MacBook charger not working? Here's what to do

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We like to think of our chargers as simple, dependable devices — which is why it’s so annoying when they fail to charge our devices properly, even when plugged in and connected. When you face the deep disappointment that comes with a MacBook that refuses to charge, it’s time to find out what’s wrong and pinpoint an appropriate solution. That’s where we can help you out! The steps below should help you to ascertain what’s going on, and what you need to do to get your Apple laptop back on track.

Make sure it’s the charger that’s malfunctioning

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When first encountering charger woes, make sure it’s the charger that’s the problem. Switch to a different outlet that you know works, and check the LED indicators on your charger — many Mac chargers have some form of these — to see if there’s a response. You don’t want to get worried over a bad outlet.

If you get no response, consider borrowing the same kind of charger from a friend (if possible), or head to 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 on compatibility. Apple’s MacBook lineup has evolved over the years, as have the chargers accompanying each generation. Each iteration of power adapter utilizes a different wattage, and though you can use a higher wattage adapter than is specified for your MacBook, going with one with less wattage can lead to operating issues. If you bought a charger or a used-refurbished Mac online, and your charger doesn’t seem to be working the first time you connect it with your machine, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a compatible charger type.

Apple has more information on just what chargers work with what MacBooks, and how you can get an additional adapter, if necessary. We’ve also included the four major connection types below.

Barrel-type connector “T”-style MageSafe connector “L”-style MagSafe connector MagSafe 2 connector
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Clean it up

Okay, you’ve narrowed the problem down to the charger, which should be working but isn’t. Take a look at all the ports and connectors, and check for dirt. A layer of dust or grime may have built up, thus preventing the charger from making a proper electrical connection. Get a cloth or cotton swab and clean away any dirt you see. Also, beware of invisible, sticky layers that may be the real problem. You can also use a quick spritz of cleaner or water, but make sure to dry the charger thoroughly before trying to use it again.

Check for physical damage

It should go without saying that a common cause of charger failure is physical damage. There are two types of damage that you should search for if you’re worried your charger may have gotten a little beat up.

Missing Prong

Prong and blade damage: Examine all prongs, blades, and other types of metal tips that your charger may use. If a prong or blade is loose or missing, this could be the problem. It also makes electrical fires more likely, so stop using your charger and get a replacement ASAP.

Strain reliefStrain relief: Strain relief refers to the head of the charger — which plugs into the MacBook — slowly coming disconnected through wear and tear. This is less of a problem with chargers that have the aforementioned “L”-style or other MagSafe connectors, but it does happen with older connectors. If the LED indicator lights seem to switch on and off based on the angle of the charger, you could have a problem. Examine the end of the connector for signs of cable damage, exposed wires, or wear on the insulating covering. If you see evident signs of damage, it’s time to consider replacing your charger.

Make sure your charger isn’t overheating

If your adapter (the large, boxy part of your charger) has been buried under blankets, sat out in the hot sun, or otherwise left in an area with high temperatures, it could be overheating. Adapters are very sensitive to heat, and Apple built them with automatic shut off functions if they start getting too hot — which, of course, means that your MacBook will never get charged if you keep charging in a hot place. Make sure your adapter is always in the shade and well ventilated.

Check for line noise

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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 some 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 shuts down automatically, which allows it 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 “over voltage protection” feature is merely a safety preoccupation, but it is one intended to increase the lifespan of your device.

Reset your battery and settings

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Still can’t figure out what’s wrong? There’s one last thing you should try before taking your computer to a licensed professional, but it’s actually related to your computer’s settings instead of the adapter. Even if it appears as though your charger is the problem, we suggest trying the two steps below before moving on, because they can solve a lot of hidden problems in your MacBook.

  1. 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 you’ll have to skip to the next skip.
  2. 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.
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