Thermal Event Destroys an Apple Notebook

By Emily Vannoy – Apple Specialist – The Computing Center

 A Cornell student had their 2013 15” MacBook Pro battery rupture in mid-June. It was in a backpack that started to “smoke” during a class. Fire personnel and Police were called in and fortunately, the laptop did not catch fire; only one battery cell was involved.

Laptop and phone batteries (or any lithium ion battery), under some very unusual circumstances, can begin to swell. Swelling can cause a rupture which leads to what Apple refers to as a “thermal event”. Batteries expand when gas builds up inside of the battery cell. Over charging from a faulty charger, extreme heat, and a manufacturer fault in the battery can cause swelling to occur. In this case, one battery cell expanded to the point of rupture causing smoking and extreme heat. In some cases, this can cause a fire. This is one of the first such situations we’ve seen at The Computing Center. 

Once we got the machine into our shop, we were able to determine that only one of the six battery cells in this model had ruptured. The remaining cells were, thankfully, unharmed and stable. In a stroke of luck, we were able to recover most of the data contained on the Solid State Drive (SSD). At the bottom of this article is some of the details regarding this event. 

   How do you keep this from happening to your laptop or phone?
- Do not expose your devices to temperature extremes. Exposure to extreme heat can cause a battery to swell.

   Just like a pet or person, DON’T leave your laptop or phone in a hot car.

   Po,trwer down your laptop before you place it into a bag. If the computer is on and hot from regular use, placing it into an enclosed area where the heat cannot escape could lead to overheating.

-Be on the lookout for bulges, charging problems, or other issues with your devices, especially if they are several years old.

   If your laptop or phone has any kind of discernible bulge to the case, the battery could be failing. If the device won’t stay charged or stops working, but then appears to work OK with the AC adapter, it’s time to get the batteries looked at.

   With Apple laptops, if the trackpad stops working correctly, a bulging battery could be causing the problem.

-Use the correct charger. Some “off brand” chargers overcharge the battery – particularly on phones. If your device gets hot and stays hot while charging, your charger may be bad.


What to do if your device starts smoking?
- Call Fire or Police.  As you can see from the photos below, a battery fire can get VERY hot.

- Get it out of any backpack, case, or sleeve. If possible, get the device away from anything else flammable.
- If sand is available, burying the laptop or phone in clean sand can be effective.
- A dry-chemical extinguisher can be effective in reducing the temperature, but it likely won’t completely extinguish a fire.

- Here are the Don’ts!
              - DON’T ever use water or other liquid to try to extinguish a smoking device.
           - DON’T try to smash the device to try and remove the battery.

                             -Laptops often have more than one battery cell. Trying to smash it could easily

                              rupture another battery.
           - DON’T breathe any of the fumes.


Bottom line: With any device that has a battery, if something unusual is happening, don’t ignore it. Get to our shop or other reputable dealer.

Don’t delay.


The author is one of The Computing Center’s Apple Certified Mac Technicians (ACMT). We provide warranty and non-warranty repair and support for all Apple Macintosh products.



The Interior of the Computer:

This is a view of the interior components of the computer with the bottom case removed.  The cell that was ruptured is visible on the left as well as the 5 other battery cells contained within the computer. You can also see melting around the ruptured cell where the heat from the thermal event melted other components on the computer. On the right, the bottom case shows scorch marks and heat damage. Not visible in this photo is the other side of the bottom case where the laptop rested against the backpack. The thermal event melted the backpack and the melted material stuck to the bottom case. 

The Solid State Drive (in the adapter) vs. an undamaged SSD:

Even though the SSD was right next to the ruptured cell and got very hot, we were able to recover most of the data from it!


Trends Transforming the Modern Workplace


Advances in technology and shifting workforce demographics are creating a more fluid work environment, redefining what productivity looks like, and empowering individuals to work smarter. With an influx of new talent that values experiences, continued learning, and collaboration over financial compensation, leadership will have to take a forward-looking approach to restructuring the workplace landscape.

Innovative technologies can help all organizations respond to workplace trends and create dynamic environments that incentivize and empower the next generation of employees.

Encouraging and accommodating remote workers

In the modern workforce, out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind. Modern businesses are evolving to better accommodate a wider range of business scenarios and work styles. For example, 43% of Americans reported spending at least some time working remotely – whether from their home offices or the local coffee shop.1

As teams become more widespread, keeping everyone engaged and informed is critical to the success of your organization. To promote teamwork and enhance efficiency, leadership must enable communication and support reliable connection between off and on-site employees.


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At The Computing Center, we work with many very busy people.  Both in our work lives and volunteer lives, we're asked to do a lot. Sometimes, we say "Yes" when the real answer should be "No".  Our friend James Shomar at the Startfast Accelerator recently wrote an excellent Blog post on "Opportunity Cost"!

If you're an ambitious person, it can be really hard to accept when something shouldn't be done.  You have a new idea for a product, a feature, an event, an organization, or maybe even a far fetched sales lead and you can't help but get excited about it. You explore what it's going to take to pull it off and while it certainly isn't going to be easy, maybe it's not as impossible sounding as you first thought? When you begin to make the calculation about whether to pursue it, sometimes you'll find that the reason something shouldn't be done isn't because it can't be done, it's because of the opportunity cost.




It's a frustrating life lesson I was reminded of quite recently. I had a potential keynote speaker for Demo Day this year I thought was perfect. (Shameless plug: StartFast Demo Day is on Thursday August 9th. Sign up for our newsletter to find out more!) The prospect could easily draw a big crowd, I had a direct connection to get to him, and I even found our first sponsor. Things were shaping up well all things considered. It was at that point however that reality hit and things got aggravating. I had a conversation with one of my mentors who reminded me about opportunity cost.


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Unfortunately, nearly everything can be scammed these days. Not just credit cards, but the process of accepting cards for a business or organization.

If you’re in a small business, you probably need a way for people to pay you – and ways to lower your costs. Scammers have been working both of those angles, promising businesses that they can save on leases of credit card processing equipment. They’ve also been promising that businesses can cancel any time. But is that what happens?

In a word, no. Businesses can end up paying thousands to lease equipment that would have cost only a few hundred dollars to buy. When the business can’t cancel the lease (despite the promises), it can have trouble if it stops paying. Those lease agreements can hold the business owner (or the person who signed the lease) responsible for the debts. And the agreements can require that legal disputes are heard in another state. Some scammers have even pretended to be the business’s current card processor – people have been tricked into signing new contracts when they thought they were just updating paperwork.


Home Router Security Issue

Just prior to the Memorial Day holiday, the Justice Department and FBI sent out a mass communication highly recommending that everyone with a home connection to the Internet reboot their routers. This was to protect against a new Internet exploit called “VPNFilter”. If you attacked by VPNFilter, you login credentials, email address, etc. could be hacked.

Many of us in the technology industry were surprised at the announcement and skeptical that a reboot could fix anything like this. Turns out that it’s all for real. However after doing some digging, we discovered that this very real problem potentially affects a relatively small number of home based routers; about 500,000 around the world.  And only certain models (mostly older routers) are vulnerable.  Here’s the list that Symantec published of the affected routers:


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