Old Apple Powerbook power adapters: dangerous by design?

“In these days of countless stories of exploding Dell notebooks and massive Dell power adapter recalls, Apple has seemed relatively immune to these sorts of problems. Every once in a while, some odd thing came along, but it seemed like relatively calm waters. I fear, however, the sense of safety for Mac notebook users may be coming to an end,” Galen Zink writes for Zink Consulting.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “TJS” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: Why Zink fears that “the sense of safety for Mac notebook users may be coming to an end” is beyond us when the adapters he’s implicating are old PowerBook adapters and not Apple’s currently shipping MacBook ad MacBook Pro adapters. By the way, our last batch of Apple 15-inch Titanium PowerBooks used the adapters Zink is so worried about for 3+ years and had zero problems. If we still had the units, we guess we could post photos of the adapter working perfectly today, too. Like millions of other adapters.

Maybe under certain conditions, the PowerBook adapter used by Zink could fail, maybe not. Zink himself claims no knowledge of a widespread problem. Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro adapters are of different design, so the use of both the phrase “the sense of safety for Mac notebook users may be coming to an end” and the title of Zink’s piece, “Apple Notebook Power Adapters: Dangerous By Design?” are highly questionable. Allow us to employ logic for a moment: if – and that’s a big “if” – there was an issue at all, then “this safety concern for Mac notebook users has come to an end” as Apple no longer ships such adapters with their notebooks and now ships new MacBook and MacBook Pro MagSafe adapters instead.

An anecdote is not necessarily evidence, even if it is on the WWW with some photos accompanied by nonsensical statements.

We now return you to the rest of the online and other media who either can’t read and/or have an agenda and who will now attempt blow Zink’s article completely out of proportion.


  1. MDN: Just becuase you didn’t have this problem doens’t mean it doenst happen.

    I had this exact problem after 2 years with my g4 powerbook. Not only would the battery only hold charge for 45 min, my adapter stopped charging it b/c the cord started to wear and shoot sparks. i had to go to the apple store and purchase a new brick and battery– significantly lowering my student bank account.

  2. The yo yo adaptors from apple 5+ years ago were bad by design, the constant rolling up of the cable onto the yo yo, frayed the wires in the cable and mine used to spark and pop….

    Although, I have always found that cables for laptops, mice and other peripherals are made really cheaply. The amount that I have gone through over the years is scandalous, and I really look after my equipment.

    It’s a nice cash cow for them

  3. Take it easy MDN!!!

    The guy had a bad experience and is just writing about it the way it felt to him. The same phrases would have crossed my mind if I had a similar experience. With Apple’s claims on industrial design and safety being part of the reason why I got a Mac in the first place, this “anecdote” would concern me.

    It would have been enough to just share your own “anecdote” of the 3-year-old Powerbook as a response to the article.

  4. Next up: There is a danger of electrocution if you remove the outer case of your Macintosh SE/30. The sense of safety for 16-bit, 9-inch monochrome screen Mac desktop users may be coming to an end.

  5. Hey MDN, just because you were lucky and think Apple can do know wrong and anyone that dares to criticsize them are morons, doesn’t mean problems don’t happen.

    I have had to replace the power adapter for my most recent Aluminum PBook TWICE dues to scary sparks shooting out. I also had to replace the adapter for my old Titanium PBook once due to the same problem. The last time I had the problem and brought it into an Apple store the genius there was very concerned and had me fill out some sort of legal form. He said due to the seriousness, and danger of the defect Apple legal may contact me.

    So it does happen and apparently happens frequently enough the support people even have a protocol for handling the situation.

  6. I saw the pictures the guy posted and have had the original problem, but while I may occasionally curse Apple for not making the cable coating thicker; I’m not certain if I would blame Apple for the resulting fire. As this guy did.

    You can see from his pictures, and he mentions that the cable was seriously frayed. His solution was to attempt to not to disturb the frayed cable; except he did. Now, most of our parents should have taught us what happens when you have a frayed cable that electricity is running through—it can shock you and set your house on fire.

    I don’t see how Apple should be expected to defeat the laws of physics, so well known that your average parent can dispense it. (Nothing against your average parent)

    Now, if he wants to fault Apple for making the cable to thin that carelessness and cluelessness could cause damage to it; I’m with him. I’ve replaced four or five of those babies—typically for things as simple as a paper cut exposed the wire. I finally just purchased five of them—one for my home office, one each for two of my primary client sites, one for travel and one for back-up. That way, I rarely had the carry the cable in my bag.

    It’s not the course of action I recommend for most, but since mine was going in and out of my bag many times per day, it was receiving excessive wear and tear. Plus I cram a ton of other stuff in the bag—client files, tool kits, etc. So it works for me.

    That said, basic common sense should inform you that if you have a cable that’s frayed and looks like its about ready to split apart, that maybe applying a current to it isn’t in your best interest.

  7. ==
    It’s a nice cash cow for them

    Apple sells an average of 5 pre-Intel 65w power adapters a month per 45 ft store per week. (No, older ones aren’t available).

    …out of how many millions of portable Macs out there?

    And most of these are replacements for adapters lost or damaged by carelessness

    Even if you factor in other sources to buy them from (Amazon, Mac catalogs, CompUSA, etc.) it still isn’t so much a “cash cow” as it is a “necessary evil” to have to deal with manufacturing them in increasingly smaller batches (of what is essentially legacy hardware at this point) and having to store them since they sell so much more slowly than other products.

    It is much more of a pain to send just enough 65w adapters to a store without sending too many. If it isn’t at the store then the few customers that come in that need it are screwed and irate. But it’s impossible to send hundreds per store “just in case”. Keep in mind Apple Retail stores are constrained for stock space like you wouldn’t believe (due to the aesthetic decision to not fill every nook of floor space with crap like Radio Shack and CompUSA does.)

    Now, iPods are cash cows.

  8. Yeah, I have had three power adaptors for my 17″ Powerbook go west on me. One was even on a surgemaster powerboard. Pretty poor effort for a machine that is only 18 months old. No probs with the computer after they blew up. Gotta live with these things but it is pretty expensive to replace. I travel with three of them now just in case.

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