Laptops Are Still Exploding


Laptops Are Still Exploding

UPDATED: 9/25/2015

In 2006, PC Pitstop helped to expose the dangers of Lithium Ion laptop batteries. After 7 years, we hoped computer and battery OEMs would have taken dramatic steps to minimize these risks. However, our concerns were reignited by news of a recent large battery recall at Best Buy.

So, we once again turned to our friends at D2 Worldwide to investigate and address the question:

Are Lithium Ion laptop batteries any safer in 2013?

The results are disturbing.

Exploding Laptop 2013 (Extended Version)

Exploding Laptop 2013 (Reaction Only Version)

Exploding Laptop 2006

Lithium Ion Battery Fire Incidents in the News:

Fujitsu America Recalls Battery Packs for Fujitsu Notebook Computers Due to Fire Hazard
cpsc.gov

Previously Unseen Government Video of Li Ion Battery Dangers
By Tom Vacar | KTVU.com

Laptops on Beds Can Spark Fires
By Liz Crenshaw | washington.com | Jul 9, 2013

View more videos at: http://nbcwashington.com.

Apple MacBook battery: Exploded
By Violet Blue for Pulp Tech | November 20, 2013

Midtown condo board claims exploding laptop caused major damage
By David Jones | The Real Deal | June 26, 2013

Laptop battery causes apartment fire in Manassas, officials say
By Jeremy Borden | Washington Post | May 21, 2013

Laptop fire almost destroys college library
By Livi Wilkinson | The Tab Oxford | March 6, 2013

Firefighters: Laptop battery set mattress on fire
By KVAL News | Jan 23, 2013

Laptop battery likely cause of fatal house fire
By thelocal.se | Dec 3, 2009

Laptop fire blamed for Vancouver death
CBC News | Aug 26, 2009

70,000 HP laptop batteries recalled due to fire hazard
by Darren Murph | May 14, 2009

Laptop Explodes at LAX (2007)

Man blames Dell laptop for house fire
By Erin Bryce | Aug 18, 2006

Another Dell Laptop Ablaze!
By consumerist.com | July 28, 2006

Dell said to have ‘dozens’ of burned laptop incidents on file
By Register Hardware | 21 Jul 2006

Dell Pinpointed Sony Battery Flaw Last Year, Records Show
CRN by Edward F. Moltzen on October 4, 2006

Dell laptop explodes at Japanese conference
By Paul Hales | Jun 21 2006

Past PC Pitstop Lithium Ion Battery Fire Research:

Notebook PC Explodes

Playing with Fire

Playing with Fire II

A Video is Worth a Hundred Blogs

Exploding Laptop Video Featured on National TV

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PC Pitstop's Pit Crew is committed to providing you with the information you need to keep your PC safe and running like new.

35 Comments

  1. What is the recommended “clean up” process of a home that was lightly smoked up from a lithium battery fire?

  2. I would also like to add that the EEE PC that the battery was connected to still works – running off the mains or from the original battery that came supplied as standard. It does have a burned smell on it though. It boots up just fine, and no apparent problems. We bought the additional longer life battery for use on holiday. We were planning to take this EEE PC with us to Los Angeles. I can't imagine the chaos that would have occured if it had exploded on the flight over there! We have to keep the faulty battery until the insurance company comes to carry out an inspection. I've decided to leave this battery in the garden under a plastic bowl, as I'm afraid to leave it in the house in it's unstable condition. I was weary even to touch it at all.

  3. Jason: Can you provide us with more details? Do you have photos of the aftermath? Would appreciate the opportunity to share your story with our community. Feel free to message us on Facebook to discuss further.

  4. Our EEE PC battery just exploded today whilst I was out. It wasn't connected to the mains or left turned on. The PC was melted to the carpet and burned holes through the bedding in my room. The carpet was scorched and bits of metal sprayed all over the place.

  5. The lithium-ion batteries have been known to catch fire and possibly explode for well over 32 years. You know those little coin batteries on the computer motherboards that keep the time and other settings when the computer is turned off? They can and have exploded. Check your computers documentation. The very first page with all the warnings on it as well as anytime that battery is mentioned throughout the pages.

    It may not happen often but often enough for the warnings.

    The problems arise from the batteries being damaged or improperly charged. If the charging system malfunctions to the point of overcharging the batteries get very hot and unstable.

    If you drop the laptop, thoroughly check the batteries for cracks. Some of which may be very small but enlarge with heat and may result in shorts and even more heat. Also check the batteries for a puffy spot that will indicate a damaged battery.

    This will require periodic removal and inspection of the batteries. Only buy manufacturer approved replacement batteries.

    I’m not saying that you have to buy from the manufacturer like Sony but one that meets the approval from the manufacturer like Sony.

    Ultimately the choice is YOURS. To save a few bucks, is it worth the risk of life and/or property?

    Best of luck to all………..Alan M.

  6. A question for doubters of PC Pitstop’s veracity and motives: How many of you have every experienced the problems/disasters associated with automobile recalls over the years? Just because it hasn’t happened to you in all the years/miles you’ve been driving doesn’t mean it can’t happen or hasn’t happened to someone else.

    Type “sony battery recall” into the Google search box and see some of the other sites and publications that have reported this story. If you’ve only read about it on PC Pitstop maybe you should be reading or, at least, glancing a bit elsewhere.

  7. Now if the battery is old, then exploisions are a concern, but new batteries, unless manufactured faulty run a very low likelihood…and yes I know I used exploision.

    • @Jim Nicholson:

      Mass produced in China.

      Former great brands like Western Digital, Seagate, ASUS and others, even the revered “iAnything”, are now made the same way, in the same factories, which have little quality control.

      Not only can they not test each battery, fully, as one commenter said, but the few they do test, are tested under less than real world circumstances and loads, so the buyer better beware and be very vigilant.

      (Foxconn is known for their workers walking off of the line, going to the roof and jumping off, so they just installed nets, rather than addressing the actual problems, which the workers face each and every day, day in and day out.)

  8. Apparently the people at Pitstop never heard the story about the boy that cried wolf. This is not the first time they have had a bogus story. Not only that, they recommend certain sites that are bogus ripoffs too. If they ever have a real story I will miss it because I’ll never pay any attention to them anymore.

  9. You have two scenarios here. One where the laptop was left running on a bed and the other an experiment. Both had potential to kill so I am happy to see this exposed.

    Although I have never seen this personally, you would have to be an idot to think that the dangers with Lithium batteries do not exist. 🙂

  10. Erm, I wonder why they placed the laptop on an electric griddle? Was they gonna fry some bacon and “accidentaly” placed the laptop on the griddle?

    • @phalanges:

      Look under “Related Posts” at the top of the comments and read the one that is titled: “Notebook PC Explodes”

      “We intentionally created conditions in which the Li-ON battery pack would explode inside a generic portable. The results are dramatic. There are numerous conditions where these fires can occur…”

  11. In the first video, when the clip of the fires starts, there is a disclaimer on the left of the screen that says that the battery was forced into a runaway mode. I wonder what circumstances would be in force for this to happen in the real world?

    • @Ryan Smith:

      I came across a situation just like that, just a few days ago.

      One person was asking why he couldn’t use the RCR123A batteries in a “Surefire” tactical flashlight. It peaked my curiosity.

      Since most people will pose a question and then forgo the power of the internet and search engines, which are right in front of them, on the same device they typed the question with, and lets someone else do the research, that is what I did. (The research part 😉

      “Surefire” lights are very bright LED lights and are on the expensive side, compared to many other tactical lights. They come with virtually the same type of batteries as the RCR123A batteries, but are slightly different in size, compared to the RCR1233As, which will not fit into the tube.

      The reason for this is that the Surefire lights sink a lot of current to provide that nice bright light, in a still mountable compact size, which, of course, eats batteries pretty quickly. If they could use the RCR123A Lithium-Ion type batteries, then the batteries would be happy to supply the needed power, (Power, as in P=IxR aka Power = current x voltage.), as there isn’t any way to to regulate just how much current is being sunk, from the 3.2 V. batteries, so the batteries will keep sourcing as much current as possible, even if it exceeds their power rating. which will cause the batteries to get hot and then either shut down the light, to protect it and the batteries, or the batteries get too hot, and then we have a real heat problem, which could, potentially, cause the battery to catch fire.

      I read some of the reviews of the Surefire lights, and several people mentioned that even with the recommended batteries for the lights, that the light tube, where the batteries fit in, does get quite hot to the touch, when the light has been on for any appreciable amount of time. And, the battery life leaves a lot to be desired.

      So, to me, in my opinion, then Surefire has made a series of tactical flashlights that are highly rated, ‘lumens’ wise, yet they don’t allow for a proper size of battery (mAH wise.),to be used with them to supply the needed current, (Power), which would make the lights too big to be considered a tactical flashlight and also too big, to be mounted on any type of firearm. In essence, they have lights that use batteries that are too small, size and power wise, to make the lights as bright as they are, at a great expense to the batteries and the owner’s wallet. The Lithium-ions will supply the needed current, but at an expense to the batteries and also to the operator, should they catch fire or even explode.

      I can’t find any record of any having exploded, but it would be possible, theoretically.

  12. The 787 batteries that either overheated or caught fire were Lithium-ion batteries. However, Boeing was not required to change back to Ni-Cads, or a different technology, to solve the issue. Instead, they had to build a better enclosure and have a backup battery source, just in case the battery did decide to get hot and catch fire, which Lithium-ion batteries can and sometimes do, to prevent the fire from affecting any other parts or system, of the aircraft.

    iPhones and the such will not get any smaller in size, due to the encapsulation of the Lithium-ion batteries inside them, just in case. Until the Lithium-ion batteries are either able to be made more stable or a better way to contain any possible heat and/or possible fire related issue, can be better addressed, they won’t get any smaller. (Lithium reacts very violently when it comes into contact with just plain water.)

    I use rechargeable RCR132A, AAA and AA batteries, in many different ways. With the brand I buy, the AAA and AA are Lithium-metal, (NIMH), batteries, which are also used in many other devices, such as hand held power tools, etc. They are much more stable than the Lithium-ion batteries, but, the RCR123A batteries I use are Lithium-Ion, but they have a built in protection circuit, which will shut the battery completely down, often, forever, if an over-volt, over-current or a reverse voltage situation occurs. I have had only two Lithium-ion batteries that have done that and both were ‘overcharged’ by accident, when I used a non voltage/current regulated recharger, without a timing circuit. (The one I used looks almost identical to the one I got for the Lithium-Ions and so that was my mistake.)

    I would think that laptop and aviation grade lithium-ion batteries would have the same type of protection circuit in them, to immediately and completely shut off all electron flow, between the anode and the cathode. Or, possibly, the larger size batteries do not shut down fast enough, after having overheated, very quickly, after an over-volt or an over-current event, which in a very small percent of the batteries, can be severe enough to actually cause a on fire.

    As for the commenter who said they would have heard more, if it were true, must not be catching the mounting number of articles I have read about “Blackberry” and other small devices getting hot enough to melt, and on occasion, actually start on fire.

    With my laptop, the battery is only inside of it, while I am using it and while allowing it to fully recharge. I am present in both cases, as the laptop would not be cheap to replace, should something happen.

    Also, enough incidents have been documented, that no matter how small the percentage is, in relation to the actual number of devices, that are in use with Lithium-ion batteries in them, is still not worth the gamble to me.

    No matter how ‘freak’ any one accident may be, someone WILL be the victim. I chose not to be. But, as an Electrical Engineer for thirty plus years, what the heck would I know?

  13. I’ve had no such problems with anything I’ve worked on! batteries are like anything else on a computer…meaning they are man made and we all know that if it’s man made then it could/can fail! they mass produce these things and there is no way they can check each and every one completely! this is nothing more than some kind of scare tactic, if this was actual then it would be all over the news everywhere!! and this is the only place I’ve read or heard anything of it!

  14. I am disappointed regarding PC Pitstop publishing a “sensationalized” article that is self-aggrandizement for a small company that apparently wants attention.

  15. Hey Max
    Here what you are saying and I too have never experience any fire with any laptop and only really noticed with the recent fire on Boeing 787 jets that were grounded using lithium batteries which maybe totally different batteries. But if it is not true, If I were the publishers of PC Pitstop, my concern would be liability claim for publishing false information.

  16. well id use a little common sense and caution,, not leave unattended over night or when away.

  17. bunch of bullshit, I've worked with ton's of laptops, including acer, apple, toshiba, dell, and others, and have NEVER NEVER EVER dealt with an exploding battery. I have looked up the info that they were flashing around on their video, definitely no recalls on sony batteries, or any newer dell batteries; all bogus claims that they cant back up with facts, not a newscast. TOTAL WASTE OF TIME AND A TACTIC TO SCARE PEOPLE!

  18. No alternative options are presented. Is this a problem with no solution? Do cost analyses indicate it cheaper to just let a few citizens go up in smoke than to fix the problem? Is anyone even working on a fix? Are there any safe batteries out there available for purchase? Since most to all home extinguishers are Classes A, B, and C does this mean we now have to run out and get the special Class Ds in order to have them handy in every room in which the equipments is to be used? Lots of unanswered questions here. This reads as if it is Part One of a Two-Part series wherein we will find out what we should do next installment.

    • @JH:
      The alternative option is to not continuous overcharge your battery with some external device while shutting down all safety measures build in the motherboard.

      This video is just something like: i got a barrel of fuel and i put it on fire, guess what, it burns…

  19. It appears that the laptop was on some kind of heating device. How hot was this device?

    thanks

    Jerry
    Maui

    • @JERRY PALMER:
      Where do you see a heating device?
      What is shown is a laptop on a stand for laptops.
      If you look close the cord and power supply for the laptop is all that is shown.

  20. An excellent, informative article. We should all be vigilant in how we work with our laptops, store them and ensure they are kept as cool as possible.

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