There are many inexpensive third-party options out there if you need to replace your MacBook's MagSafe or USB-C charger. But is it safe to use a non-Apple charger for your MacBook? They may be cheaper, but are they still a good idea?
We did some research to find out for you. And the answer, as you would expect, is a little complicated.
Why are MacBook chargers so expensive?
Ken Shirriff did an intriguing demolition of Apple's MagSafe 85W charger for his blog and made some surprising discoveries. First, Apple is putting a lot more components into its chargers than you might expect. The MagSafe charger even contains a 16-bit microprocessor.
This microprocessor monitors the voltage and current flowing through the charger and turns it off in case something goes wrong. It's a handy security feature that prevents dangerous overheating or power surges and protects you and your MacBook from damage.
Photo credit: Ken Shirriff
Similarly, a chip in the MagSafe connector transmits the serial number, type, and power supply of the charger to the MacBook. This chip tells your computer whether it is connected to the correct type of adapter or not. It also tells the charger to deliver more power when connected.
The inside of the adapter is also filled with other components including capacitors, transistors, and resistors. All of these work together to keep you and your MacBook safe.
Apple can add a hefty price tag to the chargers for MacBook and MacBook Pro. But it delivers this price point with high quality components and impressive security features.
Of course, the components alone aren't worth $ 80. Shirriff estimates they're worth between $ 25 and $ 30, so there's a sizeable profit margin on Apple's power supplies.
Is it safe to use a non-Apple MacBook charger?
So what about cheaper MacBook chargers? Shirriff also took many of these apart, and its results show that they don't include nearly as many security features or components. In addition, the overall build quality is usually much lower, which increases the risk of electric shock or overheating.
Photo credit: Ken Shirriff
Most non-Apple chargers, however, still offer some security features – just not as many as Apple offers.
The country in which the adapter was manufactured and sold can determine how safe it is. There have been a number of high profile stories about Chinese adapters going up in flames or causing potentially fatal shocks.
Security regulations for companies in other parts of the world – especially the US and UK – are likely to be stricter. So, you'd better look for third-party chargers on Amazon rather than shop on AliExpress.
Unfortunately, wherever you buy a charger, you have almost no idea what safety features it contains.
However, Apple never licensed the MagSafe design to any third party. As a result, third-party MagSafe chargers were made illegally and are likely not a good option.
What about Apple's USB-C chargers?
In 2015, Apple introduced the first MacBook with a USB-C port for power instead of MagSafe. It wasn't long before the full Mac lineup followed, and now every modern MacBook uses USB-C for charging.
Unlike MagSafe, Apple doesn't have the USB-C design. This means that third parties can legally make their own USB-C chargers for your MacBook. As a result, it is possible to find USB-C chargers from reputable brands like Anker that are likely to offer similar security features to Apple.
However, there are also cheap, low-quality USB-C chargers out there that are definitely not that safe.
Just like third-party MagSafe chargers, these cheap adapters don't contain the same number of components and can damage your MacBook, start a fire in your house, or even cause an electric shock.
Are third-party MacBook chargers safe?
Most third-party MacBook chargers do not offer the same security features as official Apple devices. But is it that big of a deal?
Even Apple's adapters melt or flicker occasionally. So no MacBook charger is immune to failure, not even the official Apple chargers. If having a 16-bit microcontroller monitoring the charger isn't foolproof, a third-party MacBook charger without a microcontroller has to be even riskier.
There are numerous reports of third party chargers that have experienced serious errors. Sometimes they light fires. In other cases they are short-circuited and provide severe shocks. And they could even explode and cause serious injury.
If you want to avoid as much risk as possible, stick with the official Apple chargers.
This is how you know if a third-party MacBook charger is safe
It's very hard to say for sure whether a third-party MacBook charger is safe or not. It is always safest to buy an official charger direct from Apple, especially for MagSafe adapters. If an official Apple charger is not on your budget, here are some best practices to consider when looking for an alternative:
Buy from a reputable electronics brand you trust, like Anker or Wacom.
If possible, buy your charger directly from the manufacturer and not from a reseller.
Avoid deals that seem too good to be true. If a MacBook charger costs a quarter of what Apple sells it for, it probably isn't a smart buy.
How to Spot Fake Apple Chargers
Even if you try to buy an official Apple MacBook charger, you might get the wrong one instead. Counterfeit chargers are easy to find online and are often sold on Amazon or eBay for less than the official chargers.
You can tell that you have a fake MacBook charger by checking for the following errors:
Typos on the packaging or in the small print on the adapter.
A smooth Apple logo on the side of the charger and not an indented one.
Incomplete and asymmetrical seams on the edges of the adapter.
Crooked or missing serial number sticker over ground pin.
A plastic ground pin instead of a metal pin.
What are your charging priorities?
As with everything else, whether or not you buy a cheap MacBook charger depends on your personal priorities. Ready to Increase Your Risk of Fire and Electric Shock to Save $ 60 on a Cheaper Charger?
Remember that while the chance of disaster is relatively small, it is still higher than an Apple-made adapter.
It's also worth noting that using a third-party charger could void your MacBook warranty. Your original charger is under your warranty. So if something goes wrong, contact Apple first to see if you can get a free replacement instead.
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About the author
(148 articles published)
Dan writes tutorials and troubleshooting guides to help people get the most out of their technology. Before becoming a writer, he earned a BSc in audio technology, oversaw repairs at an Apple store, and even taught English in China.
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