How to remove broken power adapter stem from inside laptop?
April 24, 2007 11:53 AM   Subscribe

The tip (inside stem) of my power adapter broke off in my wife's computer (White iBook G4). Thus, its unable to recharge. How do I get it out? What are these parts called so I can look it up at an appropriate place?

I'm headed out of town in the next couple of days and I'd like to not leave one of us without a computer. The Apple store is too far away. Local techs would charge this stingy guy too much.

All the data is backed up sufficiently.

I'm not afraid to open the computer up, but would rather not go rooting around without at least a guide. Too, if there's a clever or magical fix I'd love to hear about it. Searches haven't been fruitful. Am I using the right terminology?

The male part of the power adapter -- the thin stem -- broke off near the tip and is now lodged in the female power reciever in the side of the portable computer.
posted by GPF to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
"Tip" is probably the right way to describe that part. The outer part is probably "ring" or "sleeve".
posted by cmiller at 11:59 AM on April 24, 2007

Other people have had this problem, and solving it isn't easy. But it can apparently be done.
posted by procrastination at 12:00 PM on April 24, 2007

My boyfriend had this happen to him just last month, and he just ended up going to the Apple store. This is a guy who opened up his PowerBook to swap out a crashed hard drive...this is an operation that is not for the faint of heart, apparently.

Are you sure it can't charge? My boyfriend found that a decent temporary fix until he could get to an Apple store was to just kind of jam the broken charger onto the broken part. It could still make contact if he was aggressive about it. I know this worked for him for at least a week.
posted by crinklebat at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2007

I assume this doesn't work, or people wouldn't be going to such desperate lengths, but have you tried pulling the tip out with a magnet?
posted by designbot at 12:29 PM on April 24, 2007

Aren't magnets and computers in that whole Hatfield/McCoy realm?
posted by cashman at 12:38 PM on April 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies.

procrastination: I'll be getting out the paper clips, Q tips, toothpicks and micromachines this PM. It probably won't take another OS upgrade well, so I may as well play rough.

crinklebat: In my playing rough, I'll jam it in there really hard. *snicker*

Other thoughts certainly welcome.
posted by GPF at 1:13 PM on April 24, 2007

The tip ...of my power adapter broke off in my wife's computer

That sounds naughty!

Anyway, they make screwdrivers with magnetized tips, yes? So why not try a superthin (jewelers?) screwdriver with magnetized tip?
posted by dersins at 1:16 PM on April 24, 2007

Best answer: And that's probably why only Apple uses that obscenity of a power connector. I'm about to graduate in electrical engineering, and when I first saw one of those connectors, broken of course, I literally shouted "What the fuck?"

I don't think any regular magnets would work, but they also shouldn't harm the computer.

From a comment to the link above, someone is selling the parts to fix it and someone else has the instructions. (For 12" model, 14" model has different versions of the same thing.) That thing's way overpriced though, but if you have Apple stuff I guess you're used to it. I was going to say just open it up and see if you can get at the little tip from inside, which is possible with some connectors, but from the picture it doesn't look as if that will work.

If you're really brave and don't care about jury rigging your computer, you could for approximately free just solder some wires to the appropriate points and either hardwire the DC cable (cut the connector, attach wires to make the connections that would be made if the connector worked) or scrounge some decent power connectors. I have a friend with an ipod charger like that, but we're electrical engineers and we solder ALL THE TIME.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:49 PM on April 24, 2007

Best answer: Oh yeah - if you can find a differently broken ibook, scrounge the part out of that.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:50 PM on April 24, 2007

You need a DC-in board (the part in the computer that receives the prong from the AC adapter), which isn't an expensive part. The tough part is installing it. Don't try this at home: get thee to an Apple service provider.

And don't stick anything in there! The DC-in board won't work now even if you can convince the prong to come out.
posted by hollisimo at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2007

I keep a set of orifice files on the workbench for occasions like this. They're tiny litle files made for cleaning welding torch tips and are great for fishing tiny items out of small spaces. You can pick up a set for a couple bucks at any welding supplier.

Have you tried a broken coping saw blade yet? that's an old locksmiths' trick for fishing a broken key out of a lock or ignition switch. That might do the job if the space is large enough to insert the blade into the space and hook the side of the stem with a tooth or two.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:08 PM on April 24, 2007

Funny, this came up on the Consumerist today too.

Thanks for all the "tips." I had the same problem myself. And no real satisfaction from AppleCare. Might try the options linked above.

In a related note, this is the technique the Genius recommended for wrapping the power adapter cord to keep it from fraying.
posted by cephalopodcast at 3:27 PM on April 24, 2007

One possible option - put a tiny dab of super glue or similar on the remaining bit and see if you can glue it back to the bit stuck in the hole. Then pull it all out once dried - in theory at least.
posted by prentiz at 3:40 PM on April 24, 2007

Yeah, what Hollisimo said. Something tells me she knows her stuff.
posted by J-Garr at 4:01 PM on April 24, 2007

Response by poster: TheOnlyCoolTim: looks like the guide I need. I suspect finding junker for parts is a good idea -- the screens about to go too.

Thanks all.
posted by GPF at 4:15 PM on April 24, 2007


I had the exact same thing happen to my Ti Powerbook (original G4 450, baby). You can imagine my frustration and overwhelming urge to toss the thing out the window. These are old-ish machines and happy to know that apple has redesigned the DC-in.

Happily, both machines are happily charging now -- and I didn't spend a dime. I followed the iFixit guide for replacing the DC-in board up to the point where the back of the receptacle was accessible. As you'll see, open spaces in the circuit board allow just enough room to put in a paperclip and push the broken pin out. Reassemble.

The Ti Powerbook was trickier because the DC-in Board is attached to the logic board and only accessible by taking the board out. Egads! No worries, I got it back together and only had 2 screws left over. Still works great.

Each job took about 1.5 hours start to finish. Pretty easy fix if you're patient, can follow directions, and have the eyesight and manual dexterity to manipulate tiny zero point screws and screw drivers.
posted by GPF at 12:35 PM on December 27, 2007

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