Swollen Battery

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Postby heatwave » 2010.12.13 (01:15)

My ~3 year old Macbook Pro's battery has become swollen/unusable. Without a battery, I am forced to use my charging cord as a source of power. Ever since this has happened, every video game I own that uses a significant amount of memory is slow as fuck. Flash games like n still work fine, but all of my Source games, for example, now have frame rates below 20. I am certain that these slowdowns are related to the swollen battery, since I was playing TF2 earlier in the day without problems.

Usually when I boot up TF2, the internal fan spins up to full speed. Ever since this incident, the fan hardly spins up at all. Rebooting hasn't helped. So here are my questions:

Is it possible for a battery to damage my computer simply by swelling up a little?
Using my charging cord instead of my battery for power shouldn't make any difference, right?
How is my fan speed related to performance?
An overheated computer is a slow computer, right?
Is my fan failing to recognize that my computer is overheating?

This is more or less what my battery looks like:
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Postby smartalco » 2010.12.13 (01:37)

heatwave wrote:Is it possible for a battery to damage my computer simply by swelling up a little?

Mechanically, it is certainly possible. I don't think anything is directly above the battery though. Electronically, anything that it broke would probably just stop working altogether, not run worse.

Using my charging cord instead of my battery for power shouldn't make any difference, right?

Shouldn't, no. I did this for a few months with my old powerbook and it didn't do anything.

How is my fan speed related to performance?

It isn't, at least not directly, read on.

An overheated computer is a slow computer, right?

Basically yes, since your CPU and GPU will throttle themselves down if they pass a certain heat threshold.

Is my fan failing to recognize that my computer is overheating?

It is certainly possible that either the fan control or the fan itself apparently isn't doing its job.

Look for some application that monitors temps and fan speeds for your laptop and see what that says (I know they exist for MBPs, I just don't use one so I don't have a recommendation). Also make sure it isn't just something silly like one stick of your RAM is loose and therefore not being used.
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Postby SlappyMcGee » 2010.12.13 (02:04)

To me, it's more like, what caused your battery to swell that also could affect performance slowly over time? Ergo, Bad ventilation, high heat.
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Postby heatwave » 2010.12.13 (02:12)

Thanks for the advice.
System Profiler is recognizing both sticks of RAM, so that's not the issue.
I just downloaded a temperature monitor. Here are the various temperatures after waking my computer from a ~25 minute sleep (left), and after playing TF2 for 10 minutes (right):
ImageImage

I got around 10 fps, and I detected no change in fan speed.

Ooh! Just thought of something. Can I change my fan speed manually?

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Postby Vyacheslav » 2010.12.13 (02:57)

I am pretty sure there isn't anything directly above the battery, judging from this shot of my friend's Macbook. I assume the older Macbook Pros aren't terribly different in component layout.

Image.

The battery goes right below the RAM is, the large empty space.
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Postby smartalco » 2010.12.13 (09:48)

Yeah, this seems unrelated.

Those temperatures aren't really out of line. Especially for a notebook. I would guess the reason that your fan isn't going crazy is because your GPU isn't really getting all that hot. (62C is definitely toasty, but should be at least 15C off of any temperature it would throttle back at).

Which leaves us absolutely no where on your problem.
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Postby Vyacheslav » 2010.12.13 (15:01)

2nd opinion on those temps, those are actually really good for a MBP.
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Postby heatwave » 2010.12.13 (15:39)

Well, the battery itself is a big source of heat, no? Without it, I imagine everything would be generally cooler. I'll run some more tests when I get back home.

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Postby heatwave » 2010.12.13 (22:41)

Update!
Apparently, today is our second to last day under warranty with AppleCare, so we got a new battery for free. Booyah. I immediately tested out a little Geometry Wars clone (that was really laggy yesterday) and it's smooth as can be. Haven't tested any source games yet, so I'm pleased but hesitant. =\

Yep, sure enough, my fan is responding to system load, and TF2 is zippy again.

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Postby smartalco » 2010.12.14 (02:11)

Weird.

Last question: are you using the power supply that came with your laptop?
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Postby heatwave » 2010.12.14 (02:52)

Yes.

I forgot to mention: the swollen battery (when inserted into the laptop) pushed up against the bottom of the trackpad and clicker. This caused the clicker to become inoperable (you couldn't press downwards as the battery was pushing upwards). After taking the battery out, the clicker worked fine again, but the problems mentioned previously began to occur.

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