Apple’s PowerBooks and iBooks are generally well-made, value-for-money machines, but they suffer from a critical design flaw — the tip of the AC power adapter is prone to breaking off inside the power port.
It’s a costly and time-consuming repair, and it’s almost impossible for owners to fix themselves. I know, because it’s happened to me three times in the last three years.
The last time was just last week, and the story of how I fixed it is a saga you can read after the jump. Long story short: I finally dug it out in a frenzy of rage and frustration that almost ruined a $2,500 computer.
The business end of Apple’s laptop AC adapter resembles a headphone jack in a cylindrical metal sleeve. The power is piped down the jack part; the metal sleeve just keeps the jack in place in the power port.
The design is proprietary to Apple, and would work fine if the tip wasn’t so prone to breaking off inside the port. And once it does, there’s a little nugget of metal that’s extremely difficult to remove.
The first two times this happened to me, I tried to remove the tip myself. Failing miserably, I sent the laptops in for repair, which was so outrageously expensive, my memory has supressed the cost.
The best removal advice I could find is at Macintouch, where readers recommend dabbing super-glue on the end of a piece of wire or toothpick and gluing it to the tip inside the power port.
This I tried with a wooden toothpick (unsuccessful) and then a Q-tip with the cotton end snipped off. The Q-tip fit snug in the power port and afforded the maximum possible surface area for the glue.
Well, the first couple of tries worked pretty well. The gluing worked and I almost pulled the broken tip out before the glue gave way. I tried grabbing the tip with a pair of tweezers but just pushed it back in.
Being almost succesful right off was an unfortunate move — it set me up to think the method might work.
So I spent the next four days or so (spread over two weekends) and several evenings trying to glue Q-tips, toothpicks, paperclips and pieces of wire to the errant tip.
It didn’t work, despite several close calls, and all I managed was to make myself purple with rage and gum up the power port with dried super glue.
In desperation, I broke out a power drill thinking I could drill the tip out. If I were careful, maybe I could shave the tip into nonexistence and everything would be fine, I thought.
The drilling removed the glue and made the hole bigger, but as soon as the drill touched the tip, it slipped, almost wrecking the contact points inside.
Absolutely fed up, and thinking if I wrecked it I could just send it in for repair, I made a tiny hook at the end of a safety pin. This I jammed into the hole and underneath the broken tip (which I could only see by staring down the back of a flourescent lamp shining deep into the hole) and starting yanking away.
To my amazement this worked — kinda. The broken tip could be brought to the very edge of the hole, but veered off sideways at the last minute and wouldn’t budge.
So I got a very thin electronic screw driver to right the tip as I brought it up with the fish-hook safety pin. At first I was ginger, but after half-an-hour, I just started pulling and yanking at it. This worked — amazing what you achieve when you don’t give a f–k.
Now it works fine. Until it breaks again, of course.