MacBook Pro Catches Fire While Allegedly Under 'Normal Use'

Take note: faulty lithium-ion batteries can cause any modern gadget to explode, even Apple laptops.

A video posted to Reddit and Twitter shows a charred MacBook Pro after it caught fire and exploded while allegedly operating under normal conditions. Uploaded by musician White Panda, the explosion was so severe that it caused smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to go off. Fortunately, no one was injured.  

Credit: White Panda/Reddit

White Panda shot the video just a few minutes after his laptop ignited. The alarming clip shows smoke billowing out of his MacBook Pro's lid along with black char marks on both the laptop lid and the wood floor underneath. The MacBook owner says he put the laptop down once he started to see smoke, shortly before the device "popped" and insantly caught fire. 

"It was literally like when someone throws a smoke grenade and it lands and starts shooting out all sides," White Panda told Mashable. "Out of nowhere, smoke was pouring out of both sides of the computer."

After the MacBook Pro cooled off, White Panda brought the laptop to an Apple store looking for answers. He was told that the unstable device would need to be kept in a fireproof safe for 24 hours before it could be further assessed. After the store failed to reach out, White Panda gave them a call and was told his complaint would be "further escalated," which, as Apple Insider points out, means shipping the unit to Cupertino. 

Apple offered White Panda a replacement MacBook, but the troubled user says he'll evaluate his options before accepting, and that he's been experienced shortness of breath and headaches since the explosion.

These sorts of incidents are typically caused by misuse or failures in cheap, third-party components. However, White Panda claims the incident happened under normal use, and that the notebook was on his lap and plugged in when it started spewing smoke from the sides. 

This isn't the first time a laptop has spontaneously caught fire, and it won't be the last. The blame falls on lithium-ion batteries found in practically every modern gadget, from smartphones to electric toothbrushes. While efficient, lithium-ion batteries must be handled with care to prevent a chain reaction called thermal runaway. In this positive feedback loop, the heat of a failing cell releases energy, causing the next cell to increase in temperature and release more heat at a faster rate. The domino effect results in a catastrophic failure of the battery, and often leads to dangerous conditions. 

Several incidents involving lithium-ion batteries --- most notably the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco --- has forced government organizations to impose strict regulations on certain gadgets. Lithium batteries are regulated as hazardous materials under the U.S. Department of Transportation, and travelers are required to keep spare lithium-ion batteries in carry-on luggage only, according to Federal Aviation Association rules.

We have reached out to Apple to learn more about the MacBook Pro incident and will update this article if we hear back.

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy is the assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag where he reviews laptops, phones and other gadgets while covering the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News covering 5G and IoT. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, traveling or watching soccer.