How to fix a MagSafe adapter on the go

Longtime owners of Mac laptops know that there’s one area where Apple’s famed build quality often falls down on the job: the construction of its power adapters. PowerBooks and MacBooks can last for years and still happily hum along much as they did on day one (excepting their batteries, of course), but somehow the AC adapter almost always needs replacement along the way.

Somehow I managed to forget all this. I blamed the power socket at lunch when my laptop didn’t charge, and again blamed the desk socket in my hotel room. But when the wall socket in the lounge failed on me for the third time in one day, it finally dawned on me that either Las Vegas was experiencing a widespread and highly localized power outage, or I had a fritzy adapter.

As it happens, there’s an Apple Store literally across the street from my hotel, so I could go buy another with the winnings from one decently sized pot at Hold ‘Em. But this is already adapter number two for my MacBook; call me stubborn, but I decided to try a MacGyver solution to postpone the purchase.

So here’s how to fix a MagSafe adapter with parts you’ll find at any Starbucks.

First, get one of the green normal-length drinking straws from the condiments bar. It’s very important you get the green straw, and not the clear straw. (Actually, it makes no difference, but it sounds much better if I include technical details like that.)

Ask at the counter for a scissors and some Scotch tape. In a pinch, you can use a house or car key instead of scissors, and those stickers they put on the side of the coffee bean bags work just fine instead of tape.

Plug in your broken MagSafe for a while, and watch helplessly as it does absolutely nothing. Then feel along the cord; where your wire has broken and caused a short, it will be warmer. In my case, this was about two inches from the adapter brick. I had already noticed that my MacBook would charge when the wire was lying straight out from the brick, but would fail when the wire was bent in any direction.

Hence the straw—you can use it as a strut. Cut a piece of the straw, long enough to reach from the brick to the break in the wire. Then cut along the straw on one side, and wrap it around the cable and rubber base at the brick. Use the tape to reseal the straw, and make it topologically impossible for it to fall off. The width of the rubber base will fit into the straw, and provide some structural support to hold the straw perpendicular, which in turn feeds the wire out in a straight shot.

Voila, reliable MagSafe adapter. This, of course, is possibly a fire hazard and outlawed in thirteen states and several Canadian territories. More to the point, it probably won’t last very long before the wire breaks entirely. But it might be a good trick to know when your travels take you further away from an Apple Store than mine did.

Edited to add: It probably goes without saying for any off-the-books repair job, but I'll say it anyway: try this approach at your own risk.

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