

The second concern is battery. If it's always plugged in and the battery is not being used, will any issues arise after a while? I read that some people discharge it to 35% every two weeks just to keep the battery healthy. Is that frequency sufficient enough to keep the battery life optimal?

My goal is to keep the computer optimally maintained for a prolonged lifespan.
If Apple is letting us use it in clamshell my guess it's straight
 
  • Like
Reactions: jagooch

pallymore

macrumors regular
Sep 24, 2013
209
270
Boston, MA
I use mine MBP in clamshell mode 99.9% of the time (also - always plugged) since I got it. (Late 2013, 13inch model)
Everything is ok until the battery died (swollen - and destroyed the trackpad) a little bit after 3 years (1 month after Applecare+ expired, heh). Have the battery replaced at my local Apple store for $299 - took them about a week to do it though.

So - yea, I'd say cycling your battery once every few weeks might be a good idea since I don't think I have done it on purpose.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mac2c

smirking

macrumors 68040
Aug 31, 2003
3,784
3,769
Silicon Valley
In this case it sounds like you can still do pretty well for 4-5 years but have yet to hear anyone cross those milestones in clamshell mode.

I mentioned I had a failure in my mid-2012, but the thing that failed likely had nothing to do with heat stress. It was a flat ribbon cable that had a reputation for going out. Aside from that one cable, my mid-2012 made it to 4.5 years of very heavy everday use in clamshell mode without a heat related issue.

I've also done plenty of work inside of my MBPs. They did have some dust, but it's nothing like the kind of dust you get inside of desktops. I've cleaned dust bunnies out of my desktops... like quilts of dust. You don't need any imagination to think up how nice fluffy blobs could be an imminent hazard. The dust inside the MBP? It was a really fine coating of dust not unlike the kind that would gather on a protected surface like a second shelf. There was dust, but it wasn't anything that made to feel like I needed to open up my laptop regularly to do some cleaning and I never did. I would just clean if I had to open it up for other reasons like upgrading a hard drive.

This isn't to say you shouldn't try to take care of your equipment, but you shouldn't need to baby it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mac2c

Michael Scrip

macrumors 604
Mar 4, 2011
7,945
12,563
NC
Hopefully when I'd be moving around or travelling is when the screen would get used. This is just a seamless way to have one computer that can act as a desktop and a laptop if required, without buying an iMac + MBP. Also all the data is one convenient place, although that makes it risky too in some respects. But I do like the iMacs, it's just buying both is just overkill when it comes to price.

Sure... I understand why you'd want a laptop to be your only computer. All your data in one place is great! That's not what I was addressing though.

My point was... why wouldn't you leave the laptop open on the desk and use its screen for something? I mean... it's there... and it's a good screen.

There are many benefits to having a 2nd monitor... even if it's a laptop screen sitting off to the side of your main big 4K monitor.

Is your laptop sitting flat on the desk? Or do you keep it standing up vertical?

It's it's flat... open it up! Then you won't have to worry about heat... and you'll have a dual-monitor setup!
Win-win! :D
 
  • Like
Reactions: jagooch

Mac2c

macrumors member
Original poster
Feb 17, 2017
50
11
I mentioned I had a failure in my mid-2012, but the thing that failed likely had nothing to do with heat stress. It was a flat ribbon cable that had a reputation for going out. Aside from that one cable, my mid-2012 made it to 4.5 years of very heavy everday use in clamshell mode without a heat related issue.

I've also done plenty of work inside of my MBPs. They did have some dust, but it's nothing like the kind of dust you get inside of desktops. I've cleaned dust bunnies out of my desktops... like quilts of dust. You don't need any imagination to think up how nice fluffy blobs could be an imminent hazard. The dust inside the MBP? It was a really fine coating of dust not unlike the kind that would gather on a protected surface like a second shelf. There was dust, but it wasn't anything that made to feel like I needed to open up my laptop regularly to do some cleaning and I never did. I would just clean if I had to open it up for other reasons like upgrading a hard drive.

This isn't to say you shouldn't try to take care of your equipment, but you shouldn't need to baby it.

What happened at the 4.5 year mark with that one?

Regarding dust inside the MBP being minimal, that makes sense to me and validates my guess that MBP are so closed up tightly, it should be harder for dust to get in. I used an electric duster specifically this one https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16896367002 to clean the PC components, it's powerful and really gets the job done, it beats paying $10/can of compressed air. With the MBP I'm not so sure I can use it as this thing will make the fans spin with great speed, so don't know if the laptop could handle it.

I'm definitely not going to be babyin'g it day in day out, just taking some precautions every 6 months and maybe blow some air through the vents to get even that thin film of dust out.

Regarding battery, I read in the apple community forum someone had good success with discharging their laptop to 35% or so then reconnecting it back up to the charger and he said his battery hast lasted a few years with good efficiency still. Seems kind of annoying to do every 2 weeks though.
[doublepost=1488252277][/doublepost]
Sure... I understand why you'd want a laptop to be your only computer. All your data in one place is great! That's not what I was addressing though.

My point was... why wouldn't you leave the laptop open on the desk and use its screen for something? I mean... it's there... and it's a good screen.

There are many benefits to having a 2nd monitor... even if it's a laptop screen sitting off to the side of your main big 4K monitor.

Is your laptop sitting flat on the desk? Or do you keep it standing up vertical?

It's it's flat... open it up! Then you won't have to worry about heat... and you'll have a dual-monitor setup!
Win-win! :D

I plan to be using it in the vertical position like this. I don't like many monitors as I said before, it's distracting but since it is smaller maybe there can be some use of it. Is it me or is this stand blocking the back vents?
Rain-Design-Inc.mTower-Vertical-Stand-for-Laptop.jpeg
 
Last edited:
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.