We rely on our computers so much for work and play that we can’t fathom the thought of losing our MacBook for any amount of time. When you plug in your MacBook and it doesn’t charge or it takes forever to climb by 5%, panic sets in. We get it — we’ve been there.
The first step in determining the problem is to investigate your Mac’s power adapter. Little issues like a faulty cable or a dirty connection can be the cause of your power woes. That’s where this guide comes in to help you address and fix issues related to your MacBook’s power adapter.
Make sure the charger isn’t malfunctioning
When first encountering charging issues, make sure the power adapter is the underlying problem. Switch to a different outlet that you know works, and check the charger’s LED indicators — many Mac chargers have some form of these — to see if they respond. You don’t want to worry yourself over a faulty outlet.
If you get no response, consider borrowing an identical charger (if possible). You can also head to an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider and ask if you can test your unit.
If your MacBook turns on and starts charging with a different cable, your charger is likely the culprit. If your MacBook still fails to respond, you probably have a problem with the battery or other hardware, and it’s time to take a different approach.
This is also the perfect time to check compatibility. The evolution of Apple’s MacBook lineup over the years introduced a handful of different power connectors and wattages. While you can acquire power adapters that output higher power than what your MacBook requires, using an adapter that doesn’t deliver enough power can lead to performance issues.
If you bought a charger or a used or refurbished Mac online and your charger doesn’t work upon first use, make sure you have a compatible charger type.
Apple has more information about the different power adapter connectors that work with old and new MacBooks and how you can get the correct adapter, if necessary. Here are the five major connection types:
Clean it out
After confirming that the charger is your issue, check for dirt in all ports and connectors. A layer of dust or grime may be present, preventing the charger from making a proper electrical connection. Also, beware of invisible, sticky layers that may be the real problem.
To clean, get a cloth or cotton swab and remove any dirt you see. You can also use a quick spritz of isopropyl alcohol on the connector, but make sure to dry the charger thoroughly before using it again.
Check for physical damage
A common cause of charger failure is physical damage. There are two types:
Prong and blade damage: Examine all prongs, blades, and other metal tips used by your charger. If a prong or blade is loose or missing, your MacBook won’t receive enough power, if any at all. Physical damage can cause electrical fires, so stop using your charger and get a replacement immediately.
Strain relief: Strain relief refers to the head of the charger, which plugs into the MacBook, slowly disconnecting from the main cable. Caused by wear and tear, this issue appears more often on older connectors than power adapters with L-style or other MagSafe connectors.
If the LED indicator lights seem to switch on and off based on the angle of the charger, you could have a short. Examine the connector’s end for signs of cable damage, exposed wires, or wear on the insulating covering. If you see evident signs of damage, it could be dangerous; get a replacement soon.
Make sure your charger isn’t overheating
If the large, boxy part of your charger remains hidden under blankets, sits in the hot sun, or otherwise resides in a heated area, it may overheat. Adapters are very sensitive to heat, which is why Apple installs automatic shut-off functions for when they get too hot. That means your MacBook will never charge if you keep charging it in a hot environment. Make sure your adapter is always in the shade and well-ventilated.
Check for line noise
Alternating currents move in cycles, but between the distance electricity must travel and the electromagnetic interference of nearby devices, these cycles can get exposed to serious distortion — that is, until the electricity essentially breaks down into a format your laptop battery simply can’t use. Check to see if you have a line noise problem by unplugging your charger and letting it rest for 60 seconds or so. Then, plug it back in and see if it works.
If the charger seems fine again, you probably had a problem with ground noise building up until your adapter shut down automatically to protect itself. Try using your computer away from other appliances, especially refrigerators and fluorescent lights, which are notorious for causing line noise troubles. Your adapter’s overvoltage protection feature is merely a safety precaution, and it is intended to increase the lifespan of your device.
Reset your battery and settings
Still can’t figure out what’s wrong? There’s one last thing you should try before taking your MacBook to a licensed professional. This potential fix is related to your computer’s settings instead of the adapter itself. Try these two solutions, as they can solve many hidden problems:
- Reset your battery. This is easy on older MacBooks. Take out the battery, let it sit for a minute or so, and then put it back in. Unfortunately, you can’t remove the battery using the same method on newer MacBooks, so skip to the next step.
- Reset your computer’s PRAM and SMC. These are internal settings that govern how your MacBook manages power, volume, and other basic settings. If these settings start malfunctioning, it can cause serious issues. Check out our guide on how to quickly reset PRAM and SMC on your Mac for more information.