Laptop battery troubles
July 15, 2011 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Follow up to previous question....4yo Dell Inspiron laptop suddenly giving me the old "Plugged in but not charging" routine. Froze the battery for a day but no luck. So I bought a nice new one from Amazon that charged right up and worked for a week. No this one is giving me the same message. Any ideas? Or a place to turn to troubleshoot things? Any help would be appreciated.
posted by mikedelic to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Anecdotal evidence, I had this happen a couple of months ago on a Compaq/HP laptop purchased in 2008. It was apparently linked to a shorted-out AC adapter, and replacing the adapter worked fine. Can you at least borrow a Dell AC adapter to see if that has any effect?
posted by QuantumMeruit at 4:21 PM on July 15, 2011

Dell usually offers two different chargers, the pure-AC one and the multi-input (AC/car/boat/airplane/whatever) one. The latter will supply power to the laptop, but won't charge the battery if you have the laptop on.

Your situation sounds more complicated than that, but I'd consider it as a start.
posted by pla at 4:33 PM on July 15, 2011

If you got a cheap very-off brand battery - FYI those things are hit or miss. It is *not* uncommon for them to crap out after only a few weeks (or even one). This may or may not be your problem. The next sensible place to look would be the charger - try borrowing someone else's charger for the same model and see if that one works. After that I would look at the female charger jack on the motherboard.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:14 PM on July 15, 2011

With my Inspiron (about the same age as yours), I had to buy a new Dell battery and a new adapter to get it all working right again. I tried a cheapy battery but it was a bust.
posted by candyland at 5:30 PM on July 15, 2011

I don't know if this will work for you at all but my laptop does this all the time and I believe it has something to do with windows 7, not positive though. What I do is remove the battery and restart the computer, after it is restarted I plug in the battery and voila.
posted by boobjob at 6:00 PM on July 15, 2011

Seconding candyland. A bad charger can most definitely kill off a laptop battery due to crappy voltage. You could have also gotten a crappy battery. There is a chance that the laptop has a bad component internally causing the battery to not charge. It's tough to tell without the exact model Inspiron. Some of them have a separate power board from the motherboard, and that power board can go bad. Some of them have the power directly on the motherboard, and the motherboard can go bad.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:45 AM on July 16, 2011

There is no reason why the OS should affect battery charging. It can affect battery run time, and performance can get mucked up, but not charging.

There is also no reason why an AC adapter shouldn't charge a battery, but still power the computer just fine. AC adapters don't discriminate what power goes where inside the computer. What CAN happen is that the charger is going on and offline, and never actually managing to charge the battery. What also can happen is that the computer might think it has a lower wattage charger than it really does and slow down performance to compensate, but this also shouldn't affect charging. More importantly, Dells will tell you when powering up if they think they have a charger that isn't right.

Test: shut down the computer, unplug the power and the battery. Plug in the battery. Plug in the charger. The "charging" light should appear. You'll have to check the documentation as to what the flash pattern and the color(s) mean, because it's different. If it says it is charging, leave it overnight. Unplug the power, and try to run the laptop on the battery.

If it runs, but only for a short time, you've got a bad battery. Or if it runs, but says it isn't charged, you've either got a bad battery, or the runtime calculator program needs to be recalibrated.

If it doesn't run, you probably have a bad battery. But since the battery worked just fine out of the box, you really probably have a bad charging circuit on the computer. It says it is charging, but isn't actually sending power to the battery.

(Another test: if the battery has one of those buttons you push to find out how much it is charged, push the button. All lights means it is charged. The fewer lights, the less charge. Now, hold the button down. If all the lights go out, the battery tests good. If some lights come on, the battery is degraded somehow.)
posted by gjc at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2011

Had the same problem on my Inspiron 6000 of the same vintage. Additionally, when plugged in, it would randomly jump between a/c and battery power. The $75 solution was to take it to a local repair shop where the power socket was replaced. Seems that due to using the laptop AS a laptop, jarring of the plug from setting it down to answer phone, get popcorn for Mrs. MiamiDave, etc. had loosened the socket to the point where it was only making intermittent contact with the circuit board. This was after purchasing a new adapter/charger specifically designed for Dell laptops (having third pin) with no improvement. Of course, YMMV.
posted by MiamiDave at 4:51 PM on July 16, 2011

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