How I fixed Random Reboots on One of My Laptops


Last Updated on June 8, 2024 by David Both

I have three laptops that I’ve purchased from System76 out of Denver Colorado. They design and build exceptional laptops and install Pop!_OS, their own mix of Ubuntu Linux on them. I’ve been very happy with these laptops, especially because they are designed to be repairable.

The Problem

I purchased the oldest of these three laptops, an Oryx Pro6, in 2018 so it’s about 7 years old. I replaced a keyboard on it about 4 years ago and that was easy with the directions supplied by System76. I recently needed to replace the keyboard again as a couple of the keys stopped working. I don’t really consider this as a System76 problem because the keyboards are manufactured by a an Chinese company and are used in many different laptops from many vendors; I also tend to bang on the keys as I’m not a touch-typist.

A few weeks ago I began having more problems with the keyboard when some keys would not work. Shortly before I replaced the keyboard the second time, the laptop began to exhibit random reboots. This didn’t normally interfere with my work, which I normally perform on my main workstation which is a desktop. But I did want to use this laptop for a presentation at a STEM conference for students in middle school through high school. I decided to fix the keyboard first as it impaired my ability to do problem determination of the random reboots.

I ordered a new keyboard from Amazon and installed it. Rather I tried to install it. It wasn’t that the steps were hard but that the keyboard buckled a bit when I tried to snap it back into position.

The Solution

Upon further inspection, I discovered that the battery was swollen and pressing on some of the other components which, in turn, incurred into the space required for the keyboard. So I ordered a replacement battery.

Lithium-Ion batteries are supposed to be flat and swelling is a bad and dangerous thing. Figure 1 shows the old and new batteries. The swelling of the old battery is obvious. The impressions of other components on the swollen battery are also visible on the left cell of that battery. Batteries like this can cause fires or they can even explode.

Figure 1: The swollen battery is obvious. The impressions of other components on the swollen battery are also visible on the left cell of that battery. Click to see the full-size image.

After replacing the battery, the keyboard fit as it should and snapped right into place.

The Surprise

After testing the keyboard for 20 minutes or so, I turned to other tasks, leaving the system running. I wanted it to reboot again so I could check the logs and journals to see if there were any hints there. There hadn’t been any previous suspicious entries but I was still hopeful.

So I waited for the next random reboot. And waited…and waited, and I’m still waiting after several weeks.

Replacing the battery fixed four things. Obviously it fixed the swollen battery problem. That, in turn, made space for the other components to return to their normal locations. And that allowed the keyboard to install correctly.

Lastly, this fixed the rebooting problem. I’m still not sure what the specific trigger was for those random reboots. Regardless, replacing a dangerously swollen battery resolved multiple, seemingly unrelated problems in addition to a safety issue.

A Final Word

Regardless of the side effects, whether there are any or not, a swollen battery should be replaced as soon as it’s discovered. Failure to replace and properly dispose of a swollen battery can result in explosion or fire. Batteries should also be discarded at a location that can safely dispose of it. My local Batteries+ Bulbs can do this. We also have a hazardous materials recycling center close to me which is where I take all of my old batteries.


PC Magazine, Chance Townsend & Jason Cohen Updated December 5, 2023: Help, My Laptop Battery Is Swollen! Now What?