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Gadgetry and IT

MacBook Pro power cable splits and frays

Frayed MacBook power cable

The power cable on my MacBook Pro started to show a few problems after about six months. Firstly, the little charging light didn’t come on properly until you waggled the ‘MagSafe’ connector around a bit in its socket. Then, eventually, you could see the cable cover was beginning to come away from the plug, exposing the wire underneath. Not good, especially as I’d treated the power cord with as much care at the MacBook itself. A bit of research revealed that this has happened to loads of people, and apparently Apple did acknowledge the problem last year, although I can’t find any official reference to it now. With the MacBook about 10 months old, I took the power brick into the Apple Store in Cambridge and asked for a replacement, which was provided without question. So top marks for Apple on that one.

However, it’s all a terrible waste. There was nothing wrong with the power brick itself, but because the cable does not plug into the brick (it has a sealed connection), the whole assembly has to be replaced, just because one little bit of wire has frayed. And another thing: since the whole point of the MagSafe connector is that it can be yanked out of the laptop without bringing £1500-worth of electronics crashing to the floor, shouldn’t it be stronger than your average power cable?

Anyway, if it happens again, I don’t fancy trying to argue with Apple that although the MacBook is out of warranty, the power cable is a more recent replacement and therefore should still be in warranty. So I’m investing in this slightly expensive but decent insurance policy, a lump of plastic designed exactly to overcome Apple’s design flaw called the Mac MagSaver. The company promptly answered my query about shipping to Europe (they do, and there’s no extra charge), so they’re welcome to US$15 for the good service.

Talking of which, I was once again nearly a victim of Apple’s theoretically efficient but useless-in-practice system of having to book appointments at its Apple Stores. I knew if I just pitched up at the Apple Store with my dodgy power cable and asked for a replacement, they’d ask if I’d first booked an appointment at the bloody “Genius Bar”, otherwise it would be hard to discuss anything (can you imagine being asked if you’d booked an appointment if you took something back to any other shop?). So being organised, I went to the website to preannounce my arrival. There was no slot available for two days (jeez!) but hey-ho, I was prepared to wait. Then I was asked to predict my arrival in two days’ time to within 20 minutes. What do they think I am? So I had a guess, and said 9.20am.

Two days later, I walked into the store, admittedly just after half past nine, but not bad for two days’ notice. I strolled up to the Genius Bar, gave them my power brick with the dodgy cable, and showed the shop assistant the problem. She went into the back room to find someone to talk to me. With the door open, I could clearly hear her being told “look, the customer’s 13 minutes late for his appointment, we can’t see him now, that’s all there is to it”. The other customers waiting at the bar smiled at me or raised eyebrows knowingly. The assistant returned and said that unfortunately I’d missed my slot, so could I wait until the person being seen to had finished, and they’d try to fit me in? Well of course, if I go into any shop I expect to take my place behind whoever was in the queue first. What the hell was all that “13 minutes” stuff about?

When the woman in front of me had finished her discussion with the “Genius”, she turned to me as she was leaving and said “Good luck”. Which rather said it all. After that, the Apple Store people were very helpful and efficient. But what a ridiculous system. Apple products are great. But buy them from John Lewis, where you get conventional service from a conventional retailer, for the same price, and with a better guarantee.

3 replies on “MacBook Pro power cable splits and frays”

I’ve just started using macs after many years using only PCs – and i’m constantly stunned by the arrogance and ineptitude of Apple’s customer services – as you say, the people on the ‘shop floor’ are usually pretty helpful, but their systems are geared around helping them, not the customer… its a shame, cause i’m quite enjoying using macs, but Apple could make it easier.

How are you getting on with your magsaver?

I’ve had a couple of problems and like you the first time it was replaced without question (in all fairness it did catch fire) but the replacement has now come away from the casing and needs replacing, it is well out of warranty so it looks like it’s going to be a case of buying a new one and having seen your article I’m interested in getting one of their pre installed powerpacks.

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