Scary story ...

I guess this is the place for this …

I use an early 17" MacBook Pro, and love it — except I’m thinking I need something lighter to be carrying round with me all the time! MacBook Air? But that’s not the point of the story.

Last Friday I went in to the lecture hall, connected the MBP up to the projection system, switched everything on an booted … at first all seemed well. But then, although I could move the mouse pointer with the track-pad, I couldn’t click the button. No way; nothing; nada; 没办法. After a moment’s panic, I got down under the desk, got the mouse from the crummy, built-in windows box and used that … all was well, except I was thinking I’d have to send MBP in for repair: (a) expensive; (b) how would I cope without it as I use it all the time?

When I got home much later, feeling a bit gloomy, I set MBP up on the desk as usual but noticed that it wasn’t stable for some reason, so I turned it over and it looked as if the battery had become partly unclipped somehow. I looked more closely and saw that that was not the situation, but the visible part of the battery case was slightly distorted and was raised by about 1 mm beyond the base of the computer. So I took the battery out. The battery case had indeed been forced slightly open, and wouldn’t go back to it’s original position, so I left the battery out and just connected MBP to the mains.

On Sunday, I had time to think about it some more and had a look at the battery. The outer surface of the case was the same, but the back of it — the bit that you don’t see when it’s in place — had also been forced open and distorted, this time by a further 3 mm! Whatever was inside was growing and forcing the case apart.

So I took it down to the people I buy my Apple stuff from here, showed them what was going on and pointed out that although my guarantee was up, there’s no way this was normal for a battery. As it was Sunday, they said they couldn’t do anything on the spot, but they’d be in touch with Apple China the next day and would ring me. They did, and told me that they needed to see my guarantee card as they needed the model and serial numbers of MBP … and presumably proof that it was bought in China. So I told them I’d bring it in on Tuesday afternoon.

I took it in yesterday … by now, the battery, which I had left with them, or rather the packs of chemicals inside, had forced the back open by a centimetre and were still growing!

I am told that Apple is going to replace the battery free of charge, but that battery seemed to me like something out of a bad science-fiction horror story. The moral of it is, keep a good eye on your laptop battery. The other thought is, what would have happened if it had been a MacBook Air with its built-in battery.


PS I do look after the battery … doing a complete discharge and complete recharge every time.

I’ve heard the Lithium Ion batteries neither need nor benefit from full discharge/charge cycles. Periodically it is okay to do, to keep the software monitors calibrated with the hardware, but in general the batteries work best when used “intuitively.” Use it as you need it, charge it when you are done. They don’t develop “memory loss” like older battery technologies. One other thing, I’ve heard they store best at around 40%. So if you have spares, it’s best to discharge them down to 40% and then keep them in a cool, dry place. Keeping them at 100% will damage the chemistry over time. Naturally, this goes for keeping a laptop plugged in most of the time, as well. Which produces a bit of a catch-22. You only have around 500 cycles of use before it wears out, but at the same time you could reduce the total effectiveness of the battery by leaving it plugged in. Seems we are stuck with devices with a limited life no matter what. I guess that is the case with all electronics, but it frustrates me, especially with things like the newer iPods that have built-in batteries.

I’m not saying this is what caused your problem, but it something to keep in mind for future battery use.

Thank you Amber, that is very useful knowledge. Mind you, here in the sub-tropics a “cool, dry place” is somewhat hard to come by :slight_smile:

But I’ll bear that in mind when I get my new battery … especially the bit about not keeping it plugged in much of the time. Mind you, I ran my old 400 Mhz TiBook the same way as I have this, though I wasn’t so punctilious about running right down and re-charging. The battery in that lasted for 5 to 6 years before it wore out … by which time replacements were not available here in China. And it did not inflate itself … after about 5 years it just gradually started holding less and less charge.


From what I know of batteries, that’s a common misconception. The truth is that modern batteries start to lose their maximum capacity after 500 cycles. That is to say, it might only be able to store 90% of its maximum charge. Some time later, that max capacity will fall further, to 80%, and so on, until eventually it can’t hold more than 1-2% of its original capacity.

None of which disagrees with your point that all batteries wear out eventually, but it means your iPod isn’t going to suddenly drop to 20 minutes battery life on the 501st charge. With normal usage it’ll take a good few years before it wears out completely.

Sure, it is a gradient, but I think the 500 figure is roughly where the battery is noticeable less effective. Which would fit in with what I’ve seen. Most people probably hit 70-100 cycles per year, which would give you around 4-5 years before the device needs a new battery or just stays plugged in all of the time.

I was about to quote your question, but you edited inbetween me reading and hitting post :wink: Basically, yes, that’s the figure where you start to notice the decline.

I only mentioned it because the fallacy is a common “vector of attack” on iPods/iPhones and now the MacBook Air, where people insist that you have to replace Apple products after just a couple of years because you can’t replace the battery. You’ll see it bandied about a lot by “Apple haters” :slight_smile:

But as you say, under normal usage any of those devices will last 4 years or so before the battery becomes unusable. And in this day and age, few people go longer than that without considering a replacement anyway.

Looks like this is not an isolated case, as there are instances of what you are describing all over the internet.

If you google these words, you’ll see what I mean…

macbook pro 17 battery bulge

All of the advice so far is to either take it to an Apple dealer straight away, or to call Apple support, and they will apparently send out a free replacement battery as soon as possible.

I have also read that in the light of some of these problems that Apple have extended the warranty for an extra year, beyond the date of purchase…

Take a wild guess where my biggest weakness is when it comes to writing. :stuck_out_tongue:

This is a known problem with some of the batteries and was determined as a known defect. The “swelling” occurs because the battery temperature has gotten too hot and “swelled” because of it. This is what caused the erratic track pad behavior (know symptom of swollen battery)

Apple will replace the battery under warranty.


To give another viewpoint on these matters.
I bought a spare battery for my MBP from Ebay (Hong Kong) It works fine and I cannot really tell the difference between original and aftermarket.

I replaced the battery on an Ipod and it was good fun as long as you use a Swiss Army knife and not the plastic lever they give you. I look forward to attacking another Apple problem this way. Its macho.

I too have a sticky touchpad but I thought it was due to the cider, wine and poutine spilt on the machine. My work around is a wireless mouse. No problem.

I am still pleased with my decision to switch to Apple. The MBP is about 4 years old when previous laptops died after 6 months-2 years. I still have the original 5gb Ipod. I may be lucky.


True, the older iPods were easier to self-repair the battery. Most of the newer ones require careful soldering technique. They are so thin now that pretty much everything inside of them is jammed up against delicate electronics.

I’m disappointed that my MBP 15" only seems to hold enough charge to run the computer for 40 or 45 minutes. My old PowerBook G4 batteries (I bought an extra, for long flights) were good for at least a couple of hours, sometimes more, and they were smaller. Does anyone know if this is par for the course? I must admit that I do keep the battery in the machine all the time, even when I’m running it off a power cord. But I did the same thing with the PowerBook batteries and they worked great for years. This one is only about a year old.

I just unplugged to see what my system would tell me.

With the power management set to “Better Performance,” it’s telling me that there is 2 hours and 48 minutes remaining, but it’s not unusual for me to get closer to 3 hours and 30 minutes. The number has already crept up to 2:51 in the few moments it took me to type this.



Not normal. I can get 4 hours on a 17"
The battery is a little larger but not that much (a couple of hundred MHa). You should have apple look at your system. It might be a setting, but it could be a hardware issue.

Thanks Wock. I had all of those, except the erratic trackpad behaviour, though I guess that might have developed if I’d left it in. When, a couple of days earlier it started shutting down suddenly with 20% charge left then 35%, I had decided that obviously it was failing and I should get a new one. Then came the mouse-button sticking, and then the beginning of the swelling … and yes, it split its case, but I had removed it when the swelling was minimal, thank God. As I said in my first post, by Tuesday afternoon, the split was 1 cm wide and the aluminium of the case was twisted.

I took photos of it before I took it down to the shop … when I’ve got them off the camera, if there’s one which is any good, I’ll post it so you can see …

Yes, not normal … get it checked. Up until the self-inflating episode, my MBP 17" would run a good 4 hours while doing presentations, without my using any special settings or turning off bluetooth or airport, which consume power.


As others have said, definitely not normal. Even a two-year-old MBP that’s been used and charged/drained every single day should still run for 2+ hours at least.

Yeah the 40-50 minutes is not really normal
Here is some helpful info

You can take some easy steps to prolong the charge of your Apple Notebook battery.

Here are some simple settings and steps you can take to get the most out of your MacBook, MacBook Pro, iBook or PowerBook battery.

Optimize your battery settings in Energy Saver preferences
From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.
From the View menu, choose Energy Saver.
Click Show Details.
Choose Battery or Battery Power from the “Settings for” pop-up menu.
Choose Longest or Better Battery Life from the Optimize Energy Settings pop-up menu.
These settings will put the hard disk to sleep whenever possible and reduce the computer’s microprocessor performance in order to maximize its battery life. If you are using processor-intensive applications, you may wish to change these settings so the microprocessor performance is no longer reduced.

Set your screen brightness to the lowest comfortable level
Press the F1 (dimmer) and F2 (brighter) keys to dim the screen until the brightness is as low as possible and the screen is still comfortable to look at.

Turn off unused features and technologies.
Just as you would turn off the lights in an unoccupied room, turning off unused features and technologies can help maximize your battery life, too. Here are a few suggestions:

Eject CDs and DVDs you’re no longer using. Every so often, the optical drive spins up to read CDs or DVDs. This consumes a small amount of power.
Disconnect peripherals when you’re not using them. Connected peripherals, such as printers and digital cameras, can draw power from your battery even when you’re not using them.
If you’re not in a location where you need to use AirPort or Bluetooth, you can turn them off to save power.

To turn off AirPort:

From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.
From the View menu, choose Network.
From the Show selection, choose Network Port Configuration.
Uncheck Airport from the list.
Click Apply Now.
To turn off Bluetooth in Mac OS X 10.2 or later:

From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.
From the View menu, choose Bluetooth.
Click the Settings tab.
Click Turn Bluetooth Off.


Calibrating your computer’s battery for best performance
Last Modified on: October 31, 2006
Article: 86284
You can calibrate your iBook, PowerBook, MacBook or MacBook Pro computer’s lithium ion battery for best performance.

The battery has an internal microprocessor that provides an estimate of the amount of energy in the battery as it charges and discharges. The battery needs to be recalibrated from time to time to keep the onscreen battery time and percent display accurate. With all iBooks and PowerBook G4 computers except the aluminum PowerBook G4 (15-inch Double-Layer SD), you should perform this procedure when you first use your computer and then every few months thereafter.

iBooks and PowerBook G4s other than the PowerBook G4 (15-inch Double-Layer SD)
Plug the power adapter in and fully charge your computer’s battery until the battery indicator lights turn off and the adapter plug light goes from amber to green, which indicates that the battery is fully charged.
Disconnect the power adapter and use your iBook or PowerBook. When your battery gets low, you will see the low battery warning dialog on the screen. Continue to use your computer until it goes to sleep. At that point the battery has been sufficiently drained for calibration.
Connect the power adapter and leave it connected until the battery is fully charged again.
You have to fully charge and then discharge your battery only once to calibrate it. After that, you can connect and disconnect the power adapter when the battery is at any charge level.

Tip: When the battery reaches “empty”, the computer is forced into sleep mode. The battery actually keeps back a reserve beyond “empty”, to maintain the computer in sleep for a period of time. Once the battery is truly exhausted, the computer is forced to shut down. At this point, any open files could be lost. Therefore, it is important that you find an electrical outlet and connect the adapter before the forced shutdown occurs.

PowerBook G4 (15-inch Double-Layer SD), MacBook (all models), MacBook Pro (all models), and MacBook Pro (17-inch) (all models)
The battery calibration for the PowerBook G4 (15-inch Double-Layer SD) and any model of MacBook or MacBook Pro has been updated because of a new battery released with this computer. With these computers, follow these steps to calibrate your battery:

Plug in the power adapter and fully charge your PowerBook’s battery until the light ring or LED on the power adapter plug changes to green and the onscreen meter in the menu bar indicates that the battery is fully charged.
Allow the battery to rest in the fully charged state for at least two hours. You may use your computer during this time as long as the adapter is plugged in.
Disconnect the power adapter with the computer still on and start running the computer off battery power. You may use your computer during this time. When your battery gets low, you will see the low battery warning dialog on the screen.
Continue to keep your computer on until it goes to sleep. Save all your work and close all applications when the battery gets very low, before the computer goes to sleep.
Turn off the computer or allow it to sleep for five hours or more.
Connect the power adapter and leave it connected until the battery is fully charged again.
Tip: When the battery reaches “empty”, the computer is forced into sleep mode. The battery actually keeps back a reserve beyond “empty”, to maintain the computer in sleep for a period of time. Once the battery is truly exhausted, the computer is forced to shut down. At this point, with the safe sleep function introduced in the PowerBook G4 (15-inch Double-Layer SD) computers, the computer’s memory contents have been saved to the hard drive. When power is restored, the computer returns itself to its pre-sleep state using the safe sleep image on the hard drive.

Perhaps something is indeed wrong with my battery. It begins to drain quite quickly (you can practically watch the charge percentage in the menu bar tick down like a stopwatch) and it’s never warned me with a dialogue box before it suddenly goes to sleep due to low power. Very annoying. Fortunately, I’m under warrantee until June 5.

I would call Apple Support or take it into an Apple Certified shop especially if it is covered until June.

You should be getting better battery life.

You may want to check your battery for swelling since what you are describing are symptoms of swollen battery syndrome.

Yes … and my advice is take the battery out right now and just run from the mains until you’ve got your new one. If it starts swelling it seems to do so suddenly but initially almost imperceptibly, and from there it goes quite quickly.