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Laptop power adapters have issues

Laptop power adapters are a frequent cause of problems for laptop users. From the simplest damage to the cord itself, to a disconnect of the power jack from the motherboard, problems abound.

If there are issues with powering the computer, the first thing to check is the compatibility of the power adapter with the laptop. An exact match is very important. Some power cords can power-up a laptop, but if the volts and amps are not matched to that laptop, damage can be done over time. On the bottom of the laptop, there will usually be small print that specifies the “input” required. The power adapter brick will also specify its “output.” Volts must match, amps can be greater, but cannot be less that the laptop’s requirement. In addition, the plug that goes into the port must be an exact match.

The easiest fix involves the cord that plugs into the wall and is detachable from the power adapter “brick.” If damage is limited to this section of the power cord, it can be replaced easily and inexpensively. Bring the entire power adapter to the store so that an exact match can be made, as there are different size plugs that connect to the brick. It is wise to also bring the laptop so that it can be checked for compatibility and powered up.

If damage is visible to the brick itself or to the cord that runs from the brick to the laptop, the power adapter must be replaced. If the adapter’s viability is unsure, a computer repair shop can easily test the power adapter. A tester registers the output to be sure that it matches the adapter’s specifications. An adapter that is no longer consistently powering at the specified output should be replaced.

When finding a replacement power adapter, be sure to find one that the manufacturer specifies is suitable for that model. Find an exact match on the volts and the plug, and be sure the amps are “ample.” Replacement power adapters are widely available by model, with a typical cost of between $35 and $90 (new).

Universal power adapters are also available, retailing at $60 to $120 or more. When purchasing a universal power adapter, insist that your brand and model (or family of laptops) is listed as compatible with that adapter. Damage can result if an inappropriate power adapter is used for an extended time. If there is a sliding switch on your universal power adapter to adjust volts, be certain that this switch always stays in the appropriate position. Apply tape to it if necessary. Usage at the wrong voltage can lead to costly repairs.

If your laptop is having power issues, and the power adapter passes a power test, you may have a problem with the power jack. Damage to the jack can occur when plugged in, if the plug takes a blow or endures prolonged pressure. A laptop’s power jack is most often soldered directly to the motherboard, and its replacement is technically demanding and very time consuming. While the jack itself is priced around $25, labor can be $200. The laptop must be disassembled, and the old jack de-soldered from the motherboard. After the new jack is re-soldered to the board, the laptop must be reassembled and tested.

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance of Bradenton, can be reached at or (941) 753-8277.