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I was in Varanasi, India, overlooking the sacred Ganges River when I noticed my Macbook Pro’s battery dropping. This happened quite often — it was a three-year old model and I had beat the hell out of it for the last two years.
I pulled my charger out of my pack… and was broken-hearted to see that only the thick portion of the cord and the brick came out. The thin cord that ran from the brick to laptop remained inside the pack.
As much as I love Apple, it often does tend to lean towards ‘form over function’ and the Macbook Pro charger brick is a prime example of this. The wire that runs to the power outlet is thick and robust. The line that runs to the laptop, though, is thin and has no support where it exits the brick. It takes a lot of strain and wears out quickly right where it leaves the brick.
And because the wiring is of a tubular construction, we can’t just splice it like a normal PC cord. I’ve gone through two of them this way in three years. (Heavy use, granted, but it’s a portable computer).
I was horrified and panicked, but after some searching I found a local PC vendor who had a very limited stock of Mac goodies, one of which was a brand new power brick. And for only $129, he would sell it to me (they were $69 at the time in the US but hey, beggars can’t be choosers).
So I decided to work up a little hack that might take the strain off that one weak spot. A toothpick and duct tape lasted about one week before it fell apart. My current hack is holding up well and only takes about five minutes to complete.
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You’ll need a knife, electrical tape and a couple of matchsticks or something similar to use as a splint (see first photo). We want to brace it to reduce wear. You can see that this six-month old cord is already developing a bulge — this is where it will break.
Taking a small piece of electrical tape, I cut the heads off the matchsticks and put them on each side of the cord. Wrap this as tight as you can — the stretchiness of the electrical tape really helps. Take another piece or two and wrap tightly all the way past the matchsticks.
Now, to keep the things really secure, I recommend creating a small loop for slack and tightly taping the small cable to the large one. Small cable ties work for this as well but don’t pull them too tight — it is possible to crush the small cable. This spot makes a great place to hold the goods while you wrap the cables up and keep all the strain away from your problem spots.
Add a velcro cable wrap for the rest and you’re good to go. It isn’t pretty but it just may save you a freak-out in some developing country.