Static Electricity just destroyed my power adaptor!

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by -js-, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. -js- macrumors regular

    -js-

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    #1
    So, I had been sitting on a chair with a synthetic fabric that caused me to build up a static charge (unbeknownst to me). I then walked over to my MBP (4,1) and touched the case and *zap* I discharged a bit of static electricity. Then I immediately noticed that the green charge status LED on my power adaptor cord was very very dim. So, I unplugged it, replugged it, etc., and it stayed dim. So I let the laptop run down to 95 percent, then plugged it in and next to the battery icon in the status bar up top was:

    (not charging).

    My power adaptor is DEAD. From static electricity. That is just NOT right.

    I did a search both here and on the web and I found examples where peoples' adaptors shocked THEM, but no examples where they shocked (and killed) it.

    Did I just miss it? Has this happened to others? And the real bummer is that my local Apple store is closed until Monday, and I am working graveyard shifts today, tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday (12PM to 8AM), so I have only 80 percent charge between now and then, which basically renders my laptop useless. I have half a mind to buy two adaptors, but I probably won't.

    I am not happy about this. And my warrantee was up at the beginning of October, so I doubt Apple will cover the cost of a new adaptor.

    My MBP seems to be fine but I haven't done a hardware test yet. I can tell you that I will be extremely unhappy if a bit of static electricity did any damage to my MBP.

    This sucks.
     
  2. ThirteenXIII macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    #2
    try another power adapter first to determine the cause of the issue.
    it could be the power adapter or the dc board/magsafe connector.

    I had a work issued pre unibody macbook white that is experiencing that issue
     
  3. -js- thread starter macrumors regular

    -js-

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    #3
    Yeah, I already had that horrible thought: what if I zapped the circuitry inside the MBP that handles the charging?

    Unfortunately, I don't know if I can get my hands on a power adaptor anytime soon to check this out.

    Ha! OK. I was wrong. I did have access to another one. I went over to the computer group's trailer and found the exact one with a MBP waiting for something to be done to it--backup, I think--and since it's vacation, no one is around, and since it's the graveyard shift REALLY no one is around, so no one will miss it for a while. Took it back to the control room, and with breath held tightly, I plugged in.

    CHARGING!

    So, I didn't fry any of the charging circuitry on the MBP side of things. That's a relief, anyway!
     
  4. pukifloyd macrumors 6502a

    pukifloyd

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    #4
    thats a good news...

    but its strange that your charger just died!never heard of this before...

    if you can't take it to store then call apple and explain the situation to them asap...
     
  5. -js- thread starter macrumors regular

    -js-

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    #5
    My MBP is out of warrantee. You think they might replace the magsafe power adaptor even so? That'd be nice. I'll definitely talk to Apple about this, one way or another.

    And yes, I was shocked (sorry for the pun) that a bit of static electricity killed my freaking power adaptor. Crazy. The only thing that is unusual is that I did put my fingers down near where the magsafe attaches. I was curious what the temperature was there, as it's the spot that gets the hottest on my MBP. But, really, it shouldn't matter. Static electricity may be high in voltage, but it has very little stored energy in it.

    Anyway, stuff happens, as they say.

    I'm really glad I have a MBP Classic. I love this keyboard--or maybe that's too strong. I love my AEK II or my Realforce Topre boards, but I really really like the keyboard on this laptop. The chichlet boards on the new models are not nearly as appealing to me. Plus, of course, the aesthetics of mine are better in my opinion. The only thing I like better on the new ones (besides the unibody, which is very cool) is the trackpad. Those glass trackpads are very nice indeed.

    But I digress. Sorry.

    So, I did a hardware test and all tested out OK, so that's good.

    I upgraded my laptop to SL, and before I did that, if I just held down the "D" key during startup, it would bring up the hardware test without the need to insert the install DVD. But, now, the "D" key thing won't work without first inserting disc 1 of the Leopard Install DVD's. I don't know whether the upgrade SL disc would have also worked or not.
     
  6. mrsir2009 macrumors 604

    mrsir2009

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    Melbourne, Australia
    #6
    At school when a lightning warning was issued we were told to unplug our MacBooks from the power... I can see why:(
     
  7. -js- thread starter macrumors regular

    -js-

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    #7
    A lightening strike which causes a power surge in the mains lines is many, many orders of magnitude more powerful than a bit of static electricity! Surge suppressors are rated in the number of Joules of surge energy they can damp, and they usually post numbers in thousands of Joules. A bit of static electricity, on the other hand, is a small fraction of a Joule. So, there is just no freaking comparison!

    What static electricity can have going for it, however, is a high voltage. This makes static electricity the foe of sensitive electronic components like MOSFETs or ICs (like the CPU in your computer). This is why you ground yourself before working with such things. It's even a very good idea to ground yourself before handling computer memory of any kind, disc drives, video cards, etc.

    BUT A POWER ADAPTOR?!?!?

    I'm sorry, but NO! It should be totally immune to static electricity. It's freaking CRAZY that my MagSafe power adaptor was destroyed by a bit of static electricity. Just stupid and unacceptable.
     
  8. feelthefire macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2006
    #8
    There is a PCB in the magsafe connector. It's small, but you could easily zap the PCB and destroy it with some static electricity. With enough static charge you can blow a capacitor and the components on the magsafe pcb are much more sensitive. That's why your LED is dim, first indication you blew out the PCB in the magsafe connector.

    Sorry you think that's "unacceptable" but it's a fact of life with electronics...

    buy a generic adapter on ebay for $20 and call it a day.
     
  9. MacModMachine macrumors 68020

    MacModMachine

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    Canada
    #9
    reset your smc,

    that should fix it, i highly doubt static electricity would damaged it, i dont believe the whole static electricity bit,

    i have handled well over 25 thousand sticks of ram in my life, some i have zapped and they all still work fine.
     
  10. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    #10
    How far was your finger from the MacBook when u discharged? Let's put it this way for a static charge to jump 1/4 of an inch at room temp resonably low humidity you are looking at 20,000 volts. That is enough to screw a power brick.
     
  11. skye12 macrumors 65816

    skye12

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    Austin, Tx
    #11
    Its unfortunate this happened, but you did discharge a static charge to a piece of electronics. Its certainly not the fault of the components and/or Apple.
     
  12. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #12
    I thought MBP batteries won't charge if they're at 95% charge or higher? Are you sure it's dead?
     
  13. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2008
    #13
    You should always use the grounded 3-prong cable, not the 2-prong travel adapter. With the 3-prong cable, static electricity has a safe path to ground through the third prong. With the 2-prong adapter, the laptop and power adapter see ground as "floating". Normally, that's OK, and it will be kept within a reasonable voltage of the wall voltage. That's why you can sometimes feel electricity if you use the 2-prong cable and stand on a grounded surface (like the ground) and run your hand across the aluminum on your MBP.

    When you discharge static onto the MBP, suddenly the floating ground goes from close to ground or wall voltage to several thousand or hundreds of thousands of volts above true ground. The power supply has to equalize the voltage, but without a path to ground, the excess voltage has to go out the mains. Obviously the power supply can't connect ground directly to the mains line or your MBP would electrocute you, so it needs some kind of shunt circuit to discharge the static safely. If the shunt doesn't work right or there is too much static for it, the excess voltage will try to go back through the power regulation circuit, which is bad because as you found out, that tends to fry things.

    It's hard to say if your power supply was defective or if it is just a design flaw. Apple has to make a lot of compromises to fit everything they do into the small Magsafe package. You can try to get Apple to replace it, but if it is out of warranty, they will probably be reluctant. When you get a new one, try to always use the 3-prong grounded cable.
     
  14. fluffyx macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    #14
    You might be eligible for a free replacement even though your computer's out of warranty.

    Make a Genius Bar appointment at your closest Apple Store, or call 800 APL CARE if you don't live near a store. If they state that you'll have to pay for a new adapter, just ask them to review Kbase Article Number TS1713.

    "Whether your product is in or out-of-warranty, you can take your adapter to an Apple-Authorized Service Provider or Apple Retail Store for evaluation and replacement if necessary. You may be eligible for a replacement adapter free of charge provided there are no signs of accidental damage."

    You can read a little about this at http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1713 ; keep in mind that the page provides some internal information to Apple employees on what is and is not covered free of charge.
     
  15. -js- thread starter macrumors regular

    -js-

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    Southern California
    #15
    I get the feeling that you aren't sorry that I find this "unacceptable".

    Listen, I know all about electronics and static charge. I have an ESD safe Hakko soldering station and I've worked with plenty of MOSFETS and ICs. I've built and designed a peak detect fast charger for a custom regulated battery pack. I work at a particle accelerator. And I have never ever before seen or even heard of static electricity destroying an 85 watt power supply. This sort of thing is not a "fact of life" with consumer electronics, feelthefire. But, yes, you're right. I almost certainly destroyed the PCB in the magsafe connector itself. The power supply IS probably just fine and dandy. Still, consumer electronics should stand up to static discharge, and almost always does.

    As for a generic adaptor on ebay, no thanks. Bad recommendation all round in my opinion.

    The magsafe 85w power supply has an SMC? I highly doubt this! LOL! I think you misread the situation here. My laptop is fine. Static electricity did not damage it. Just my magsafe power supply.

    The static didn't discharge until I actually touched my MBP. At least as far as I could tell, anyway. I'm sure it was high voltage, though. I do understand about static electricity.

    Oh yes. I am sure. I know that the charging wouldn't kick in until below 95 percent. I tested it after it had discharged to 80. I tested it every which way. It's dead.

    Thanks for the advice, Matt. I was using the two prong adaptor and not the 3 prong extension. And I do understand that the two prong adaptor doesn't connect to mains ground, just line and neutral. But, I much prefer the two prong adaptor when I can use it as it is just a lot more convenient and neat and attractive and easy to handle.

    Let me just say that I do love the apple power bricks. They are an excellent piece of design. They really are. And I love the magsafe connector and how it doesn't matter which way is up. I love the small green or amber LED. I love the quality of the cable. It's great. I'm buying another one and wouldn't buy a generic one if I could (is such a thing available?).

    And if my power adaptor had just stopped working, or burnt up or something like that, I wouldn't have come here and posted about it or whined about it.

    What surprised me was that it was STATIC ELECTRICITY that killed it.

    I have never heard of that happening to anyone else. I did more than a cursory internet search, and as far as I know, no one else has destroyed their magsafe with static. I've heard of people GETTING shocked, of course, but not what happened to me. If I'm wrong about this, someone please feel free to chime in and let me know.

    fluffyx,

    EXCELLENT! Thank you for this link. I printed it out and will take it to the Apple store on campus where I bought my MBP and where I was going to buy a new magsafe adaptor, and maybe they'll replace my failed one for free! That would be very cool.

    Thank you!
     
  16. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #16
    Then given the caliber of some people you meet at the various particle accelerators around the world, you know how ridiculous it sounds to use this as "cred" ;-) Which one do you work at?
     
  17. DevinPitcher macrumors regular

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    Michigan, USA, Earth
    #17
    +1
     
  18. -js- thread starter macrumors regular

    -js-

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    #18
    I don't think a person sounds ridiculous for mentioning his or her background when it is appropriate to the discussion at hand. But, obviously, you disagree, and I can see where you're coming from here! I didn't think of it like that, honestly. I was only trying to point out that I've worked with a lot of different types of electronics at several different levels and I personally still find it incredible that I killed my magsafe power adaptor with a bit of static electricity. As has been mentioned already, even supposedly sensitive stuff like RAM very rarely gets damaged. The people at the computer group here don't even bother much with grounding themselves when installing or replacing RAM. I, as a rule, take every precaution, just because I figure better safe than sorry, but I totally agree that RAM is at very low risk for damage due to static electricity.

    Anyway, I work at Cornell University's particle accelerator. It's an electron-positron collider with a single beam energy of between 2 to 5 GeV, approximately. Presumably we could go to 1 GeV or even lower, but the lowest we've ever run is at 1.8 GeV. For years we were one of the premier places to study B-physics, which is concerned with the Bottom quark (or "Beauty" quark, if you prefer) and it's mesons and interactions involving it. The excitement over this was due to the promise of a "CP violation" for some of these rare events. "CP" stands for charge-parity. I won't get into this unless people want me to, but the very short version is that theoreticians had shown that if CP conservation was violated you could show that this would lead to a preference of matter over antimatter in the laws of physics, which, it was hoped, would explain why we live in a universe of matter and almost no antimatter, when cosmologists postulate an equal amount of matter and antimatter at the big bang and the standard model as we knew it would NOT chose one over the other.

    Fast forward to now and B-physics moved to SLAC and they did indeed find CP violation, and accounted for it in the standard model by changing some matrix elements from real numbers into complex numbers, but this doesn't even come close to explaining the matter-antimatter imbalance. Right now, our lab is a prototype damping ring for the ILC, doing R&D on electron cloud mitigation. We are also a light source and run about 1/3 of the year just to create x-rays for users.

    I'm the lead accelerator operator/operator supervisor, and head of the survey & alignment group.
     
  19. AaronX macrumors member

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    Jul 29, 2009
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    Australia
    #19
    New thread: "$20 adaptor just destroyed my MacBook!"

    When I look at my power brick with the cable removed, I only see a socket with 2 prongs and a metal "button". Does the earth connect to that button?
     
  20. -js- thread starter macrumors regular

    -js-

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    #20
    LOL! Right! I'd rather not post THAT thread! (I almost certainly wouldn't--I'd be too embarrassed).

    OK, so, yes, that metal button is the ground. When you use the two prong swing out, swing closed thingamigiggy there is NO connection to ground. This was pointed out above as the reason why static electricity hosed my power adaptor, and why you should, if you're paranoid, always use the three prong cord thingamigiggy instead. Because, if you look carefully at that, you'll see that inside the slot which mates with the metal button there are two metal spring contacts that connect electrically with the metal button, and with the round ground prong on the three prong plug, thus grounding your power adaptor.
     
  21. m85476585 macrumors 65816

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    #21
    I wish Apple would make a compact 3-prong plug.

    The reverse of one of these
    http://www.google.com/products?q=3-prong+to+2-prong+adapter
    might work, wiring the tab to a wire that wraps around the metal button, but I won't think they make what I'm thinking of. The closest thing I could think of is a 3 outlet plug splitter, but they aren't very compact. A short extension cord could work too, but then you might as well just use the grounded cable from Apple.

    I just found this from an Apple KB article. Did you try "resetting" the magsafe?
     
  22. fluffyx macrumors 6502

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    Oct 25, 2007
    #22
    It's my understanding that an Apple-Authorized Reseller can't do anything with the link I sent you. The three sources who can replace your adapter are:
    • an Apple Store
    • an Apple-Authorized Service Provider (find one near you)
    • 800-APL-CARE can set up a FedEx Express replacement free of charge
     
  23. -js- thread starter macrumors regular

    -js-

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    #23
    This is correct. The campus store couldn't do anything for me. But the Apple store at the big Syracuse mall (also an authorized service provider) will warrantee it for me as long as there is no obvious damage (which there isn't--the thing looks brand new).

    Plus, I decided it would be a good idea to have two power adaptors anyway, so I went ahead and bought a new one. So, in the next couple weeks I get up to the Syracuse Apple store with a genius bar appointment and my MBP s/n and the blown adaptor and get a replacement.

    Thanks everyone for your help.
     

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