Aluminum virus eating my laptop!

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by lloyd709, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. lloyd709 macrumors 6502

    Jan 10, 2008
    I don't know how else to describe it. I've had a Spec case on my laptop since new (about 4 months) without taking it off. I just took it off to swap the hard disc and found lots of dark splodges of what looks like mould - each splodge being a few millimetres in diameter. Under each one there is a tiny physical dint in the aluminium!!! It's not a disaster at the moment because you can hardly see them but I guess it could have been bad if I had left it much longer.

    Anyone had this before or know anything about it. I guess I've just got to make sure I take the case off every now and again and clean it.
  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    There's no such thing as an aluminum virus. It's most likely just aluminum oxide, which protects the aluminum from further oxidation.
  3. sniffs macrumors regular


    Jan 24, 2013
    Chances are it's not eating the metal but corroding it.

    It's entirely possible but would be insanely rare for it to happen.. take it to Apple?
  4. lloyd709 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 10, 2008
    The 'virus' bit was a bit of a joke (although, I guess it's not a joking matter!)

    The reality is though, I've now not tiny holes (well, more like tiny indents) in my MacbookPro where the case has been 'protecting it'!!
  5. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    You may, indeed, have pits where the oxidation took place. It wouldn't hurt to use some alcohol and a soft cloth or cotton ball to rub those spots to make sure they're not dirt.
  6. A7ibaba macrumors regular


    Apr 19, 2012
    Really ?! Man. U have some serious issues. It's just a laptop,true,its overpriced and expensive laptop,but still ... who cares about some virus that eat aluminium. Sell it before mutate and start spreading on human flesh
  7. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    There's nothing wrong with trying to take care of anything and keep it well maintained. That doesn't indicate "issues". :rolleyes:
  8. xxcysxx macrumors 6502

    Oct 12, 2011
    it means that its time for you to get a new laptop.;)
  9. Mr. Retrofire macrumors 603

    Mr. Retrofire

    Mar 2, 2010
    This virus is dangerous!
  10. abc123 macrumors 6502

    Apr 26, 2004
    Not rare at all in my experience.

    My skin (oils, sweat? eww) tend to react to metals and both my MBP and my previous powerbook experienced corrosion where my hand rubs, just under the trackpad. If I had to guess (I'm no chemist) I would say it is where the factory anodized oxide has been scratched, damaged, rubbed, etc and is starting to re-oxidise or corrode.

    It is only cosmetic and I'd consider it wear and tear and even years after it started, it hasn't caused more than small surface marks. I was sad when I noticed it on my computers but quickly moved on.
  11. jfyrfytr25 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 6, 2008
    Aluminium Virus eating my laptop!

    Damn Hackers!!!! Try Symantec:D
  12. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    One of the downsides to cases is that small dirt particles can get in them and then get continually rubbed into the metal as the case flexes.

    It's a similar problem with car covers.
  13. bobcan macrumors 6502a


    Jan 8, 2007
    Sunny but Cold.. Canada
    Pretty much exactly as I see it here too.. The Case, although protecting from the typical Bumps and Bruises, must be kept CLEAN where the contact surfaces are.. ** If Moisture and Dirt collect in contact areas, there will certainly be Oxidation occurring.. No different than RUST on an automobile in a wheel well, trunk, under floor rugs, or such if you do not Clean it and Dry it out regularly once it gets wet!!

    That being said, I have never used such a cover on my MBPs, but if you DO I would suggest a Weekly/Monthly removal and cleaning if it is in any sort inclement weather.. and if it stays Dry and Happy, that should mean it would be unlikely to ever corrode, unless your Relative Humidity in the area is quite high.. :apple:
  14. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    This pitting is usually caused by sweat… I have seen it on many aluminium Mac laptops notably around the palm rest area.
  15. switon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 10, 2012
    RE: Aluminum "eating" ...

    Hi all,

    While this is not entirely relevant, did you know that there is something that appears to "eat" aluminum?

    If you place a small droplet of mercury metal (a liquid at room temperature) on a piece of aluminum metal, then over time the aluminum metal will disintegrate into a pile of rubble! Actually, what happens is the mercury "cleans" the aluminum making a fresh aluminum surface. The aluminum then oxidizes in the air. The mercury acts as a catalyst, it is not consumed in the process, so the entire block of aluminum will eventually oxidize into a pile of aluminum oxide (Al_2O_3) dust.

    Normally, a block of aluminum metal does not have actual aluminum metal in contact with the air, rather it is covered by a thin coating of aluminum oxide that protects the bulk of the aluminum metal from oxidizing further. This thin aluminum oxide, also known as corundum, is quite hard and is insoluble in water, and therefore it provides a significant protection to the aluminum metal from scratches and water. The natural process of forming aluminum oxide on the surface of a piece of aluminum can be enhanced by a process known as anodizing. Anodizing not only increases the thickness of the aluminum oxide coating making it harder and more scratch resistant, but it can also color the aluminum oxide with other ions to produce various other colors of anodized aluminum.

    When you scratch a piece of aluminum metal, you cut through the aluminum oxide protective coating exposing aluminum metal to the air, but the aluminum metal immediately oxidizes forming a new aluminum oxide layer protecting it from further oxidation. This is why we say that iron rusts, but aluminum does not. As a point of fact, aluminum actually "rusts" (oxidizes) faster than iron, but aluminum oxide is quite hard and sticks to aluminum metal and itself and thus forms a protective layer on the aluminum block. An iron block, on the other hand, "rusts" (oxidizes) but the ferric oxide (rust) is not very hard and crumbles easily, thus the iron rust flakes off the iron block exposing fresh iron metal to the air and thus to further oxidation. Hence, over time, a block of iron will oxidize completely forming a pile of ferric oxide (rust) dust. But an aluminum block will not oxidize completely since its initial aluminum oxide protects the remainder of the bulk aluminum metal from further oxidation. (Unless, of course, there is some mercury metal around that "cleans" the aluminum block allowing it to oxidize fully into a pile of aluminum oxide dust.)

    ...just thought this was an interesting chemical reaction, as it is quite surprising to watch a large block of aluminum being "eaten" by a small drop of mercury.


    P.S. So, I have to ask the OP, did you get any mercury on your MBP's case? If so, then the entire case will eventually disintegrate into a pile of aluminum oxide dust. Acids slowly dissolve the protective aluminum oxide coating on aluminum, and thus acids will "pit" an aluminum surface --- this is probably what is happening to your MBP.
  16. Rhei macrumors member

    May 16, 2011
    Nothing to do with the topic, but I found the explained chemical reaction between aluminum and mercury interesting. Thanks for that info!
  17. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000


    Jan 8, 2008
    Tampa, Florida
    Don't forget that tiny amounts of dirt can get trapped under the case over time. As they are stuck pressed against the laptop, as you move it around and use it, they can be dug into the aluminum.
  18. switon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 10, 2012
    You're welcome, glad you found the chemistry interesting. It is actually quite amazing to watch this happen over time, as we are not used to seeing aluminum disintegrate like this into a pile of Al_2O_3 rubble.

  19. justperry macrumors G3


    Aug 10, 2007
    In the core of a black hole.
    And, that's why welding aluminium is also more difficult than Iron for instance, because of the oxidation layer it can't be welded the normal way, it needs AC welding instead of DC welding.
  20. Outkast27 macrumors 6502

    Feb 16, 2012

    Post a picture, I was about to ask the same question.
  21. lloyd709 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 10, 2008
    The marks are extremely small (probably about half a millimetre (0.02 of an inch)) in diameter so nothing is really visible with my camera phone. I've got a proper macro lens in the UK but I'm Spain at the moment for another week but will post one when I get back.
  22. Outkast27 macrumors 6502

    Feb 16, 2012
  23. simonmet macrumors 68000


    Sep 9, 2012
    It's likely that the case you used has not allowed the aluminium surface to breathe properly (encouraging and trapping moisture on the surface) and this has caused or accelerated minor corrosion.

    Synthetic rubbers, leathers and plastics are notoriously bad at this, though some are ok if they've got a rougher micro-surface that lets air move around between it and another surface. Basically if the material feels smooth or sticky then it's not going to breathe very well.

    Personally I avoid these types of clip-on cases in favour of neoprene sleeves. This (wet-suit) material is perfect because it offers good protection from scratches, minor bumps (but not major/drop incidents so you still need a bag) and it's designed to breath so as not to trap sweat and cause overheating in surfers. Plus, since you actually take it out of the sleeve to use it it gives it a chance to breathe anyway.

    I've also seen that minor corrosion on palm rests caused by natural sweat and oils from our hands. There's not much you can do there though except use a protective film maybe.
  24. ZipZap macrumors 603

    Dec 14, 2007
    Based upon the chemical reaction described above this did not occur because of the case or moisture but scratches that exposed the raw aluminum to those items.

    The oxidized surface should protect from water, sweat etc...

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