How dangerous is it to buy a third-party laptop battery?
March 24, 2020 8:42 AM   Subscribe

My laptop battery is dying and the manufacturer (Lenovo) no longer manufactures or sells an official replacement for it, nor is a replacement battery sold by any large retailer. Should I buy one from a small third party seller?

The only replacement batteries I have been able to find are from small sellers or storefronts on eBay, Amazon, etc. These are either purportedly Lenovo-manufactured (but who knows), or explicitly manufactured by a different company.

I have heard batteries can be dangerous for chemical or fire reasons. How worried should I be about buying a laptop battery from one of these sellers? And is there any aftermarket brand that is more reliable than others?
posted by splitpeasoup to Technology (13 answers total)
I had an aftermarket battery purchased on ebay for years and while it stopped holding a good charge too quickly for me to be satisfied, it didn't do anything like cause a fire.

What model do you have? I was able to find (but chose not to purchase) an original Lenovo battery for my x220 (made in 2011) recently. If you have something *older* than be honest I suspect you could buy an entirely new(er)-used Thinkpad on ebay for less than what an OEM battery would cost anyway.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:51 AM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I bought one that worked fine for roughly 1-2 years before I noticed a distressing electrical smell coming from it. Couldn't tell you anything about its provenance (it wasn't for a Lenovo) except that I used a similar purchasing method to what you describe, and that I've never encountered a similar smell from any other power cord.

Would I do it again? If pressed, and unable to just buy a new laptop, yes—but I would keep a close eye on it and never leave it plugged in when not in use. IANA(laptop)D
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:56 AM on March 24, 2020

Sounds like you have no choice. My concern when buying one on eBay wouldn't be safety, but limited lifespan (when the NOS is batteries, you've got to be wary).
posted by Rash at 9:06 AM on March 24, 2020

I might get a kit from iFixit if they have the right one. I trust them.
posted by pinochiette at 9:18 AM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think given the circumstances I'd try to go to an outfit that remanufactures batteries on-demand rather than use a new-build Chinese battery. If the cells are replaced only, this means that the protection and management circuits remain the same and there is some control over the quality of the cells that are used. I can't vouch for any particular one, but this place offers the service I have in mind.
posted by doomsey at 9:53 AM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've been keeping an old Thinkpad alive for a decade on aftermarket batteries, and it's been fine. There are a lot more ways to cheap out or cut corners in power supplies than batteries, so I always like to buy OEM power supplies for laptops I need to keep alive, but aftermarket batteries I've had much better luck with.
posted by mhoye at 9:55 AM on March 24, 2020

I have bought a third party battery. It didn’t explode or catch fire, but stopped holding a charge within a year.

What laptop do you have? Are you sure Lenovo no longer makes it? If it shows as out of stock it doesn’t necessarily mean they no longer manufacture it, sometimes Lenovo is just out of stock.
posted by mistersix at 9:56 AM on March 24, 2020

... if you do buy an aftermarket battery, I'd suggest getting it from someplace that manages their own supply chain and vendors, rather than amazon. They have some reputation on the line and will be more interesting in patrolling their vendors for safety and reliability.
posted by doomsey at 9:57 AM on March 24, 2020

i bought a 3rd party battery factory direct while in china in 2007 and it still works fine although that laptop is 4 laptops ago, running windows xp like a quaint old auntie playing her victrola.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:15 AM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

BE CAREFUL if you do it. I was changing my girlfriends' battery and a spark put a tiny hole in the battery. High pressured fire started shooting out of the hole. I'm lucky I had an extinguisher next to me. I had to buy her a new Macbook Pro :-)
posted by Studiogeek at 11:54 AM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Lithium-ion batteries have some inherent danger. I've purchased non-OEM batteries for power tools and they're okay, but they don't see the use my laptop gets.

In my case, I've had 2 of the same Thinkpad, and use the better battery. Tons of old Thinkpads on ebay, cheap. Email sellers, maybe somebody will test battery life for you. It has been handy to have the extra power cord, too and other parts. The one I'm using right now was refurb from ebay, @ 80 bucks a year and a half ago, battery lasts at least 2 hours. Original owner likely kept it docked. Laptops with cracked screens are even cheaper.

I worked in IT, and have swapped hard drives from 1 Lenovo to another with just a bit of adjustment, and have swapped drives from fairly random laptops and desktops with generally good results, just time spent downloading drivers and rebooting. So if you can find a newer Lenovo you like for a reasonable price, you can move the drive to it. May require a specialized screwdriver; my Thinkpads usually just need a tiny flathead and tiny Phillips.
posted by theora55 at 12:58 PM on March 24, 2020

If you decide you're too uncomfortable with third-party batteries, another option is just to take the battery out and then only use the laptop when it's plugged in. I suggest searching around a bit before taking this option to see if there any issues for your particular laptop, for example there might be problems if your charger is underpowered.
posted by bright flowers at 1:26 PM on March 24, 2020

You're probably looking at $80 to $100 for a battery? I purchased online a used/refurb'ed lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon for $400 a few months ago. Not the latest generation, but still a nice machine. The first one they sent had problems; I complained, they stood behind it and sent me another machine that works fine. Possibly another option.
posted by at at 12:18 AM on March 25, 2020

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