I worked on the IT helpdesk at the time, and though I wasn't working the late shift that night, we all found out about it the next morning. A woman called the helpdesk because her PowerBook had caught fire. (Side note: the department was very insistent on not having water/liquids near equipment, so she actually apologized for pouring water on her flaming laptop.) Thankfully she put it out immediately. Her desk was scorched and the laptop was burned beyond repair (but we did manage to get a DriveSavers-like company to recover most of the data on the HDD). The IT director called our Apple rep the next day and they immediately began a process of investigation. They paid to have the desk replaced, replaced the laptop and paid for the third-party data recovery.
Granted this was 12 years ago and I wasn't involved in direct conversations with Apple myself as a lowly level 1 helpdesk technician, but from everything I saw they handled the situation completely professionally and seriously.
The model number A1078 is forever etched into my mind.
> In fact it could be happening to your battery right now.
Yes, any lithium battery in any device could have this problem. Odds are good that it was swelling before it finally failed, and if the machine hadn't been restarted and instead had been checked, that may have been identified. Would this article be getting the same traction if it wasn't a MacBook?
After much insisting (30-40minutes) they finally agreed to take the battery and keep it in their safe for a week, until the first available genius appointment was available. There they said it was out of warranty as its a disposable part and therefore not covered by the AppleCare+ plan I had at the time. Genuinely it was the worst experience I've had in an apple store to date.
There was a huge amount of attention, which included the things being banned on aircraft, for Samsung's fire-prone phones. Before that, it was "hoverboards." I think the answer is yes, it would.
There have been many devices that have come under scrutiny for their Li-Ion cells. At least few devices explode, and I'm not aware of any killing people, but many have had these meltdowns.
Big Clive successfully took one apart without it going boomb if anyone is interested in what's inside of them:
There is of course the 787 of All Nippon Airway: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_787_Dreamliner_battery_...
And with battery as a cargo this time, there is a UPS 747: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UPS_Airlines_Flight_6
It's funny/terrifying how we deeply need higher capacity batteries, with shorter charging time and greater energy density, but as a same time, it will probably lead to more unstable and more "prone to burst into flames" items...
Technically all that really confirms is that they take the PR/image aspect of safety seriously. May have been more a CYA than anything else. Yes, cynical view, I know.
After a short conversation with a tier-2 support person, they agreed to replace the battery for free. They were also willing to replace the keyboard and bottom case, if there were any permanent deformations (there weren't). I took it in to my local Apple Store and they had it back to me in 48 hours.
I'm sure this is a YMMV issue, so the best lesson is perhaps to call several times until you get a good answer.
Then they really haven't been paying attention, batteries exploding is mentioned regularly in media, makes for very popular Youtube videos, ...
It's understandable that people don't expect it happening to them (it's fairly unlikely).
No, but then Apple often invites it by continuing to claim it's s#1t doesn't stink.
Beautiful line here.
> Would this article be getting the same traction if it wasn't a MacBook?
That's why you buy batteries from reputable sources (or items with integrated batteries from reputable sources), don't charge them unattended, and be aware of anything getting warm or expanding.
Apparently there is no way to know, and it is a matter of luck whether your <insert lithium charged device here> explodes.
As a society why are we selling these things (not just apple) that can explode during normal usage. If a car manufacturer had an equivalent such design, the manufacturer would recall and fix said problem for free.
And yes, if there is no "fix" then they should not sell this technology at all. I suspect that the tech-industry lobbyists would not agree.
I suspect when you see the impact on battery life or weight you might change your mind.
Cars do catch fire during normal use. It's not common, but it does happen. So it's not like it's some hard and fast rule that the risk must be zero. It's a matter of what we consider acceptable given the downsides.
Most people (adults) understand they are dealing with a controlled explosion (the engine), and the adult is always (presumably) monitoring the car whilst the engine is on. "Adult" and continually "monitoring" are the keywords here.
The difference is that these things are consumer items that my little son plays with.
Lithium batteries can explode, but the data captured shows that it happens rarely, and when it doesn't, like with the Samsung batteries, we talk about it. This is one incident. It's not widespread exploding MacBooks.
The way to know if you're facing a problem is to check for bulges. Under normal circumstances, where the machine is properly ventilated (clear ducts, not under a comforter), then statistically safe.
This is the tech industry taking shortcuts (not singling out apple here) in order to "push the industry" forward - There are a multitude of ways in which this risk could be eliminated, but without tight(er) regulation, it wont happen.
Even though the risk is slim, the severity is high. And due to to the "consumer" target market, these risks should be engineered away. We should not wait until some kid looses their sight. Even one. Simple as that.
I really hope this is a joke, because I can't imagine having to watch over anything while charging it. I'm sure that almost everyone charges their phone and laptop when sleeping for instance.
Minimally, do not charge things in a bed or covered by a blanket.
I remember taking a bulging in-warranty battery for a white unibody-era Macbook into the Valley Fair Apple Store and being told that it was my fault the battery was damaged. Genius bar wanted to charge for a battery swap and wouldn't dispose the battery for me if I didn't pay for the swap.
In my experience they tell you that your computer is at risk of catching on fire, but that they're not going to pay to replace your swelling battery.
I don't think that's strange. Here in N/W Europe, warranties are quite good. However warranty on consumables such as batteries is only 6 months.
That's true. Damn, Apple, how about a bloody sensor for such stuff at least to give an early warning?
>If you have a MacBook be careful leaving it unattended on the bed, battery fires burn hot and fast with little time to react.
Whereas if you have any other brand it's OK?
Millions of computer users were on red alert last night after they were warned that their laptops could burst into flames at any moment. In an extraordinary admission, the world's largest computer firm, Dell, said yesterday that 4.1 million laptops are at risk. The computer giant was forced to confess that problems with the laptop's batteries, made by Sony, means they are a major 'fire hazard'.
FWIW, the MBP in question did shut itself off abruptly right before this happened. The author then immediately turned it on again and it proceeded to meltdown. Perhaps the protection against this sort of thing could have been a bit more reliable, but it appears the laptop did try to protect itself.
How is merely turning off a warning?
How would the user tell it from a random glitch with power, battery disconnect, etc?
It's not, but if it works reliably, it is at least protection against fires while no one is home.
Given the choice, is it better to start a fire when someone is home or out? That's a toughie, but on balance I think it's better when someones home, as there's a better chance for them to stop it or at least evacuate pets and gather important documents and treasures.
A user can guess at the problem based on the temperature of the laptop. I've had my laptop turn off like this and I always let it cool down before powering it on again. You can argue that Apple needs more protection for issues like these and needs to message users better about how to deal with the behavior exhibited by the laptop, but you can't say that Apple does nothing or doesn't have any sensors.
And you are assuming Apple can detect a battery failure distinct from say a component along the power supply path that has failed. So the safest solution is to switch off immediately.
Obviously by using a separate power source for the monitoring, which can be minimal and last forever?
Like, e.g. logic boards had a separate from the mains power "BIOS battery":
The main thing that a warning would need to do is to shut off the power (especially since there's no guarantee that the device is attended at that moment) and the display+circuitry to drive it require nontrivial power.
Assuming they do detect it is a battery issue, how about warning by refusing to turn back on?
My thinking about what your Mac is doing is in line with rsynnott, it might be based on your battery's current charge capacity vs. its original capacity, I'm more inclined to think the message is triggered by your battery's cycle count. You can find all this information in the System Information application, under Power.
Maybe it's time to require that anything bigger than a phone use lithium-iron-phosphate battery technology, which doesn't have a thermal runaway problem. Most pro power tools already do; it's expected that they will be used hard and abused. So do "Boosted" brand electric skateboards, and many (all?) second generation UL approved "hoverboards". If it's going to be banged around, that seems to be the way to go.
There's a 14% energy density penalty with lithium-iron-phosphate batters vs regular lithium-ion. They're also more expensive. But the "does not blow up or catch fire" feature is worth it. Here's a video of someone driving a 3" nail through a LiFePo battery. Five minutes of heavy white smoke and some runny black stuff, but no flames or explosion. Compare the standard nail test (done by remote control) of a LIon battery.
I was confused and didn't understand why, but I wonder if maybe battery swelling is why.
I also had a similar reaction to my 2014 rMBP once (and only once, over a few dozen flights). I figured MBPs just look scary from the wrong angle, or maybe new scanner employees who haven't figured out what all the common laptops look like yet.
Leaving KEF a few weeks ago, my bags were pulled for a random check. But, at least the Icelandic security guy was nice enough to tell me as much...
"Your bag was selected at random for an inspection."
"Now, I'm going to carry it over to that table. Please follow me.
"Now, I'm going to unzip it."
"Now, I'm swabbing for residue."
Quick, professional, and not at all stressful. Unlike similar experiences at IAD and FCO.
I guess I'll never be able to do that.
Europe (UK, Ireland, Italy, and Iceland): Separate tray every time I've passed through in the last 4 years.
Having said that, of course, safety mechanisms should have shut down everything before the temperature goes into the proximity of the danger zone.
Um, they did. It's literally the very first sentence of the article.
The guy decided to turn it back on, which is when it blew up.
I think this comes from a lack of understanding about how the problem started. Yes, excessive heat CAN cause a critical battery condition, but this seems unlikely, as the batteries should be designed to handle much more heat than the CPU can generate. Rather, I think the batteries caused the heat, not the other way around.
Which is exactly what anyone else would do if their laptop suddenly shut off without giving any clear warning that the situation was dangerous. A proper safety system would need to notify the user of the possibility of a battery fire and advise them to take the laptop somewhere where fire damage would be minimized.
But it's not entirely clear to me that safety features were actually triggered. Perhaps the battery failed and the machine shut down due to lack of power or a power fluctuation. The fire could have been inevitable at that point, and his actions after the shutdown and before the fire are just red herrings.
If it did indeed recognize the heat problem and turn itself off, they should likely either tell the user or not allow it to turn back on until it cools down.
I'm not sure this is what actually happened, anyway. He says it caught fire within a few seconds of being turned back on. Either the thermal protection is faulty (it should shut off before the battery gets anywhere near that point) or the machine shut off for some other reason (excessive CPU temperature, say).
I'll notice when I open my bag and find a hot laptop with little battery left.
Oh and burn marks in the screen. Lenovo has already replaced one screen.
To the point of a comment above, this is why the article is noticed when a MacBook is involved, but it wouldn't be if it was, say, a Dell. We just assume that this obviously shoddy piece of generic Windows crap could just catch fire due to design flaws. If my MacBook caught fire, I'd be shocked. If my Samsung Chromebook caught fire, I wouldn't be. If the dayjob Dell caught fire, I'd call it par for the course.
Where is that power going to come from if not the battery? you can't have any logic without power.
The firmware on my PC will detect that it is running too hot, and halt. Presumably it will halt to catch fire since it seems as though the only thermal management at that point are the fans, but that is another story.
Exactly, happened to me as well like 6 years ago (which in combo with the magnetic power connector made me lose work more than once due to me continueing to use the macbook without bad battery followed by me/cats/wife tripping over the cable). Just searching for e.g. 'macbook swollen battery' gives quite some results.
It was even their business model with the iPods back in the days.
What I'm curious about is, are companies like Tesla able to put some sort of safety precautions into their cars and their PowerWall to prevent this from happening and to alert the user that something in their battery is horribly wrong? An electric car battery is way bigger than a Mac's battery, but at least the car owner has the chance to get out of the car and get away from it. But a Powerwall? If it's going to blow up is it going to burn your house down in the process?
It swells, the circuit goes dead, and that's the signal for the charger to stop charging.
Once the layers of the cell make contact it shorts the entire battery and causes the battery to discharge quickly, releasing the energy in the form of heat.
Just because you've removed the power source from the battery doesn't mean the battery won't stop discharging.
In my experience Apple is not consistently good about dealing with this. In every case, I've ultimately been able to get the battery replaced at no cost to me, but with an iPhone 6 that started swelling about a year ago, pushing the screen out, phone support told me flatly that this wasn't something that could possibly happen with such a new device, and suggested that I try to make a Genius Bar appointment on my own. When I brought the phone into the store later that day, they replaced it on the spot, with no appointment. (I wasn't going to accept carrying around a time bomb for another week or more.)
I honestly don't know, and that worries me.
I can't think of much else, really.
The way I read it: CPU gets hot, battery damage from overheating begins, computer shuts off. User turns it on again not knowing the state of the electronics inside. Possibly weakened or damaged electronics cause the battery to blow up.
Bad ventilation weakens electronics and continued use causes catastrophic failure. This is not new.
It's far more likely that a defect in the battery caused this. Perhaps the laptop tried to draw too much power from the battery, and it failed.
But if the battery creates the heat, the sensors for CPU temp will react too late.
The temperatures that start to increase failure rates for electronic components are far lower than those that trigger thermal runaway in Li-ion batteries. The least thermally stable Li-ion batteries, those with cobalt-based cathodes, are at risk of thermal runaway over 150C. I've never heard of poor cooling being the root cause of a laptop battery fire.
I've had young programmers sneer at me about my continued use of NiMH AA and AAA batteries, but there are some advantages.
> The house had filled up with smoke everywhere, the acidic stench of melted plastic made my eyes water.
> After I had opened up all the windows in the house and cleared out the smoke, ...
Wrong answer. The correct answer was "leave the building and call the fire department". You really really do not want to breathe the smoke from a battery fire.
I haven't heard of MacBooks spontaneously exploding under normal conditions.
IIRC, Macbooks do not have vents on the bottom to be blocked in that way. The only vents on mine are on the hinge between the screen and the body, and the mechanism works so that the could really only be blocked from the top.
That said, it should not be possible to cause a runaway failure in the battery via the laptop overheating.
It is a remanufactured from Apple though. So I know the battery was replaced. But still...
How many were manufactured? How many failed in this way? Is it reasonable to expect perfection? (Hint: Oh hell no.)
p.s. I'm not saying it's right. Simply pointing out that "life happens" and random events are in fact woven into the fabric of the universe.
One other thing: if you smoke, residue can also reduce the effectiveness of cooling systems and affect system performance.
EDIT: Not suggesting this was the OP's fault, just suggesting there are logical ways to reduce this risk.
No one has done a real root cause analysis and research shows humans are really bad at it when relying on intuition alone.
Cascading failure here is possible. I've never seen one actually light a battery on fire. The last encounter was a gaming level video card plowing a capacitor, starting a fire within the entire desktop.
From the article:
> If you have a MacBook be careful leaving it unattended on the bed, battery fires burn hot and fast with little time to react.
If this person was in a habit of leaving it in a poorly ventilated place, like their squishy bed, the electronics could have become compromised over time.
Also from the article:
> however with the newer unibody laptops there is no way you can see this swelling happening.
This is not true. Users have reported that prior to discovering battery swelling, their trackpad quit working and in some cases began separating from the top chassis.
People really need to be educated on battery chemistry when they buy battery operated products. Here's a programmer, so I assume he has some technical abilities/interests, and yet even he doesn't seem to know that some batteries can do this.
The author states "however with the newer unibody laptops there is no way you can see this swelling happening."
You can't see it swelling so there's no actionable item here.
Actually, the touch pad tends to pop up when the batteries start swelling. It may not have in this case, but it's common enough that people get _some_ warning.
Or it should be illegal to sell products that can catch fire/explode. I admit to knowing nothing about battery tech but if there were suddenly massive penalties for exploding batteries I don't think it would be long until we had a workable solution. It should not be up to a consumer buying a phone/laptop to learn about how their battery works and how to identify a potentially dangerous situation.
You own a vehicle?
Next-gen's MPB will be .5 inches slimmer.
To me, that has to do with slimness.
The big problem with the Note 7 was the battery design and manufacture. Nothing within the device itself was the problem. These batteries would have exploded in any device they were placed in (though they were built specifically for the Note 7, like any phone battery nowadays): https://news.samsung.com/global/infographic-galaxy-note7-wha...
Samsung requested a battery with the design of the phone in mind. That design was faulty. Under normal operation the electrodes would expand and due to the design of the electrodes and the faulty separators, there was a fire.
The slimness/design of the phone necessitated a battery design which was faulty. I'm not saying that the battery literally had no extra room. There was no extra room without causing a short circuit and fire.
it's not a slimness issue
Apple has solved this problem in the current models. There's no longer any way for the hard disk to leave you in doubt. It's now fused to the motherboard permanently so that it cannot be recovered even if it does survive some kind of trouble.
Keep your backups up to date.
But it's still unbelievable that they soldered the SSD to the mainboard.
Seconded. I've got a Time Machine disk both on my personal office as well as at the client's site.
My new 2016 MacBook Pro failed to charge on a Saturday morning. Brought it in for service, bought another one for the time being, restored from backup and bam -- ready to work on Monday morning.
Making (and restoring) backups is ridiculously easy with macOS.
> Didn’t look like it:
I agree. This is the first time I've seen a hard drive transform into (what looks like) an SSD under any condition.