iBreak stories: The peculiar case of the MacBook Pro meltdown

General Knowledge

We recently came across a particularly peculiar iBreak case when we received a 13-inch Unibody MacBook Pro from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When we took a look at the device, we immediately noticed that something was strange with this computer. As you can see the green arrows pointing to in the photo, in some areas of the MacBook's keyboard the keys were actually melted.

The MacBook's owner provided us with a bit of information about what exactly occurred, explaining that the laptop got incredibly hot immediately before its meltdown. The extreme heat was followed by an unusual burning smell, and the LCD screen went blank and would not turn back on.

Our skilled technicians quickly realized that this would not be the standard repair, but we were up for the challenge. Since the customer had explicitly mentioned the burning smell, we realized that this would also be a strange symptom to see unless liquid had somehow been introduced into the computer or there was severe electrostatic discharge (ESD). We must admit that we kind of felt like we were in an episode of the television medical drama “House” and were putting the pieces together to solve an elaborate puzzle.

The extent of the MacBook Pro's damage
We set to work determining the complete damage of the device and discovered that not only was the keyboard damaged by heat and partially melted, but it was also blemished by an unidentified sticky liquid. The main logic board was also significantly damaged by both the same sticky liquid and heat. The extent of damage to the main logic board also suggested that it may have been damaged by electrostatic discharge, which can occur during improper handling of the device. We determined that it was possible that the MacBook had been opened and someone had attempted to clean it without following ESD precautions before we received the device here at iResQ.

The melted keycaps and subcomponents couldn't have been caused by a computer malfunction that led to overheating, but rather were produced by an external heat source. In addition, several of the melted keycaps were not located anywhere near the main logic board, positioned instead over the optical drive, which is one component that is simply not capable of generating heat at the intensity needed to melt the keycaps.

After reviewing all of our findings, we developed the theory that liquid had been spilled into the computer, causing the initial issues. We think that someone then tried to hide the evidence of the liquid spill by removing the main logic board and attempting to clean it, possibly using a hair dryer or other external heat source to dry it. Was it a teenager who spilled on the computer and then tried to cover it up without letting his or her parents find out?

Life is a mystery they say, and while we may never fully know the what happened, we did perform a MacBook repair. We fixed the main logic board and replaced the keyboard and top case and got this device up and running in no time.

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