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The Low-Cost Way to Stop Your Macbook Charger From Breaking

In Keep Things Running by Wes Nations6 Comments

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.

The Problem

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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The Fix

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

About the Author

Wes Nations

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Wes Nations is the founder of Johnny Vagabond - Around the World, Low and Slow. He's 4 years into a 1-year-trip and is traveling cheap, taking pics and doing the stupid stuff so you don't have to.

Comments

  1. Slap some Sugru on that! (you probably couldn’t find it in India, but it would be worth finding when you get the chance.) I’ll probably get a Macbook Air soon, and I’ve seen enough Apple cords break in this same spot to know that I’ll preemptively cover that section in Sugru.

  2. Nice. I have done the same with my iPhone cable as well. Duct tape works as well (as long as the isolation is not broken already) if you are on the road, I always carry a small roll with me.

  3. How long did this hack (with the matchsticks and electrical tape) hold up?

  4. Is ir safe to cover the whole cord and even the brick with electric tape? I just bought a Macbook Pro with a Magsafe 2 charger which has a reinforced cord holder so this hack is already applicable with the magsafe2.

    1. Yep, there’s no harm in putting electrical tape wherever you need to, other than directly covering the contacts or plug on either end.

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