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Exploding Macs are back

Sections: Apple News, Features, Laptops, Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Originals

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MacBook Pro Explosion
Image Credit: James Bayliss

Yes, you heard right. A good friend of mine, and part time contributor to Appletell, James Bayliss, is the latest victim of an exploding laptop. James wasn’t hurt or anything other than a small burn on his hand, but both his MacBook Pro and desk have seen better days.

James was sitting at his desk yesterday, reading Digg, when all of a sudden he heard a loud “POP”. Immediately after this pop, sparks and flames started shooting out from his MacBook Pro, lighting his desk on fire and giving him a slight burn as he tried to put out the flames. He finally got the fire out, unplugged his MacBook Pro and pulled out the battery and gave Apple Europe a call.

MacBook Pro Explodes
Image Credit: James Bayliss

Upon calling Apple, James was transferred through a half dozen departments until he reached someone who claimed to be someone quite high up with Apple Europe. James was asked a large amount of questions over the phone. They asked whether he had to call the fire department, if there was any major damage to his house, what color was the smoke, did the smoke make you sick, did you get hurt, etc. etc. Upon answering these questions, James was told he should be receiving a phone call the following day (Today, March 12, 2008) – which he has just told me he did not receive.

It’s very sad to see Apple fumbling on this one, and we hope James gets everything sorted out, and soon. He’s currently stuck using his dads Vista laptop. We’ll keep you updated on the situation as it happens. You can check out a interview that James did with Chris Pirillo yesterday following the event at Chris’ blog.

Update: James has gotten in contact with Apple who is sending him a new laptop, as soon as he returns his current one.


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42 Comments

  1. Hey Umberto,

    James is a good friend of mine, and he clearly went over what happened. Other people online believe it had something to do with the fan going and other components heating up.

    I just checked with James and he assured me he didn't spill anything on it. This isn't a ploy to gain traffic or anything else, it just happened and a real risk to other MacBook Pro owners until Apple investigates it and finds out what's up with it.

    It is likely an isolated incident, since I've never heard of anything else like this happening with a MBP, as this isn't battery related.

    Michael Yurechko
  2. I was also looking at the image again, and it's not directly in the center. If you look at the bottom and the screws, it's actually around here:

    http://skitch.com/mikeyur/8itf/macbook-pro-bottom

    Michael Yurechko
  3. Wow, let's hope it is not a disease that all macbook pro's will have. (i have one)…

    projectmanagement
  4. Umberto – you might have taken a few laptops apart, but that doesn't make you an electrical engineer. Looks like you're just another Internet Expert …

    To me, it's a component failure in a circuit with no current limiting in the design. EVERY component that passes current will heat up, to varying degrees. In normal operation, sure — that particular module may run cool to the touch. However, if a component fails closed and presents a higher load, guess what — it's going to heat up a LOT more (if the current is available) until it fails open and breaks the circuit. That heat MUST go somewhere, and in many component failures the result is superheated gas or even flame.

    Electrolytic capacitor failures are one common "flame thrower." Semiconductor junction breakdowns can cause enough heat where whatever is touching/near by ignites. Fail a common diode and keep supplying current — the whole casing will light up orange hot! Resistors that get overpowered burn the crap out of the boards they're mounted to, seeing as how they're typically made of carbon.

    Brains
  5. Wow that is scary since I am using a MacBook Pro at the moment. It gets warm but never to the point I think it would explode. If it did happen to me and I wasn't harmed I would ask Apple to replace the unit and compensate me for any damages it might cause. The MacBook Pro and PowerBook line are pretty solid so I doubt this is something that will happen often.

    Hope Apple calls this guy back… and soon.

    Why doesn't Dell or HP ever get these kinds of posts? I am sure their shite has burned up once or twice.

    Chris V
  6. This kind of thing is rare – however since it is an electronic device, it can happen. Who knows what really happened inside the case to cause this. Apple manufactures hundreds of thousands – probably millions – of these computers, there is bound to be ONE that has a defect. A tiny bit of metal, a poorly soldered circuit, or a incorrectly installed part could all be possible causes. Just because its an Apple doesn't mean its perfect..

    Jasonatr0n
  7. I have nothing of value to add to this discussion. I didn't even check the Notify me checkbox down there.

    I'm just a lonely guy who writes into this textarea. Maybe I'm just like you?

    Poster
  8. This guy needs to demand compensation for the desk too. Apple is liable to replace it or pay its value.

    nja
  9. Definitely, ilikethings. What makes Apple great in my eyes isn't their hardware, not their software, but how it all ties together with [usually] great support, integration, and prettiness. I can't say that for a Dell PC with an HP monitor running Microsoft Windows with an iRiver attached.

    If my Dell blew up, I wouldn't be as surprised if they weren't helpful, but if my MacBook Pro blew up, I would be livid if Apple wasn't helpful. Thankfully, in this case they seem to be doing the right thing.

    Adam Fisher-Cox
  10. Glad to hear Apple's replacing it. One downside of the MacBook Pro is they run extremely hot, even when they're functioning normally. I just exported an iMovie w/Quicktime and my proc. hit 81 degrees Celcius.

    Xavier
  11. @Michael- Any word what version/model MacBook Pro this was?

    Xavier
  12. @Xavier: He told me he purchased it in April of 2007.

    Adam Fisher-Cox
  13. Wow. Being a MacBook Pro user myself, I really hope this is an isolated incident.

    A friendly tip to fellow MacBook Pro users, it pays to keep your machine cool. I use something as simple as the RoadTools Coolpad to elevate my laptop at all times. This helps in ventilation. Which hopefully will lessen the chances of this happening.

    Good luck to James, I hope he sorts this out soon with Apple.

    Juan Magdaraog
  14. I’m calling shenanigans. This guy dropped water on his computer or something. I’ve taken apart hundreds of macbook pros and powerbooks and here’s what bothers me about this image.

    A. The part that is melted is the clutch cover, it covers the inverterboard which supplies power to the backlight. Odd thing the inverter board, as a simple converter, it doesn’t exude any heat. Even when it’s not working well. It’s a circuit board about ten cm long and one cm wide with plugs on either side. There is nothing that could cause an inverter board to get hot enough, IN THE MIDDLE, to melt the clutch cover.

    B. The scorching on the bottom casing. This scorching doesn’t line up with the fans, the heatsink, or the processors. The heatsink/fans on the macbook pro/powerbooks channel heat to the right and left of the bottom case ventilation channel, NOT the middle. There just isn’t any component capable of making enough heat to melt the plastic where it’s melted. This doesn’t add up from a technical standpoint.

    This seems like a ploy to get attention for pirillo’s blog, but for his sake I hope it’s not. I’m afraid of Apple Legal and I’ve never even worked for the company. Hope this is legit, because if it isn’t there’s no way it’ll stand up if and when the Apple wolves bring the defamation suit smackdown.

    Umberto
  15. Juan,

    At my desk I use a Griffin Elevator which keeps it nice and cool, though I am using a MacBook (no blowing up macbooks…yet *knock on wood*)

    Michael Yurechko
  16. @Xavier I believe it's the 2.16ghz, 15 inch.

    And yea, they run EXTREMELY hot. But so do many laptops. I have a core duo MacBook and I can cook things on this at times…

    Michael Yurechko
  17. did the MBP still work after this explosion?

    Dylan Walker
  18. @Michael

    I posted an entry on the blog I write for about this story. Would it be possible to get permission from James if I could post his pictures as well? Thanks. I'd appreciate a reply.

    Juan Magdaraog
  19. you pu ss iies whining about a your precious computers do you even know how many people in the world don't even have a desktop nevermind your fancy macbooks. stop whining and buy another one you rich nerds.

    dude
  20. Juan,

    I responded to your question via email.

    Michael Yurechko
  21. I can't say how i know but i can tell you that Apple takes these things very seriously and will replace his computer promptly after getting notice of the old one going back. After further investigation if need be they will work on his desk issue as well. Unlike most companies they wont give him much hassle about it after they cover all their bases.

    Just think NASDAQ for a min.. when a company is worth billions it is not worth the trouble to make a big deal over 3K to 4K.

    watch this to better understand what i mean

    http://current.com/items/88849140_how_to_beat_the_bank

    Think About It Different
  22. that must have been some extremely intense news.

    mousoumachine
  23. The details specs of the blazing MBP please?
    Judging from the given date i am just glad its not the new penryn MBP's (just gotten mine :P)

    mican
  24. Sounds like Umberto is a silly N1gger

    jake
  25. Typical Apple not looking after their customers after they buy their products.

    Stuart
  26. Did the computer have a battery that had been recalled?

    Ben Popken
  27. This was not a battery problem. I would imagine that this was the components that handle the screen backlight, or something similar. The location appears to be the the back right edge of the bottom case. I haven't seen inside the MBP enough to tell you what is at that location, but I would suspect that it is a group of capacitors.

    Jon Thompson
  28. He had to use VISTA! Oh the humanity!

    Tyler M
  29. LOSERS!

    Boo-hoo it's so disappointing that the Church of Appletology behaved in such a corporate unsaintly manner! Don't they screen their employees for their edginess and high moral standards?

    How dare you blaspheme the great almighty Apple. This is obviously a Microsoft conspiracy. I work on Macs and the area of the fire is no where near a heat source. This is where the cupholder attaches.

    I am so sorry to hear that he has to use his Dad's Vista machine. I hope it does not cause him any permanent damage.

    aopisa
  30. Just two photos, no inside shots and suspicious looking burn marks. Not very convincing :-P

    someone
  31. If he opened it up he'd likely void the warranty and then Apple would've said he did it.

    Michael Yurechko
  32. Water damage. Clearly.

    Chris
  33. Chris,

    I've chatted with James and he explained to me there was no water damage. Plus, if you look at the MBP, it's very hard to get water in that area without pouring it down there on purpose.

    Michael Yurechko
  34. Well, at least Apple is replacing it. Im guessing its because all that anti apple rhetoric due to their gift card rejection :)

    Vinyl Siding
  35. The general public seems to have this idea that anything with a Mac logo is just superior, like adding a lightning bolt decal to the side of your Kia makes it faster. I'm not saying that Mac computers aren't nice, many are. But, in the end, they are just Intel PCs and laptops with a nice OS.

    Remember the story about the US military paying $200 for a hammer? Yeah, a lot of people do. I'm sure the Nigerian military buys things for conveniently inflated prices, but it's not as big of a story. Why? Perception. The same reason people are aghast to hear about exploding MBPs. People have the idea that every facet of Apple works better than any of their competitors, from their designers to their janitors…

    The rest of us realize that hardware is hardware and even the best engineered hardware will fail under the right circumstances…

    I think the real story here is how Apple responds and treats this person (who has been wrongfully injured by their product). Everyone makes mistakes, it's how you address them that does more to define you as a company…

    ilikethings
  36. My MacbookPro went in for repair 4 weeks ago to replace faulty lid latches and a faulty key on the keybaord. I had a call to say it should be 2 days until it's returned to the local store, the following day I had another apologetic call to say during the final "testing" stages the laptop "blew up"…
    I was sceptical and asked for more details, they technician said it made a bang/pop, hissed and then smoked with some small flames. When the techie opened the case the motherboard was fried in one area (he didn't mention which area) but there was going to be a delay whilst waiting for a new main board.
    Lucky for me I bought a Macbook Air the day I dropped the MBP off for repair so I'm not too bothered how long it takes to fix but I thought it co-incidental that what was descibed by my techician seems to have happened here too!

    Scoopz
  37. Same thing happened to mine. I just thought I was working it too hard….

    Michael Clark
  38. Macbooks are notorious for over-heating… that's what happens when you have poor engineering (solid aluminum shells that reach nearly 60 degrees Celcius) and concentrate too much on style.

    How many people can keep a Macbook on their lap for an hour… the Air had so many over heating problems they are now calling it an "electronic device" instead of tha laptop… because you can't have it on your lap.

    Sad.

    Informed
  39. There are utilities that you can download onto your mac that tell you how hot your laptop is and to adjust the fans rpm speed. I also keep my activity monitor up in the corner to make sure I don't over run my laptop. The last thing I need is for my macbook pro to light up like a mortar shell.

    You can find it here:
    http://www.lobotomo.com/products/FanControl/

    Kelsey
  40. I know it's late in the discussion, but I wanted to take part in this. I too have taken many, many of these machines apart. It's my job. Granted, the location of the burn is nowhere near a heat source. However, there are electrical components and circuitry inside these machines. I have seen situations where the LVDS cable, which does pass through the clutch cover, becomes hot to the touch. This can happen, and I have seen similar things occur. Sure, there's people who know how to fake stuff like this and make it look good, or bad, but that doesn't mean everyone is a scam artist. I have no reason to doubt this story without taking the machine apart myself. Besides, looking at the photos, I believe the burn is coming from the inside of the computer and out, through the vents. The source of the burn is likely the Processor or the graphics chipset which are both near that location. The fact the clutch cover is burned is merely because it was in the path of the source. After all, the clutch cover is made of plastic.

    AnonymousApple
  41. i love my macbook pro but i know for a fact things are going wrong with the battery would would probably cause his to pop. i have a 17" one from 2006ish that is now out of warranty and applecare. a feew weeks ago i noticed the machine was unbalanced on the desk and removed the growing battery. now the keyboard and trackpad doesn't work.

    there was no spillage or anything.

    i love the machine, but apple won't do anything about it because it's a battery problem and because the machine is "old"

    snark the news
  42. I bought my MacBook Pro 17 back in 2006. The battery "exploded" and was replace 2 years later. That battery "exploded" again almost a year ago, ripped the covers open and the battery packs inside expanded beyond the housing. Went to Apple and was told it is out of warranty period, and refused to replace it. Now, I have to keep my Mac plugged in to use it. I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER APPLE PRODUCT AGAIN, NEVER !!!!!

    N Chang