Why did my adapter go out, and how do I prevent that?
August 18, 2010 2:10 PM   Subscribe

On Sunday morning we had a power outage here. My Mac's power adapter seems to have gone bad as a result, but none of my other computer parts did. What's the deal?

There was a power outage. Shortly before the outage, we heard what sounded like three gunshots about a quarter mile from here -- two pops and a slightly louder boom (if that info is useful).

My Mac Mini wouldn't start after the power came back on. I reset the PMU and it worked again. But when I turned it on, the white light didn't come on. The fan was REALLY loud, the entire time I had the computer on.

Software-wise, everything looked OK, but I read a forum post that indicated the adapter might be underpowered and decided to turn off the computer and order a new adapter.

New adapter arrived today. Mac is back in perfect shape.

Now, I have another computer plugged into this outlet, in fact 3 surge protectors total, using about two of them only, though. Why would the Mac Mini's adapter be the only thing affected?

And was there a power surge that caused this? I live in Northern California, and I had something similar happen before, albeit across town. When I lived in Seattle, I never had these kinds of problems when the power went out.

I live in a new (last 2 years) house.

If there was a surge, why wouldn't my (new) surge protector protect things? I'm just trying to understand why and what I can do in the future so I don't have to keep losing parts to power problems.
posted by circular to Technology (6 answers total)
I'm confused, was your Mac's power adapater plugged into the surge protector (which was then plugged into the wall)?

If so, then I wonder if your surge protector really isn't one. It could be just a cheap power strip masquerading as a surge protector. Those are common these days.

Surge protectors are also (except for the very expensive models) a one-shot deal. Once they have been tripped - which could have happened with a power surge when you weren't at home - they no longer offer any protection.

If this happens enough, or you're worried enough, buy a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) which is also a surge protector and "power conditioner." They cost about $60-80, but it's worth it.
posted by ErikaB at 2:29 PM on August 18, 2010

Two things can happen: a surge and a brownout. A brownout can be just as tough on a power supply- particularly if it's bouncing up and down around the point where the system would shut down.

Surge protectors can't do anything about brownouts; only UPS's can prevent these. Apple's power supplies are generally well made, so this is unlikely to happen again unless you have frequent brownouts.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:52 PM on August 18, 2010

Response by poster: >I'm confused, was your Mac's power adapater plugged into the surge protector (which was then plugged into the wall)?

Yes, that's correct.

I guess I'll look into buying a UPS, since I have a business to run.
posted by circular at 3:17 PM on August 18, 2010

If you're running 2 or 3 machines off it, I'd look at something like this APC unit- it has battery backup as well as surge, and it's listing at $130. You may want something bigger depending on how frequent outages are in your area, and how long you want to have to run over and shut your machines off cleanly.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:02 PM on August 18, 2010

Over the years I've had two or three items cooked due to brownouts and surges. Even if you did have a top name surge protector they do wear out. Also the act of protecting components from surges can certainly reduce its surge protection resistance to a point where it can't protect connected items. I had a monster cable surge protector that was hit so many times over the years that it only had one functioning outlet (out of an initial 10) with its indicator showing no surge protection available. Just be glad your $90 power supply got sacked and not your Mac, because something tells me Apple Care won't cover a binned logic board due to unstable power in your house. An ups is a very good idea. I have a rather large one connected to all of my network equipment and my nas. Because apparently JCP&L considers multiple brownouts every week or so a feature and not a problem. Good luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 7:07 PM on August 18, 2010

This sounds like coincidence to me. Things do sometimes just fail.

How many power failures have you had in your new location? A UPS is a fine idea, as far as it goes, but probably best to wait a little while and see if it really is needed.

If your system is truly mission critical, you should either hire somebody or put some serious thought and research into the entire thing. Not only what your power backup and protection requirements are. How about your data backup regime? What about redundant systems in case of another random failure?

The other answers here are.. Problematic as all hell. Probably because they are running with your assumption that this was related to a power surge. I just have no idea what else to say on that subject though, so I'm not going any further down that road.
posted by Chuckles at 12:43 AM on August 19, 2010

« Older 1-stop post-rock gig listings in the UK please!   |   How bad is this going to hurt? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.