Q and A: My MacBook Pro woke up in my bag and is burning up!

Q. Found my MacBook Pro in my work bag with all the fans blazing, and it was really hot. It wasn’t responding, so I freaked out and shut it down. Was that the right thing to do? How can I prevent this from happening again?

A. There is nothing more startling than reaching for your computer bag and feeling the heat coming out of it like you just opened the oven. I’m sad to say I’ve had this happen more than a few times in my 10 year history of owning laptops. First thing to do is try not to panic. If the computer is not responding, you can force shut it down by holding down the power button for 5-12 seconds. This next part is extremely important. Click the power button again to restart your machine. I know this may sound odd, but you want the fans to do their job. You’ll want to put your MacBook Pro on a hard flat surface in a cool area. If you’re in the car (which is where I normally discover mine), and you’re unable to put it on a flat surface, open it up and set it standing on its side. Obviously be sure you’re not driving, and don’t leave it in your car exposed like that. The goal is to allow the fans to cool it down while getting the most outside airflow to it. While it may sound tempting, do not ever put it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Now, let’s talk about why it happened. It’s possible that you put your computer in your bag before it was entirely asleep. To be sure that it’s asleep, wait until the sleep indicator light is slowly pulsing. Be sure that you unplug all external devices (except power—unplugging your AC adapter will not wake it) from it before putting it asleep as well. Unplugging anything USB will cause it to wake regardless of the lid being closed. One other thing to look for is a loose fitting bag that might be allowing your Mac’s lid to open when you’re in motion. If you have a floppy lid, it might be worth taking it into your local Apple Specialist to get the hinges looked at.

Have you had this happen to you? Let us know in the comments. If you have a Mac question that you would like answered, please email ask@macgasm.net

Apple Systems Admin for mac-fusion, which is just a fancy name for a tech. For the last 12 years I've been fixing Macs and we specialize in helping businesses run their company on a Mac. If you like Mac tweets,… Full Bio