What's up with my notebook power adapter receptacle?
April 5, 2004 7:22 AM   Subscribe

I've got a big problem with my notebook PC. The spot into which I put the power cord/AC adapter in the computer (whatever it's called) seems to have been damaged somehow, so now I have to nudge the connection into just the right angle for the battery to start charging at all. The computer works just fine except for this, but the warranty has run out, and my PC needs power! (A) Who can I call about such a problem -- a PC support guy or an electrician or what? (B) If all fails, are there any backup options, like a USB charger or something? I'm desperate!
posted by dagny to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
you may want to check that it isn't a problem with just the power cord. If you know anyone that uses the same type of cable, just try theirs out. I had a very similar sounding problem with an older Apple Powerbook, but because the power cords are coated in clear plastic, I could see that the cord was shorting out at certain angles. Bought a new cord, problem solved.
posted by nprigoda at 7:59 AM on April 5, 2004

Sounds like you broke a solder connection. If that is the case you need someone with experience soldering electronics. Luckily that connection is at the edge of the board and is not the tiniest connection.
My last job we had someone on staff that could affect such repairs.
Where you find someone is a challenge. You will need to open you laptop up to expose the board.

Definately do some cable jiggling, as previously mentioned, before dissecting your system. But, having been around a lot of laptops, and having seen this behavior in the past, it sounds like you broke a solder to me.

Good luck
posted by a3matrix at 8:35 AM on April 5, 2004

I would guess that a typical repair shop will want to swap out the entire board. Most electricians work on big things, not little things-- good for circuit breakers, not so good for electronics.

You may want to see if there is a group of ham radio enthusiasts in your area. They are often first-class hobbyists who enjoy soldering extremely fine connections.

I would not recommend using them for a blind date, however.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:01 AM on April 5, 2004

Crack it open and solder it yourself. I did this with a TV remote and to my surprise I fixed the thing.
posted by pissfactory at 9:10 AM on April 5, 2004

I had a similar problem with my laptop a few months ago. If you've got any spare ports, and you're handy with a soldering iron, you might try what I did. I never used the modem, and know that I never will, so I took the thing apart, and wired the modem cable port up to the power leads on the inside, then replaced the proprietary plug on the ac adapter with a regular rj11 phone connector.
Couple of pics here, but really not enough to explain it. The red and green wires used to go from the rj11 jack on the back of the laptop to the modem on the motherboard. Now they go from the power jack (pictured) to the rj11 jack. There's no reason this wouldn't work with a spare serial port, or usb port, or whatever.

I've since bought a new laptop.
posted by duckstab at 9:13 AM on April 5, 2004

Thanks for the ideas, guys! Just out of curiosity, for those who actually reads the specs behind these things, would it even be possible to charge a computer through the USB port or Firewire port or something similar?
posted by dagny at 10:39 AM on April 5, 2004

would it even be possible to charge a computer through the USB port or Firewire port or something similar?

While USB and Firewire let you power devices from the computer to the device, I don't think it goes the other way. Even if it did, "USB bus allows up to ... 2.5W maximum of power per "Vbus."" [link], and FireWare allows 5W per line, which means it would take a long old time to charge your battery.
posted by falconred at 11:06 AM on April 5, 2004

My father has this same problem on his laptop. His local computer store fixed the connection as best they could without a major repair and suggested that with a 3-plus-year-old machine it'd be wiser to replace the machine than get a full fix. In the interim they told him not to move the computer. heh
posted by werty at 11:14 AM on April 5, 2004

Ugh, I had this problem with my old laptop. The few computer people I talked to about it said there wasn't much I could do about it. They didn't think sautering would help either, so I ended up taping the power cord in place at just the right angle. But after a few weeks of that, I got a little sick of not being able to move it or bump it. I bought a new power cord, and that helped for a few months because it was stiffer and didn't move as much. So basically, my advice is to buy a new power cord, and spend the next few months saving up for/looking for a new computer.
posted by evilbeck at 12:03 PM on April 5, 2004

A friend of mine recently gave me an IBM ThinkPad with the exact same problem. I was able to download the field engineering manual from IBM's website and take the thing apart. It turned out that it was a cracked solder trace on the DC adapter board. Since I couldn't find a replacement board for less than $100, I tried re-soldering it and put it back together. Surprisingly, it's worked fine ever since.

I was SO proud of myself....
posted by Daddio at 12:52 PM on April 5, 2004

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