MacBook burns, user says battery at fault

A MacBook user reported Monday that his Apple laptop burst into flames, apparently because of a bad battery. He said that the laptop battery had not been on last year’s recall list.

According to an account posted to the MacTalk forum by an Australian MacBook owner identified as mattyb, the laptop was charging when his housemate woke him after hearing the computer hiss and seeing smoke pour from the device.

“At first I thought that the lamp had fallen and set fire to the curtain,” mattyb wrote. “As I got closer, I realized it was my [MacBook] … burning! I picked it up and blew on it and swung it around to put the flames out. The bookshelf it was sitting on was burnt and there were a couple of magazines that were on fire too.”

After putting out the fire, mattyb noted that the laptop’s battery was swollen and burnt, “so it’s definitely the battery that exploded and caught fire. The MacBook is melted on the bottom and severely charred.”

In an update later, the laptop owner said that local Apple representatives had told him they would come to his house to collect the damaged unit, replace it and might compensate him for property damage. “Strange thing is, there was no symptoms like excessive heat or deformation of the battery or anything like that at all,” mattyb said. “I also checked quite a while ago to see if my battery was one of the recall units. It was not.”

Last August, Apple recalled 1.8 million lithium-ion batteries made by Sony designed to work in iBook and PowerBook G4 computers. Just days before that, Dell had recalled 4.1 million Sony laptop batteries because of concerns they might overheat. Several other laptop makers later joined in with their own recalls.

Even the MacBook Pro has seen some batteries exchanged, though Apple is careful to say the recalled units don't pose a safety risk. The MacBook product line, has not been part of any battery exchange program from Apple.

“We were damn lucky not to have a house burnt to the ground,” mattyb said. “I have been out for most of the weekend and this night was the only night I had it charging.”

Apple officials did not respond to a call for comment.

Editor's note: Added some details about Apple's laptop battery exchange programs.

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