MacBook not charging? 5 possible fixes

In our experience, the Apple MacBook is one of the most reliable computers you can buy. Ignore the oddly bad design decisions you might find explained by the brilliant Louis Rossman, most people find that their MacBook just keeps shipping. That’s part of the reason why serious device failure can be shocking. One minute your MacBook is working fine, the next it’s not charging!

There are several reasons why your MacBook won’t charge. Some of you can repair it yourself, others will ask Apple or a certified third-party repair company to deal with it. Let’s look at common causes and fixes to see what your specific problem turns out to be.

Two types of MacBooks “Not Charging”

There are a number of things “MacBook won’t charge” can mean. Most commonly you plug in the charging cable and your MacBook doesn’t turn on or the battery continues to drain even though you’ve connected power.

A second reason someone might want to look up this issue is a message under the battery status that says “not charging”. However, the computer is still functioning normally and the battery level does not decrease, decrease more slowly, or actually increase slowly over time.

This second situation occurs when the MacBook needs to use more power than is provided via the cable. Usually, it’s because you’re using an underpowered power adapter. We’ll address this soon, but first let’s see what you can do if your MacBook is completely dead and won’t charge.

1. My MacBook is dead

If your MacBook won’t turn on or charge even when you connect it to a power source, you may have a dead MacBook in your hand. However, before you transfer it to Apple Genius, here are a few things you should try:

  • Press and hold power button for 10 seconds, this will force the MacBook to power off. Then try turning it on as usual.
  • After doing this and still no response, you can try resetting the SMC (System Management Controller). Organization Shift-Control-Option to the left of the keyboard along with the power button for 10 seconds. Then release the keys and try to power on the MacBook as usual.

If that doesn’t work, you should pack the manual and bring it to your nearest service center for evaluation. With this most serious issue in mind, we can now take a look at the more common (and fixable!) charging problems faced by MacBook owners.

2. Start from source: Check your charger

There are two parts to the puzzle if your MacBook won’t charge. One is the laptop itself and the other is the charger. The second piece of hardware is the easiest to test, so you should start there.

Make sure that the charger, cable and connector are free of any visible damage. You should also test to make sure that the wall outlet works by trying another device with it.

If the charger is USB model, try plugging it into another USB device. If the charger works with other devices but not with your MacBook, it may not be the cause of the problem.

3. Use Genuine Apple Accessories

Modern MacBooks are especially versatile because they use a standard USB-C port for charging. This means you can use any smartphone or tablet charger to power up your laptop. Even a backup battery can extend the time you can go without electricity before the lights go out.

Unfortunately, the world is full of poor quality chargers or chargers that don’t match the standard of power delivery that MacBooks need. It could also be because the charger doesn’t have the capacity needed to supply the MacBook with enough power.

MacBook chargers range from 29W to about 96W, so check what your MacBook requires and use something at the same or higher. You can charge your MacBook with an 18W smartphone charger, but the computer will have to be turned off or in sleep mode. Even then it will take longer to fully charge.

The best way to eliminate this as the cause of the problem is to use the original Apple charger and cable that came with the laptop. If these are also giving you the “not charging” error then it’s time to have an Apple repair center check things out.

4. Do you have dirty ports?

Please don’t take it personally, a lot of people have dirty gates. Nothing to be ashamed of! It’s important to check if dust and lint build up in the MacBook’s charging port could be the cause of a poor electrical connection.

This isn’t really an issue for pre-Thunderbolt 3 MacBooks, but if you have one of the newer models they may experience the same issues as Thunderbolt 3 ports and USB-C in general. Shine a light on the gate to see if there’s trash in it. If so, you can have a technician clean them for you, or if you’re a little braver, gently remove dirt from the connector with a plastic or wooden toothpick. As always, do this at your own risk.

5. Your battery may be dead

Lithium batteries will wear out a little each time they go through a charge cycle. After they go through the rated number of cycles, the batteries begin to decrease in capacity, a process that can start slowly and then speed up. At some point the battery will either fail to charge or charge so little that it will die in a few minutes. If you click on the battery icon in MacOS and see a “service battery” message, it means the battery needs to be checked by a professional and has most likely been replaced.

There are three possibilities here when it comes to battery usage. Older MacBook models have user-replaceable batteries. You just need to open the old battery and insert the new one. After these MacBooks, there was a generation of laptops that could remove the battery but this involved opening the laptop. If you have one of these models, check out the iFixit guide to see what’s involved in using that battery.

The latest MacBook models are all sealed, and even when you open it, the battery is glued in and needs to be removed with solvent. This forces you to use an Apple technician and deprives you of your ability to do the job yourself unless you have the right technical skills.

Continue to be in charge

Hopefully your MacBook charging problem turns out to be just a temporary problem. If not, in the end it’s not that It is expensive to have a certified technician install a new battery.

What you should never do is have someone install a non-Apple replacement battery in your MacBook. Using an unbranded lithium battery is a bad idea most of the time, but it’s especially true of carefully designed MacBooks. Incorrect batteries present a risk of fire or explosion. That will cost a lot more to repair than having the right battery replaced by the right person!

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