Apple Wireless Keyboard – Cheap Battery Warning


(See comments at the end – could this have been the result of mixing alkaline batteries from two different manufacturers?)

It’s always good if you can learn from your own mistakes, even better if you can learn from someone else’s. Now what follows might be a little obvious, but what caught me out is just how quickly something can go bad.

I have a Mac Mini in the lounge that’s now doing sterling service running Plex Media Server 0.9.0.21. First up, if you haven’t tried Plex, then this is what your Mac Mini, a TV and your video/music/photo collection were made for! Anyway, to get back on track the majority of my interaction with the Mac Mini and Plex is via the Apple Remote Control and I rarely have to use the keyboard or mouse. The keyboard is of course the all aluminium Apple Wireless Keyboard which came with my Mac Pro, but which I replaced with a Logitech diNovo ‘Mac’ keyboard as I find it both more comfortable and functional for heavy use on the Pro. The Wireless Keyboard was however fine for the occasional use it saw with the Mac Mini.

 

Cheap battery

Cheap batteries - you get what you pay for!

 

I’d loaded it up with three Duracell Ultra AA batteries ages ago – can’t even remember when – but inevitably I finally got the on-screen warning that the batteries were low and needed replacing. I only had two spare Duracell’s so later that day I picked up some supermarket AA batteries while I was out shopping, and then popped the two Duracell batteries in, followed by a Sainsbury’s Extra Long Life Alkaline battery and thought no more of it. Just four weeks later the low battery warning popped up again, so I went to remove the batteries to check. First problem was it was very difficult to remove the end cap from the battery compartment and as I did so I saw there was corrosion on it. Then I had a devil of a job removing the batteries, having to resort to hitting the keyboard on the carpet.

Luckily after about 5 minutes of careful bashing, all three batteries were out and I discovered that while the two Duracell batteries looked fine, the Sainsbury’s battery had leaked. The top third of the inside of the battery compartment was covered in this greyish white corrosion, as was the battery itself! I then spent about an hour carefully cleaning as much of the corrosion out of the end of the battery compartment as I could using a selection of long pointy objects, an old toothbrush, a torch and a can of compressed air. Hopefully the keyboard has been saved, and needless to say the supermarket batteries are being returned and I’ll stick with good quality batteries from now on!

If you’re tempted to use cheap batteries with the Apple Wireless Keyboard, then just take care you don’t suffer the same fate I did. Had I put the supermarket battery in first before the two Duracells rather than after them, then the keyboard would probably have been history.

 

Corroded

Corroded battery compartment

 

 

Household items

Lucky I had these to hand...

 

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13 Responses

  1. A great warning! But the problem may not have been with the ‘cheap’ batteries, but that you mixed battery types.

    I’m no battery expert, but I do often see warnings against mixing different batteries in a given application – even if they appear to be of the same basic type. I’d assumed this was simple marketing nonsense, but your ‘experiment’ may have proven that the warning is real!

  2. That’s a good point – thinking about it now, I’ve probably seen similar warnings in the past. Trouble is in this day and age you tend to think an alkaline battery is an alkaline battery, and the huge array of standards and regulations we have these days would dictate that these things are very similar under the skin. I never gave it a second thought, but from now on I’ll take your advice and not mix different makes, and certainly not in expensive items like the keyboard!

    What is interesting is that it’s almost as though the two Duracell batteries ‘cooked’ the Sainsburys battery where it sat… and in just 4 weeks too!

  3. Incidentally, Which? magazine have just done a review on batteries and their recommendations are:

    For disposable AA batteries – Energizer Ultimate Lithium (scored 95%) or Maplin Extralonglife+ (scored 88%). The Duracell Ultra that I use came fourth in their test with a score of just 63%.

  4. I have the same problem (I cannot even get the batteries out) with the Duracells I put in when the keyboard was new. It is not a battery problem. It is a chemical reaction with the aluminum problem. In other words, it is an Apple, not a battery problem. Does anyone know if Apple has at least suggested ways to remove the corrosion and old batteries. Or, like their Mobile Me disaster, are they so not use to addressing negative customer issues, they do nothing?

    • If there’s an Apple Retail Store near you, then I’d take the keyboard to them and ask them for help. Certainly the people down my local store are pretty helpful. The problem is that I don’t think battery corrosion is a widely reported problem in their aluminium devices (e.g. it would affect the Magic Trackpad as well). Still, may be worth a shot. Good luck.

  5. Hi guys I am writing from Singapore and I had the same battery stuck problem too. Tried drilling holes through the cap but the metal was tough. I had also tried baking soda or bicarbonate soda but the cover cap was too tight to be unscrewed! Apple is not going to address this problem nor any recall or replacement was offered by Apple.

    • Hi,
      I have the same problem with an apple track pad and wireless keyboard. In both cases the battery access cap has jammed solid
      (presumably due to leaking batteries within) and cannot be opened.
      The ‘Genius’s’ at the Apple store where also unable to open them and as in SP’s case above, have offered no replacement or address.

  6. I got the same problem, the batteries have leaked, the aluminum has corroded (wrong metal to use for a battery compartment). I am trying a soak with “break free”. I may grind the slot a little deeper with a dremel type tool and get a really big screw driver in there

  7. I removed the corroded batteries with baking soda & water solution ( a drop at a time). Tapping the side after each drop. The batteries came pup but the compartment is corroded also. I used a fat Q tip with white vinegar but had marginal success. I will try new batteries tomorrow (Energizer Lithium ones).

  8. This seems to be a very common problem. Vinegar can dissolve some corrosion from alkaline batteries. If the batteries are heavy duty or non-alkiline batteries, a solution or paste of baking soda may dissolve some corrosion.IThe electrolyte in a battery may be either acid or alkiline. Neutralization requires an opposite.

  9. Same problem here. We have two non duracell batteries in the far end. The two Duracell’s dropped out. I will take it to the store and ask for a replacement. I’ll need some luck.

  10. I’ve been using Energizer batteries (from the same pack each time) in my trackpad since I got it. I replace them once a month when they’re drained. I last replaced them on December 4th. Today, December 25th, I got the onscreen ‘connection lost’ so I turned the trackpad off and removed the battery cover. One battery fell out but the other was stuck. After a lot of vigorous pounding against my thigh, the other battery fell out. As reported by others, there’s cloudy white corrosion on the inside. I live on a Caribbean island with no access to an Apple store. I will try the vinegar/Q-tip suggestion.

    Removing the corrosion is one thing. Going forward, how do you prevent new batteries from leaking?

    I bought a pack of Eneloop rechargeables on Saturday and I’m now wondering if they will suffer the same fate as the Energizers.

  11. I taped a swab to a chopstick, dipped the end in a paste of baking soda, and swabbed the inside of the battery compartment. After a couple of minutes the old battery popped right out. To Andre: The best way to prevent batteries from leaking is to not use “heavy duty” batteries, they all leak, alkaline leak less, and rechargeable leak least.

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