MacBook Pro shuts down randomly, power button unresponsive

Occasionally while I'm using my Early 2011 MacBook Pro, the computer shuts down without warning. This happens about three to five times per week. It's a complete loss of power - the fan and all the lights turn off immediately. The computer will also often shut down while sleeping if I'm carrying it from one place to another (whether inside my backpack or just in my hands). This problem has been happening intermittently over the last year or so, but it's gotten much more frequent recently. As you can imagine, this is very frustrating so I hope you can help me!

Some additional symptoms:

  • This effect can be triggered basically at any time, for no apparent cause. It doesn't happen any more frequently when I'm running computationally heavy things, or when the computer is in a location that would make it prone to heating (i.e. when I'm sitting on the couch with a blanket on my knees and the laptop on top). Physical shock can sometimes cause this (more below), but it's maybe 1 time out of 10, and most of the time physical shocks do nothing at all (I've got an SSD in there).
  • Usually after the computer shuts down, I can't use the power button to turn it back on. Most of the time, the battery meter on the left hand side works. Sometimes an SMC reset allows me to turn the computer on normally, but other times I have to physically jostle the computer (close it, shake it, squeeze it gently) even to get the SMC reset to do anything.
  • From time to time, the battery menu item will tell me "Replace Now", but this is very intermittent and I haven't seen it in months. Usually System Information tells me it's condition is "Normal". Coconut Battery tells me I still have 4807 mAh capacity (83.3% design capacity) after 1278 cycles.
  • I have peeked inside the case a few times, inspected the battery, inspected connections of the cables for the battery, hard drive (I upgraded it to an SSD several years before this problem started appearing), but nothing is obviously awry.
  • Sometimes physical motion of the computer can cause it to shut down - normally this makes no difference (In fact I just took a minute while writing this to give my computer a rough shake, with no ill effects), but once in a while dropping a pen or bumping my leg into my desk can cause the computer to lose power.
  • I purchased a couple cheap knockoff Magsafe chargers in the last year or so, but I don't remember if this was before or after my problem started. Nevertheless, my wife's Macbook doesn't exhibit my problem and she uses the same chargers.

My thoughts are that the problem has to do with the power delivery system, either the battery or the DC-in board, but I don't really know how to investigate without just replacing them (and I'm not looking forward to pulling out the logic board).

So, gurus of iFixit, what do you think the problem could be? I'm all ears!

Answered! View the answer I have this problem too

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Open it, and try booting it without the keyboard and battery connected (it will boot when you plug the charger in). Leave it running to see if it turns itself off. If it doesn't, find out which is causing the problem by plugging one in and not the other.

Check the logic board for liquid damage (remove it completely, could be some underneath by the vent). Usually liquid is the cause when a Mac randomly turns itself off. If you find any blue corrosion, clean it with a brush and 95%+ isopropyl.

Lastly, stay away from the knockoff MagSafe chargers! Yes, they are cheaper, but I have seen lots cause components on the logic board to burn out before, they do not communicate well with the MacBook like original chargers do. This may have caused the issue you are experiencing, if none of the above works.

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Thanks for your response! I will try this, though unfortunately the problem is so intermittent that I don't know how long it will take for the problem to reappear.

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Just to give an update - I have tried this when working at my desk but I haven't yet seen the issue pop up again there. However, it does appear when I carry the computer from place to place - in this case, it's happened about every day this past week.

I'm thinking of just hedging my bets and buying a replacement battery, but before I do I was wondering - would it be possible for the battery to cause the computer to shut down while connected to the charger?

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It is very unlikely to be honest. Something inside could be shorting possibly, see Dim Green Magsafe Caused by Pressure to Logic Board

Beyond this, it would need professional diagnostics, so someone can check this in person. I would recommend taking it somewhere and see if they can resolve the problem.

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