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Apple Portables: Troubleshooting MagSafe adapters

Symptoms

Learn how to troubleshoot one or more of the following MagSafe adapter symptoms:

  • Your power adapter won't charge the computer.
  • The LED on the adapter connector doesn't light up when attached to the computer.
  • The adapter only charges the computer intermittently.
  • The adapter's white insulation separates from the magnetic end of the MagSafe connector.
  • Your MagSafe connector on the adapter or computer has debris in the connector.
  • You see a spark.
  • Your Magsafe connector on the adapter or computer has a physical issue with a pin.

 

Resolution

Apple has power adapters with a variety of connectors. Identify your adapter from the examples below before troubleshooting further.

L-style adapterL-style adapter
Barrel-type connector "T" style MagSafe connector "L" style MagSafe connectors MagSafe 2 connector

Notes:

  • If you receive a replacement MagSafe adapter with a "L" style MagSafe connector when you previously had a "T" style MagSafe connector, the "L" style adapter is fully compatible with your Apple computer.
  • A Magsafe 2 adapter is not compatible with Apple computers that have a connector that normally uses "T" and "L" style MagSafe adapters.
  • You can convert a "T" or "L" style MagSafe adapter for use with a MagSafe 2 equipped computer using the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter.
  • The MagSafe connector and MagSafe port on your Mac Notebook contain a magnet that can possibly erase data on a credit card or other magnetic devices. In order to preserve and protect your data, keep magnetic media away from the end of the MagSafe adapter and away from the MagSafe port.

 

Troubleshooting

Follow these steps to identify the cause of the issue and find out which solutions may be available to you.

If you see a spark

Sometimes when you plug the power adapter into the wall, you may see a spark. This is usually normal and can occur when you plug any electrical appliance into a live outlet. If the spark comes from somewhere other than the blades of the plug, if you experience any damage or discoloration of the adapter, or if you have other concerns about sparking, contact Apple.

Troubleshooting power adapter issues

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  1. Make sure a known good outlet is being used.
  2. Verify that the power outlet you're using is working correctly. Plug in a known good appliance, such as a lamp, TV, or clock, and confirm it powers on properly.

  3. Make sure the proper wattage adapter for your portable computer is used.
  4. Select the appropriate power adapter for your Apple portable computer. You can use a higher wattage power adapter, but you cannot use one with less wattage without potential operating issues.

  5. Identify line noise issues.
  6. Unplug the power adapter from the wall, let it sit for 60 seconds, then plug the adapter back in.

    • If the adapter works after this 60-second "rest", you most likely have a line noise issue with your power source. You should reset the adapter periodically by repeating this moment of rest. This issue occurs when the AC adapter's "over voltage protection" feature senses ground noise and then turns off the adapter.
    • Some possible sources of line noise include lights with ballasts, refrigerators, or mini-refrigerators that are on the same electrical circuit as your computer. This behavior may not occur if you plug the power adapter into an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or plug it into a different circuit.
    • Unless the adapter continues to exhibit this behavior on a known good outlet, it does not need to be replaced.

     

  7. Be sure you are using the adapter in a well ventilated area
  8. The power adapter may become very warm during normal use as heat generated during operating radiates from the adapter's casing. Always put the power adapter directly into a power outlet or place it on the floor in a well-ventilated location. If you are using your MagSafe adapter in a poorly ventilated area such as on a couch, in thick carpeting, on bedding, or a pillow, or if the MagSafe adapter is covered by a blanket or other form of insulation, it may turn itself off in order to prevent damage to the adapter. The adapter may still be quite warm in this state and should be allowed to cool before handling. 

  9. Check for possible AC plug (also known as a "duck head") or two- or three-pronged AC cord issues.
  10. If you're using the AC plug (also known as a "duck head") with the power adapter, swap it out for the included two- or three-pronged AC cord, or if you are using the two- or three-pronged AC cord swap it out with the AC plug. Either connector can be easily connected the adapter as shown below.

    • If the adapter now charges the computer and the LEDs in the MagSafe connector are lit, the AC plug "duck head" or AC cord that was originally in use is no longer functioning and use of that connector should be stopped until a replacement connector is obtained. Refer to the additional information section of this article for further assistance.
    • If the LEDs do not work or the power adapter does not charge the computer, you should continue troubleshooting using the steps in this Article. Check for strain relief issues or stuck pins and dirty connectors.

    Follow these tips for best performance of your AC plug or three-prong cable:

    • Before using your power adapter with the AC plug or three-prong cable, verify that the plug is free from foreign objects and debris that may have accumulated since the last time it was used.
    • Check the AC plug or three-prong cable periodically to make sure it is in good working order, as described in this article.
    • When you store the power adapter, make sure the electrical prongs (AC blades) on the AC plug are folded for storage.
    • When you use the AC plug, firmly seat the plug with blades folded onto the power adapter, then snap the AC blades into their completely extended position before you plug the adapter into the power outlet.

    If you notice any of the following, discontinue use of the AC plug or three prong cable:

    • The AC blades are bent (do not straighten a bent blade).
    • The AC blades do not lock into place (AC plug only).
    • The blades wobble (side to side) when they are locked in the open position on the AC plug or they seem loose on the three-prong cable.
    • The AC blades have black marks or other visible damage.
    • The adapter does not power on or powers on intermittently when securely plugged into a known-good wall outlet.
    • There is visible wear or a break of the insulation on the three-prong cable.
    • Popping sounds from within the AC plug or anywhere on the three-prong cable.

     

  11. Check for strain relief concerns.
  12. Strain relief is defined as a condition where the DC cable (the thin cord that attaches the MagSafe connector to the power adapter) separates from the end of the MagSafe connector or from the other end of the thin cord, at the power adapter. Under continued use the cable may discolor and the rubber molding may become deformed.  Another indication of possible strain relief that is not always visible to the eye is intermittent charging or strange LED behavior. You can often verify this condition by wiggling the cable back and forth near the MagSafe connector and observing whether the LED indicator (which turns amber or green) flashes on or off depending on the position of the cord.

    Example of strain relief on a "T" style MagSafe adapter.

    For more information about reducing strain relief issues, see the following articles: 

    You should not use power adapters that have strain relief damage or that are missing insulation or rubber. Do not attempt to repair an adapter cable in this state. For adapters with a Strain Relief concern please review, About Apple's Power Adapter Replacement Program -- U.S. only.

    Note: This program will cover strain relief for a period of three years after the purchase of an adapter with computer or a standalone adapter, or until May 21, 2012, whichever date is later. Adapters outside of this period should be evaluated per the steps in the Additonal Information section of this article.

  13. Check for stuck pins on MagSafe Connectors.
  14. Sometimes you may discover that the MagSafe adapter for your computer is not working properly because the pins inside the MagSafe connector are stuck.

    For example, the pins on the connector of the MagSafe adapter shown below are stuck down.

    Example of ground pins on adapter sticking. This may cause the adapter to be seen but it may not charge.

     

    Example of the sense pin on adapter sticking. This may cause the adapter to charge but not be seen and may cause the LED on the adapter to stay dark.

    If you think that a pin is stuck down, try unplugging and re-plugging the MagSafe adapter into the power port. The pins should move and reset themselves to a neutral position. If you find that a pin isn't resetting itself, gently press the pin sideways using a fingertip or other soft, non-scratching surface to see if the pin will reset itself. If the pin will not reset, please refer to the Additional Information section of this article.

  15. Checking for and cleaning debris from your MagSafe connectors
  16. Be sure to regularly inspect and clean both the MagSafe adapter connector and the power port on your Apple portable computer for dirt or signs of damage.

    Example of a MagSafe connector on an Apple computer that requires cleaning to remove debris. 

    To clean the MagSafe port on your Mac Notebook, disconnect the adapter from the wall outlet. Remove debris gently with a cotton swab or a soft bristle toothbrush. Be careful not to get any cotton fibers stuck in the MagSafe in port. Note: Remove the battery from the computer if you are using a Mac Notebook with a removable battery. 

    To clean the MagSafe connector and pin area, disconnect the adapter from the wall outlet and from the computer. Remove debris gently with a cotton swab or a soft bristle toothbrush. Be careful not to get any cotton fibers stuck in the pin receptacle and to not bend or otherwise damage any of the pins.

  17. Check for Software Updates.
  18. In some cases, operating system or firmware updates may be available for your computer which improve communication with your power adapter. To check for software updates, go to the Apple () menu and choose the option for Software Update. This will search for updates for your computer which you can review and install.

  19. See if the computer is charging and the LED is lit.
  20. After following the steps above, see if the computer is charging and the LED is lit. If not, please refer to the Additional Information section of this article.

Additional Information

Whether your product is in or out of warranty, you can take your adapter to an Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple Retail Store for evaluation and replacement if necessary. Pending the results of the evaluation, you may or may not be eligible for a replacement adapter free of charge. Signs of accidental damage would negate any coverage. Be sure to bring in the computer used with the adapter; it is required to process potential adapter replacements.

 

 

Last Modified: Dec 6, 2012
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  • Last Modified: Dec 6, 2012
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