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.

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The Key to iPhone Data Recovery

Hundreds of broken, damaged and malfunctioning iPhones are sent to DriveSavers every month for data recovery. Despite having the best smartphone success rate in the industry, we aren’t able to recover all of them. Many factors are involved, some of which we’ll go into here.

To obtain the best results in recovering an iPhone, DriveSavers engineers must carefully coax it into a semi-functional state, at least briefly, in order to extract the important data.

Every single phone that comes in the door may require hours of inspection and testing to locate the point or points of failure. In many cases, hardware engineers will have to micro solder multiple jumpers and leads in addition to cleaning corrosion and other forms of damage to get a device to power up.

When we do get an iPhone to work again, we don’t know how long it will remain viable, so we have to move quickly at that point to rescue the important data.

Most of the iPhones we receive are protected by passcodes, which we highly recommend as just one measure to protect sensitive personal information. You can learn other security measures from our article, 7 Ways to Secure Your Smartphone.

Passcode protection may still be active, even if the phone is unusable. iPhone encryption and security is very robust—increasingly so with each new version. If our engineers don’t have a working passcode, iPhone data recovery may not be possible.

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