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. There were two models of hte Power bricks, btw people. The original ones for the aluminum powerbooks didn’t have the protecting addition rubber at the base of the brick. (the thicker piece of rubber which prevents the cord from bending too far right where it goes into the brick from the powerbook). About a year or two later, they started adding those rubber protectors. Before that, I’ve had at least 2 or 3 power bricks fail and start sparking. Apple has replace them every time, but it IS an issue. HOWEVER, this seems to be a slightly different issue than the above guy mentions, as it was the cord rubbing against the power brick plastic (there’s a seam there it cuts itself against) and eventually rubbed down to the metal, causing a short. As said, the rubber guard has basically fixed this issue.

  2. I too have purchased 3 adaptors to date for my powerbooks. I’ve never needed to buy adaptors for my other equally used electronics. Apple could make the leads detachable so that we can just purchase the cables but that wouldn’t make as much profit for them. MDN needs to relax, your journalism is not credible.

  3. I have to of those roll up yo,you adapters and they outlasted my newer square white iBook adapter which the connector became intermittent.
    So I don’t buy this story.

    I do think that all computer makers could make more durable hardware like power adapters as they are so fricken expensive but made cheaply as it is.

  4. Yep–last summer my Aluminum PB G4 power adapter also began sparking; the outer rubber piece where the cord enters on the DC side partially melted and was visibly charred.

    This DID happen to me, and judging from other respondents above, it seems reasonably clear that this has occurred enough for Apple to have a policy for dealing with it (albeit after the fact). I disagree with your point that even if there _is_ an issue, since it is not part of a currently shipping product, it can now be ignored as a safety concern. Talk about your “nonsensical statements!” How many hundreds of thousands of G4 PBs were sold and could potentially have this issue emerge? Shouldn’t PB owners be at least aware of the potential for their adaptors to fail so they can at a minimum inspect their own for signs of immenent problems?

    The author of the article seems well-intentioned, did enough independent research to confirm his suspicions and has a good point to make. He’s entitled to use the WWW for this. His title seems justified to me. Just because something on the web doesn’t reflect well on Apple doesn’t automatically mean it should be demeaned. Face it–you did the author AND your readers a disservice with your belittling commentary.

    Lesson to be learned (sigh–I keep having to relearn it): Read the original article, consider the author’s point of view and sources, see if other sources and experiences confirm any points made, and only THEN decide if he or she deserves scathing online commentary, or wider dissemination, or even–gasp!–an apology…

    Humble pie…mmm, tasty!! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  5. This is a real problem. My power supply (G4-867 Powerbook) just melted a week ago exactly like the article explains. Mine arced and sparked for years. Then all of a sudden it stopped. About 3 months after it stopped all the fireworks it melted right where the wire comes out of the power supply. I have not received my replacement power supply yet so I don’t know if it has been changed any. Had I not been in the room at the time of melt down I’m afraid that it may have burned my house down.

  6. Uhm, it looks like a weak connection, so I treat it as such, with kid gloves.

    I always keep a little bit of the wire wrapped around the two “ears”, that puts as little stress as possible on the wire connection to the brick.

    Also, Zink’s photos show a scorch mark barely above what one would expect if he had put a single match on his notepad. I bet he could put 100 matches on his notepad, and he couldn’t burn down his house. What a hypester.

  7. From: cash cow not

    Funny how nearly everyone here has had problems with power supplies and most have said they have gone though at least 3…

    Don’t know about in the states but over here in blighty apple’s power supplies cost £100 ($189) So they are not by any means cheap!

    I have gone through countless numbers through the years, as has everyone I know! And mice…

  8. “…if – and that’s a big “if” – there was an issue at all…” MDN

    Well, MDN, it looks like it is more than just speculation from some crazy writer that these problems happen and are by no means isolated cases.

    Maybe MDN needs to admit that yes, even the holier than thou Apple can sometimes make defective products.

  9. How many of these idiots keep the “Remove This Plastic” wrapping on their power bricks?

    How many of them are keeping the extension cord wound around the adapter while it’s plugged in?

    How many are stacking stuff on top of the power brick?

    How many have the power brick sitting on a couch cushion, bed or pillow, like they shouldn’t be? (Soft surfaces trap heat).

    I have two, no problems ever. ::shrug:: But I’ve seen plenty of people treat their portable computers like absolute sh1t and expect it to keep ticking.

    People are more motivated to complain than praise, so typically only the gripers are disproportionally represented on web boards.

  10. Kinbaku:

    Based on the number of issues with adapters I don’t think you can blame it on idiot users. I resent you lumping us all in a category of people that don’t know better and deserve what we get for somehow by using our laptops incorrectly or somehow making corrupting our power adapter. When I spend #k for a laptop, I expect that the company that makes it will make a product that can hold up to EVERYDAY use. I have been an loyal Apple user since 1984. So I can understand your blind loyalty to the Church of Apple. But, give me a break! Once in a while you have to stop being an apologist for the multi BILLION dollar company and help them improve their quality control by actually admitting that, yes, Apple is capable of making defective products. Stop protecting Steve Jobs and start demanding some better quality from the man we have made very rich by our loyalty!!!

  11. My fiancee had TWO go out. I had one go out so far. The end by the power brick just burns through and then sparks start flying. She bought two more for herself, just in case it happens again. They really ARE dangerous. MDN’s flippant take is totally uncalled for. It could have easily started a fire had we not caught them right away. And it does NOT have anything to do with rolling them up. We never roll ours up at all. Our machines are pretty much just used at home, and the cords get very little wear. We try to always keep them unplugged when we aren’t home due to this issue. The guys at the Apple store took absolutely no action, even though I had 2 of them right there that were obviously garbage. I never took it further than that, I just got out my credit card. Look at the reviews of the thing on the Apple Store on apple.com. Horrible reviews. This is just a BAD design and makes Apple look horrible. I hope the new ones are better.

  12. @Kinbaku:

    No to none of the above. We are extremely careful with our things, to a fault. This is a bad design, period. Amazing it went so long or even made it out the door. That some don’t have issues? Just dumb luck I suppose.

    Magic Word: Response – as in, NONE from Apple.

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