MagSafe Won’t Charge a MacBook? It’s Probably a Simple Fix

Feb 4, 2014 - 15 Comments

magsafe-charger

The MagSafe power adapter is brilliant, using magnets to secure a connection between a MacBook and the AC power charger, it not only breaks away quickly to help prevent mishaps, but it also quickly snaps on to provide power to the Mac. It usually works flawlessly, but on some rare occasions, the MagSafe adapter is seemingly connected just fine but no charge is being passed through to the computer. Fortunately these issues are usually easy to resolve, so proceed through steps 1 through 3 outlined below to get your MagSafe charging the Mac again.

1: Verify the MagSafe is Plugged In & Try a Different Outlet

Yes, that means check to be sure the adapter is plugged into a wall outlet, and that the MagSafe AC adapter or wall adapter is properly connected and secured. Trying a different wall outlet is also critical because it rules out the outlet being the issue (and who hasn’t had the experience of plugging something into a non-working outlet before?).

Also, check for any flaws or frays in the adapter. If the MagSafe cable is torn, fraying, damaged, or the inner-workings of the charger are exposed in any way, do not use the MagSafe. Replace it immediately.

2: Check the MagSafe Ports for Debris

Now check the MagSafe ports for any objects or debris. Look closely at both the adapter cord itself, and on the port at the side of the MacBook Pro / Air. Foreign objects interfering in the physical connection between the charger and the computer is one of the more common reasons that MagSafe adapters seemingly won’t pass a charge. The image below demonstrates how a tiny piece of something blocking a connection can be hard to see, so check closely.

Magsafe with debris blocking connection

(Note the tiny metallic particle that is snuggly tucked into the corner of the port. Yes, this is a real photo example taken while troubleshooting a MacBook Air that wouldn’t charge.)

If you do see something stuck in the MagSafe adapter or Mac port, unplug the MagSafe from the wall and disconnect the Mac from any power source, and then use a wooden object like a toothpick to remove it from the port. Do not ever use anything metal for this purpose.

This may sound silly or unlikely, but it happens more often than you’d think. Because laptops and MagSafe adapters are often carried in backpacks, purses, and bags, they can accumulate lint and other particles that may prevent a proper connection. Additionally, that same magnetic connection which makes the MagSafe adapter so wonderful can also attract other pieces of minuscule stuff that is just large enough to prevent a charge while also being very hard to visually identify.

3: Reset the SMC

If you have verified the MagSafe adapter is all plugged in properly and the port is free of obstructions, your next choice should be to reset the System Management Controller (SMC). This can resolve many power related issues with Macs, from strange fan behavior, to batteries not charging, the MagSafe adapter not being identified as connected or passing a charge, to the battery missing message, refusal to sleep or wake properly, amongst a variety of other problems.

Resetting the SMC on a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Retina MacBook with a non-removal battery is easy and done as follows:

  1. Shut down the MacBook by going to  Apple menu > Shut Down
  2. Connect the MagSafe power adapter
  3. Simultaneously hold down Shift+Control+Option+Power for about 4 seconds, then release all together
  4. Press the Power button to boot the MacBook with a reset SMC
  5. To clarify, these are the exact keys to press when the Mac is shut down with the adapter connected in order to reset the SMC:

    Reset the SMC controller on a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Retina with these key presses

    If you have an older model MacBook with a removal battery the steps are slightly different, you can follow our instructions or Apple’s official instructions to perform the same SMC reset on those computers.

    Resetting the SMC clears out all power settings on the Mac, so if you have customized settings within Energy Saver or elsewhere you’ll need to set those again, as all power options get returned to the OS X defaults.

    Once the Mac is booted it should be charging fine, as signified by the MagSafe light being orange or green.

    If you’re still having problems and the Mac won’t charge, the MagSafe adapter itself could be failing (a fairly rare occurrence) or the MacBook logic board could be failing (another rare occurrence). If you can, try another MagSafe adapter to see if it works with the Mac. If all else fails, schedule an appointment or phone call with Apple official support channels to get the MacBook and MagSafe adapter looked at.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

15 Comments

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  1. Onur says:

    I had also experienced sometimes that the adapter enters some sort of protection mode if there is a problem in the outlet regulation. In that case changing the outlet won’t help as the adapter is still in off-mode and keeping in the outlet preserves this state. Waiting long enough without unconnected to any outlet (appx. 2-3 minutes) enables the adapter get back to operational state and it starts working even on the same outlet. I am not a power management expert but I observed this behavior numerous times with different magsafe adapters.

  2. I’ve found that the central pin of the MagSafe Adapter can often become stuck, which prevents the Laptop from charging.

    A pair of tweezers to pull the pin out often rectified the issue.

  3. Bryan Pietrzak says:

    Also make sure all firmware and SMC updates have been applied. For some of the older MacBooks, there was an SMC update to enable MagSafe support.

  4. Vega says:

    Remove the staple from the mag safe port. They fit perfectly and hide along the inner edge. Also, if not the SMC or power adapter its usually the mag safe board inside the computer which is way cheaper than the MLB.

  5. albert root says:

    So thankful to the local Apple Store where I found out the charger was not at fault, but rather the Magsafe board connection inside. The part was $10.23 along with the labor of $39.00 came to 49.23 plus tax and I have my macbook back. They were so helpful at the apple store and overall a wonderful stress free experience. I also admitted that I had left my macbook in my car overnight and condensation had most likely formed inside causing the connection to rust out a bit. They appreciated that information.

  6. Peter Charters says:

    I bought a refurbished MacBook a few years back that came with a new MagSafe adapter. The adapter failed after only a few hours. I called Apple. Tech said it couldn’t fail; it is new. I said that I bet he knew as well as I did that if electronics are going to fail it is usually soon after being put into operation. He sent a new one.
    Now I have an MBA and a second MagSafe. The old one was 60W, the new is 45W. So I can use either on the MBA but only the old one on the MacBook.

  7. Ram Shengale says:

    This worked for me. Thanks a ton.

  8. Mark Powell says:

    Read the article- followed the instructions- fixed the problem.

    Paul Horowitz you are a legend

  9. Beth Devonport says:

    Cheers! This worked for me! You are a life saver! :)

  10. michele p. says:

    I appreciate you showing the keys on the image. Despite being a Mac user for over 10 years I still have trouble identifying the “Option” or “command” key. I wish they would say alt and control like every other normal computer

  11. Lordnikon says:

    I wasted liquid on the 2007/2008 MacBook that is not able to charge at the moment. After drying it; it powerd up for a few minutes and turned off. I notice the MagSafe was not fully illuminated green. When I unplugged the MagSafe, the light was still on but not bright for 5sec. I tried another AC outlet with the same results. Would this be the mag board.

  12. JB says:

    Did and it worked .. thanks

  13. yahkmed says:

    What you’ve told people to do when resetting the older models is hard when you’re out of charge and can’t charge it!

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