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I've been wondering how long Game Boy Advance (GBA) cartridge batteries actually last. I have Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for the GBA and it uses a battery to make a save file. Can someone help me find out how long one of these save file batteries last?

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    What exactly do you have? Super mario bros deluxe was a GBC game, are you using a GBC cart through the backwards compatibility features of the GBA? or are you using some sort of unofficial pirate cart? Nov 17, 2021 at 18:44

2 Answers 2

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The CR1616 battery in that cartridge is said to last about 10-20 years from manufacture. This means that, if you have the original battery, there's about a 50% chance it is dead right now, or will be very soon. This information was obtained from figuring out the type of battery found in that cartridge and this information, which includes that battery under GB/GBC specs (but presumably, GBA should be similar in characteristics). You should probably consider replacing the battery soon if you intend to save. Note that removing the battery will immediately erase/lose your saves without specialized equipment to either keep a charge or a way to keep the data from degrading (e.g. using extreme cold to slow the decay rate). You can also back up your cartridge data with a reader like Submodule GB01 or others.

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    Re: removing the battery, which will wipe the save: you should be able to use a cartridge reader like the Submodule GB01 or similar to dump the save file from the cartridge, replace the battery, and then restore the save data back on to the cartridge. Nov 17, 2021 at 18:20
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    @ItaiFerber Thanks! I totally forgot about those, I haven't used a reader in ages. Definitely valuable if you care about your data.
    – phyrfox
    Nov 17, 2021 at 18:23
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    You can also “hot swap” the battery by removing it while the game is plugged into the GameBoy and the GameBoy is turned on. I can say that this works for GB games (especially in a GBA where there’s a little more room) but may not be feasible for shorter GBA games. A slip up during this procedure may also be Very Bad (tm)
    – DukeSilver
    Nov 18, 2021 at 17:36
  • My experience with GBC and GBA cartridges tells me that the likelihood of the battery being dead is actually a lot higher than 50%. While it should theoretically last 10-20 years, often enough they didn't make it till 10.
    – Mast
    Nov 18, 2021 at 19:29
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    A lossless battery swap should be doable without any "specialized equipment", e.g. just by temporarily connecting an extra battery of the same nominal voltage in parallel with the old one before removing it. (Note that connecting a fresh battery in parallel with an old one is generally not advised, as it can damage the old battery. But in this case you'll be removing the old battery anyway, and it's unlikely that any serious overheating or leakage will occur in the few seconds the batteries will be connected in parallel.) I haven't done this myself, though, so try it at your own risk. Nov 19, 2021 at 0:37
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In addition to phyrfox's great answer, it should also be noted that games which have a real-time clock tend to drain their battery at a faster rate (due to the energy consumed to run the clock) than games which just use battery-backed RAM for saving.

However, some games such as Pokémon Emerald have a battery to run their real-time clock but save into flash memory. When the battery dies on these games, your save is not erased but the clock functionality won’t keep time with the GBA off until the battery is replaced.

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  • If I recall correctly, there is no day/night functionality in Pokémon Emerald. There are a few very minor events which are time dependent, such as the tides on some islands/caves, and berries that take a certain number of days to grow into trees.
    – Stef
    Nov 18, 2021 at 14:05
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    @Stef The time functionality fully existed internally in that generation but was mostly hidden to the user - it directly affected various things (like what you mentioned plus several more) but the day/night cycle just wasn't shown to the player. Details here.
    – Izkata
    Nov 18, 2021 at 21:13

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