Fixing a Broken Power Adapter Tip



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.

  • Mike

    I never understood how it broke off? I’ve had two PowerBooks over 3 years, and the most trouble with the AC adapters is that one started on fire, due to a fray near the tip.

    Glad to hear you got it working though, just not sure how people’s always break off. Glad it hasnt happened to me yet *knocks on wood*.

  • Audun

    I’ve never had the tip broken off my Powerbook, and it has spent a lot of time in a classroom with people stumbling over the cable every day. BUT, the port has become very sensitive. With a just slightly used adapter i have to turn it around a lot to get it to charge. With a new one it works fine, but after just a month or so with normal use (no people stumbling over the cable even) it stops working properly. The used power adapter works fine with other PowerBook.

  • Kristina

    I had a tip break off in my powerbook not too long ago and was facing the same problem. I took my computer to the Apple Store and was told the repair would be VERY pricey. The tech took a long skinny pic and poked the tip all the way through the adapter -the tip is still sitting in my machine – but, I bought a new $80.00 power cord plugged it in and so far it works like a champ (even fits more snug that it did before). Hopefully, I won’t electrocute myself.

  • Anthony

    I did something similar with my power adapter but it was due to my old ibook falling off my bed and onto the adapter while plugged in. It bent everything up pretty bad but still worked…for a while. After about a month it stopped working and the apple store wouldn’t replace it because it was bent. Luckily, i just called applecare and told them that it was no longer working and they sent me a new one free of charge.

  • Dale Johnson

    Thanks for the “tip” tip,

    I will try it, I have had this happen maybe 100 times,I work in a school district, and they breaks off all the time. It has mainly been w/ iBooks, the other major design flaw w/ iBooks is the keyboards, the keys pop off left and right.

  • Alex D

    My tip broke off into the power port of my 17″ last month. The thing is, it never came out. I heard it rattle away somewhere IN the Powerbook. Is that even possible? I am able to use my new charger just fine (the jack is not blocked). But now, as of yesterday, the thing has stopped charging all together (on a sidenote, is this an indication of logic board damage, or could it be something else?)

  • jason

    the genius at apple wanted $300 for the stuck pin. i searched the internet and was luck enough to have found this tip. after not too much work, and no swearing, i got the broken off center pin to pop out of the computer and fly across the room, i can’t locate it. the safety pin with the dog leg at the end of it really did the trick. now to spend $80 on a part that should be $25 to (the brick) to see if the computer can be charged.

  • Vicnent

    Man, I spent the past four hours dealing with this. First, i tried all sorts of non-glue methods to do it, but nothing, no amount of reasonable force, was working. Finally, I gave up and went with the glue. I put a dab on the end of a long jewler’s screwdriver and, gingerly resting it in teh crevice of a book (I tested without glue on my wife’s computer to get the height just right without pushing the pin any further in. I’d spent an hour getting it close enough to grab. The first effort failed for two potential reasons, likely both. I didn’t let it sit long enough to dry and I didn’t push it far enough in. The second time, I pushed it a little back from the starting point, to ensure that I’d made contact. Then I let it sit for half an hour, carefully resting about a third of the way into the book. After the half hour, I slowly extracted it by pulling on the (closed) book. Out it came.

    Success? NO!

    Using my wife’s power supply, I was unable to get it to charge. I assumed I’d destroyed the input jack with my meddling screwdrivers and tweezers and glue.

    Not so!

    It occured to me that there was probably some glue hardened making contact impossible, so I shone a very very hot small light in there for half an hour and then plugged in the power cord, thinking even a small circuit might be enough to heat up the metals and vaporize the poor-quality gule I had used. Sure enough, within an hour the power was rolling in enough to leave the laptop turned on and use.

    Moral of the story: CAREFUL!

  • Jonathan

    The same thing just happened to me, but I think it’s simple metal/plastic fatigue. I use this at home and work, so have plugged/unplugged several times almost daily for 16 months. The light ring has been flickering green-orange-off for about a week. Probably, the thing was about to fall apart.

    I used the computer for several hours today, then repositioned the plug to make it glow green after it started flickering again. A couple hours later, I surprisingly got a low battery warning with the adapter light glowing green. I determined, after reading this page, that I had the exact same problem. Probably, the end twisted off.

    I simply shoved the broken part a little further into the machine (as the Apple Store guy did for one guy here) and plugged in a Kensington multi-plug adapter, and it’s working fine again. The center conductor’s core is plastic, and it broke at the plastic separation ring, like that in your photo.

    Apple is replacing it free on an exchange under Applecare.