The first problem began with an apparent inability to charge my wife’s 13-inch Macbook Pro (Mid-2010 model). She began receiving battery status warnings as well. At the time I only suspected a software problem so I reset the SMC, which appeared to have resolved the problem.
Several weeks later my wife starting having problems with her Trackpad again, but this was a new problem. In addition to the Trackpad not responding properly, the right side was visibly raised and the ability to ‘click’ the Trackpad simply wasn’t possible.
I powered off the system, removed the bottom screws, and immediately discovered the problem:
The battery in her laptop had gone bad. As a result, it swelled and pushed against the Trackpad, causing erratic behavior and preventing the ‘click’ capability. It was also obvious that this was the cause of the previous charging problems and battery service warnings. The pressure from the swelling of the battery even caused two of the mounting screw holes, which are plastic, to break (fortunately those are part of the battery and not the laptop). Included below is a photo of one of these busted holes:
We had some luck caused by the fact that her system is older. The battery could be easily replaced without a visit to an Apple Store (that wasn’t much of an option for us anyway since the nearest Apple Store is a long drive from our home). Removal only required carefully disconnecting one cable and removing a couple of screws. I was able to find a replacement battery on Amazon.com, which is manufactured by Anker that cost us about $100. Overall, it wasn’t bad considering the laptop was no longer covered under warranty.
In addition, while unscrewing the bottom of the laptop case, I also discovered a screw was missing (perhaps pushed out by the expanding battery) so I ordered a replacement set to add the missing one back.
One night after removing the old battery I noticed it had expanded further, most likely because it was no longer constrained by the laptop chasis itself. As soon as I realized this I took it outside and threw it away, concerned it might have been a fire hazard.
When the replacement arrived from Amazon.com we added the new battery and screw. After letting it charge for most of the evening we powered it up and everything worked great.
In fact, I now suspect that the battery started going bad a long time ago. My wife immediately commented that her system seemed much faster and more responsive than it had been. We had simply assumed that some of the slowness was caused by upgrading her older machine to the last two newest OS X versions. However, it may be possible that the system was disrupted by the performance of the battery. Now, it’s running almost like new with no random pauses.