Swollen Battery in MBP, how worried should I be

Contrarian view Your device has lived a nice long life, but its time to move on. Even if you do replace the battery, then what? Come fall, the device won’t run the latest OS. You might say thats fine, but soon you won’t be getting security updates, which is much less fine. And then you won’t be able to run the current versions of your favorite apps.

Its time to move on. If you are a consultant and this is your customer, it would be bad advice to say spend some money and keep it going.

The sad, uncomfortable fact we need to come to grips with is that these devices (or any piece of technology) aren’t lifetime purchases. They are at best five year purchases. Better to buy the device, get the apple care, and sell/trade it in at 3 years when the apple care runs out and it has max resale value. Is that a bummer, sure. Is that the financial reality? Yep! Am I already mourning the thousands of dollars of Sonos gear in my house that I’ll have to replace in a few years even though it functions just fine? Yep!

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@Timpearson Thanks for your view, I quite agree. This client is now properly informed about the risks, this is all I can do (and must do as to not become liable). He plans to replace these MacBooks in Nov/Dec. The ball is firmly in their court.

I know both user’s usage pattern quite well, they mainly use the MBPs for email. One of the two users can use Safari, the other doesn’t know what a browser is and has hardly, if ever, used it. They don’t want any training. It would well make financial sense to replace the batteries. They also own iPhone 13 (after previously iPhone X), but have yet to take their first photo with it.

I suppose different people have different needs.

I concur with all those that recommended immediate battery replacement. I had the same thing with a late 2013 MBP. I worked through a local independent retailer and got a slightly higher capacity battery. The clue was the top would not close properly. After repair (about $150) all has been well and full charge is 300 MAh more than original design.

According to the Mactracker app, this model is classed as “vintage” by Apple now.

Last time I had a vintage MacBook Pro with a swollen battery, they refused to do any battery change on it accordingly, due to being too old for their techs to work on. In the end, I bought a matching third-party suppliers battery on Ebay UK and replaced it myself (then sold the machine shortly after).

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Service and parts may be obtained for longer, as required by law or for up to 7 years, subject to parts availability. Additionally, Mac notebooks may be eligible for an extended battery-only repair period for up to 10 years from when the product was last distributed for sale, subject to parts availability.

I think my old 15MBP 2009 had actually just crept over the Vintage and into Obsolete (just over 7-years) in mid-2016. They still refused battery changes AFAIR, hence me going DIY. But things may have changed since 2016, so worth a try – they can only say no.

Or it could be Apple just didn’t have the parts anymore. I expect they start winding down inventory on parts as a model approaches 7 years and probably run out of batteries fairly quickly as demand for them rises as the model gets older.


I wonder if independent repairers Fixio (used to be MacMan) could do that work for the user?

@neilbarstow Many thanks for this UK specific hint, much appreciated. Good independents always of interest. Two others are The BookYard (Liverpool) and VIS in Reading (applemacparts.co.uk)

When it was time to replace the battery in my 2015 13-inch MBP, Apple told me that the high cost of replacement is due to the fact that they don’t replace just the battery—they replace the entire top case, which includes a new battery glued in place.The same was true when the battery in my 2017 15-inch MBP failed prematurely—but AppleCare covered the replacement cost in the second instance.

That may be, but that doesn’t solve the problem of an old fire hazard laptop knocking around the house.

I don’t think this has been mentioned, but if you don’t need your laptop to work from battery power you can remove the battery and run off mains power. At least we were able to do this with one old MB. I think we had to add some weight in place of the battery so it would stay put. I know you mentioned that taking the battery out yourself wasn’t an option, so this may not be of much help.

Over the years, we’ve replaced at least three MB batteries because of swelling. In some cases we realized the problem when the trackpad because somewhat unusable.

If you’re worried about battery fires, a paper in Nature Chemistry reports that a lithium battery in a laptop that had been left unused for years in a cabinet ignited and destroyed most of a chemistry laboratory, doing 1.4 million of Euros in damage. It wasn’t a Mac, but old laptops do get stored and forgotten in your homes and offices. The authors recommended if you have any disused laptops with lithium batteries, remove them and dispose of the batteries. The laptop will work if you plug them into wall power. I just removed the battery from my old iBook G3, and found it runs without the battery when plugged into the wall through an adapter. In practice, that’s good enough to get anything you need from an old machine. I have removed the battery and will take it to the recycling center.


Oh dear. I have about 10 old laptops stored in various spots.

Thanks for the tip. I still have my old iBook G4 on a shelf. The battery was removed a long time ago, and it is not swollen, but I probably should recycle it and use use the power brick if I need to turn it on again.

(I keep it because I have occasionally needed to use it to open an old document that doesn’t import properly into a modern app. It’s often easier to open it on the PPC Mac and then export into a newer format.)

Just a reminder that not all MacBooks can start on mains power without a battery.

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5 years is far too short a life for something as exceptionally expensive as a Macbook. I would expect even a $500 laptop to have a longer useful life than that. These devices shouldn’t be treated as disposable. The hardware is more often than not still perfectly functional and useful, especially for the average user. If it wasn’t for the lack of a new battery my 2011 Macbook Pro would still do everything I need, which is well beyond the average user requirements.

US residents can buy replacement batteries for some older Mac laptops from OWC for much less than Apple charges for the top case assembly; but although the battery is technically user-replaceable, it’s a tricky procedure because the original battery is glued in. I have taken apart many Mac laptops over the years; but I would prefer to have a professional Mac tech replace the battery in my old laptop when the time comes. Actually, the old battery is still working fine even though the cycle count is now around 1,350. I don’t use this computer regularly, but I am struck by how well it runs whenever I start it up. What a stupid waste that this excellent computer should be considered “obsolete”!