Safer MagSafe Charger

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by RobOUK, Jun 24, 2009.

  1. RobOUK macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2009
    I am becoming increasingly concerned by the rising number of reports of people's magsafe connectors for their MBPs bursting into flames. I am not sure if this is being built up to be more than it is - but there do seem to be a number of genuine cases.

    I now feel unable to leave my new 13" MBP connected to the mains unattended - which is not really a desirable situation. I have heard that the issue is down to the design of the connector point where the wire goes into the magsafe connector - and as such, the differently designed connectors which are used on macbook air and those attached to apple display units mean that these connectors have not experienced any issues.

    Therefore I was thinking in order to minimise the risk - does anyone think it is a good idea to try and get hold of a MacBook Air charger and use that on my MBP 13" instead? Do Air chargers even work with MPBs?

    Just wondering what people's thoughts are...
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    While it's undoubtedly a serious situation, I think it's being blown way out of proportion. Four or five incidents out of thousands is not something to get worked up about.

    That's one theory put forth by the forum posters. Hardly what I'd call definitive.

    Not every MBP owner has an ACD. You can't make the assumption that just because ACD displays haven't shown the same failure with regard to the magsafes that their design is somehow better. Simple statistics.

    If anything I think this would be worse. The 13" MBPs use a 60W adapter, while the Air uses a 45W adapter. You'd be at the maximum draw pretty much any time you have the screen illuminated, which in my humble opinion is a great way to put unnecessary strain on the adapter.
  3. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    They could be made safer by using thicker wires with more insulation and a bigger strain relief near the ends. Of course Apple wants to make everything as thin as possible, so I don't think they will do that.
  4. niuniu macrumors 68020


    Mar 29, 2009
    A man of the people. The right sort of people.
    This is pretty disturbing. When you say burst into flames, do you mean literally the Magsafes lit up on fire for some people?
  5. Tallest Skil macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Aug 13, 2006
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
  6. NovemberWhiskey macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2009
    Apple just needs to redesign this thing, and make sure that future magsafes do not have this problem.

    I just ordered a MBP, and I am going to be extremely upset if it catches on fire.

    I mean, just typing that is absurd. :D
  7. jpur macrumors member

    Oct 15, 2008
    Not a big issue

    So, I agree with the previous posts that while this is a problem, it happens very infrequently. I would also bet that it is partially due to misuse and that there were some warning signs.

    I actually was having problems with my MagSafe 85W charger for my late 2008 Unibody Macbook Pro. I noticed that the light started to turn off or go very dim. This indicated a short to me in the cable.

    I took it to the Apple Retail Store by my house today, and received a replacement in less than 20 mins. Not only no fires, but a new adapter!

    Just be gentle to your Mac and MagSafe and pay attention to any warning signs. Be smart, and you and your Mac will be safe.
  8. rick3000 macrumors 6502a


    May 6, 2008
    West Coast
    I was at Best Buy today ( wish I had my MBP already) but I was messing around with a 15" MBP and the MagSafe does sort of concern me.
    It takes a lot of force to yank out and you have to yank the cable because the plug is so small. The cable doesn't seem to be supported very well, and I think that eventually the wire would loosen up and that could lead to problems like people have been posting.

    I want my MBP to last when it is out of AppleCare, so has anyone come up with a cheaper solution than the MagSaver ($14 shipped for a piece of plastic you can't remove)?
    I was thinking about wrapping the rubber support and about 2" of the cable with some white rigging/electrical tape. Do you guys think that would help?
  9. Harmless Abuse macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2008
    I think it's something to be a bit concerned about, but nothing to freak out over.

    I think that there is a genuine problem, but it's preventable for now.

    If you're genuinely scared, charge it when you're around, so you're able to supervise any issues. The battery lasts quite a while when on its own, and there are many places like coffee houses and even libraries now, that provide you with a plug to charge it.

    Just be careful, and you should be okay.

    I think that there are many more cases than Macrumors represents, as the customer reviews show A LOT of these issues. Also the idea that it's mostly the user's fault kind of upsets me, or that there are warning signs.

    My first magsafe melted after being in my presence for only a week. Mind you it only stayed on my desk, and my MacBook was not moved while being plugged in. I go to my nearest Apple store to hear that it is not covered by Applecare, and I had to fork over about $100 after taxes for a new one.

    I've since wrapped the end with a bit of extra electrical tape to try to strengthen the weak point. Many chargers come with support rings or bracers in that area, my $400 Compaq which was replaced by this MacBook had a more sturdy charger, and that's a bit of a concern considering the chargers for my Compaq are only $50.

    It's not that I'm trying to pick at Apple, I'm not one to complain, perfectly happy with what I have, but $100 for a charger that seems cheaply made upsets me. I know it's all about profit, but sometimes customer satisfaction is important too. Coming from a family who runs their own small clothing business.
  10. NovemberWhiskey macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2009
    I think the premise that if you are safe, you will be ok is patently false.

    Being careful and safe will not prevent a defect from acting up.

    I think being careful and safe may help, but in no way assures that you won't have a problem down the line.

    It is Apple's problem, and they need to look into it to fix it.
  11. bli625 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2009
    I agree that this isn't something to freak out over. How many MacBooks w/Magsafe has been sold? Millions? How many accidents have been reported? A few? I agree that this is somewhat scary... but it's not something to freak out about. It happens to less than 1% of MacBook owners.
  12. NovemberWhiskey macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2009
    I think Ford Mo Co. would be interested in hiring you.
  13. Mhmm macrumors member

    May 1, 2009
    27 deaths does not compare to "a few" (In reality, 4?) magsafe melts.

    Am I the only one that calls shennanigans on at least 1 of the fire reports? I mean, before this week there was only 1 reported case here on MR, and then all of a sudden a handful of people are reporting fires and demanding replacements out of nowhere and this mass panic becomes widespread over what, before this week, was a non-issue.
  14. mikes70mustang macrumors 68000


    Nov 14, 2008
    It happens way more often than you think. Just b/c everyone with a problem doesnt come on here doesnt mean it happens little. MR is a tiny itty bitty piece of mac users. I know many people who it happend to, not just mag safe, but PB chargers as well.
  15. rick3000 macrumors 6502a


    May 6, 2008
    West Coast
    I talked to a friend that works at Apple today, he said he hasn't seen or hear about any MagSafe fires since he started about 6 month ago, but has seen some melyed cables. And you all know how many people go through an Apple store in one day.
  16. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    I think you'll be of the minority. You see, one report here ... then it happened again and a little googling brings the people back here. Another report pops up and then another. You fail to see that one forum post hits google, a second fire happens and the user googles other instances.

    It was never a "non-issue" it is just not an issue that is happening to many people yet.

    We do not know how long the magsafe was plugged in for, how long the computer was on, was it in sleep mode, etc? Right now there's not enough data to just say that the magsafe seems to be catching fire under specific terms.

    To call shenanigans seems a bit much. I think 3-5 incidents is enough to turn heads tbh.
  17. Poirot818 macrumors regular

    Oct 26, 2008
    That's because you weren't doing it correctly.

    Unplugging the magsafe (correctly) literally takes less force than unplugging a usb cable. I don't even use a pulling motion to unplug mine. I just simply lift it out with one finger and my fingers never even touch the cord.
  18. NovemberWhiskey macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2009
    Am I the only one that is interested in the magnetic part of the magsafe affecting all these problems?

    I mean, wouldn't having a magnetic field so close to a power node affect the flow of the current?
  19. elbodude macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2009
    Silicon Valley
    MagSafe is "borrowed" from appliances like deep fryers. My deep fryer has the same type of power connector. It's designed to break away if someone trips on the cable rather than spilling hot oil all over the place. So when they say not to disconnect the connector with the cable, it kind of defeats the purpose.
  20. ChefJayPeek macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2008
    Suburban Texas
  21. ChefJayPeek macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2008
    Suburban Texas
    This is correct. I have a deep fryer that is WAY more sensitive to disconnecting than a MagSafe is. You can look at my deep fryer funny, and it will disconnect. It also flows way more current than a MagSafe does, it's 1500 watts.

    As I type this on my 2 month old MacBook, I am using a 3 year old MagSafe, the cable is bent in almost 180 degrees to go behind the laptop to the power outlet. This is my travel MagSafe. The one at my house is also 3 years old. The one that came with this MacBook is still in the box the MacBook came with.

    The whole point of a MagSafe or any other magnetic connector is that if the cable is pulled, it will disconnect instead of pulling the device across whatever it is sitting on, hence the reason for using them on deep fryers.

    Wow, never thought I would compare a MacBook to a deep fryer.

    Has someones MagSafe caught fire? Sure, I've seen the pictures here on MR, I will not deny them. Is it getting blown out of proportion on MR? I will vote wholeheartedly yes.

    Besides really, if there was a short that caused enough heat to start a fire, why did the circuit breaker not trip? That is why they are put into houses, apts, condos, hotel rooms, etc...
  22. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    You can easily start a fire with less power than it takes to trip a circuit breaker. Circuit breakers are meant to prevent fires in the wall and maybe the 120V wiring up to whatever device you are using. The MagSafe converts 120V to 14-16V, which takes more current to deliver the same watts. 85W from the magsafe is approximately 5.3A at 16V, while it will only draw approx. .7A from the wall. .7A will not trip a breaker or cause a fire in wiring that meets code, but 5.3A is enough to cause a fire in the size wiring the Magsafe uses. There should be (and probably is) a circuit in the Magsafe that shuts it down if it detects a short, but the fine braided or stranded wire can cause a fire with less current than it takes to trip the Magsafe internal "breaker" if just one or a few fine strands of wire short. If you've ever touched a 9V battery to steel wool, it's the same idea. The Magsafe just sees more load, thinking it is from the laptop, but it is actually starting a fire. The solution is thicker wire with thicker insulation.

    The cable used in the Magsafe and most other laptop power cables it coaxial, with an outer braid and one or more internal conductors. When there is too much stress put on the cable, the insulation bends and over time it will break and tear at the sharpest bend point, which is usually just past the strain relief. The insulation might only be damaged on the inside, showing little sign of a problem on the outside, but that is enough to cause a short. Thicker insulation will last longer before it breaks, and it will add stiffness to the cable that keeps it from being damaged in the first place.

    The best thing to do is make sure the cable always comes straight out of the laptop and that there is no tension on the cable. Always disconnect it by pulling the connector up, never pulling or yanking the cable. Adding some heatshrink tubing near the strain relief (at least twice its length) will help provide added insulation and stiffness, but it might be hard to find a size that will fit over the connector and shrink down small enough to fit tight on the cable. Clear heatshrink would be best since it lets you see if the cable is becoming damaged. In a pinch, electrical tape would work, but it might not look great, and it will take a few layers. Finally, make sure the Magsafe socket is free of any metal particles that may have stuck to it as they could cause a short (This shouldn't be a problem for most people, as long as you don't use your MBP in a machine shop!).

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