It’s not uncommon to notice that your MacBook charger feels warm. However, they can sometimes get worryingly hot. And it’s difficult not to wonder whether the hot chargers pose a serious fire hazard. Should it be getting hot?
Your MacBook charger shouldn’t be getting hot. It’s normal to notice that it is slightly warm to the touch, but if it is so hot it’s uncomfortable to hold, it may malfunction or fail to dissipate heat adequately.
Why It Happens and When To Be Concerned
Why they Overheat
MacBook chargers usually overheat because a flaw with them or something in the environment prevents them from cooling down faster than they produce heat.
In some cases, this heat can become so excessive that it poses a risk to your device and everything around it.
There’s a normal level of heat you should expect to come from your MacBook charger.
Inside, a transformer component converts the AC power from your power outlet to your MacBook’s DC power.
Because the process of converting AC to DC inherently results in losses of energy in the form of heat, you may find that it heats up when you’re charging your computer.
Generally, the amount of heat produced by normal function shouldn’t be enough to overheat it.
The heat produced when a charger can’t cool down can quickly reach dangerous levels.
Suppose you notice that it’s so hot that it’s uncomfortable to hold. In that case, you should evaluate the conditions you’re using to determine if the environment needs to be adjusted or the charger needs to be replaced.
Also, you can use the methods I’ll discuss later in the article to troubleshoot an overheating charger and to determine if it might be broken or malfunctioning.
When To Be Worried
There’s no reason to be concerned if it’s just slightly warm to the touch. If your MacBook charger starts to become so hot that it’s uncomfortable to hold, you should be worried about whether it’s safe to use.
You’ll need to assess the situation more closely to determine how safe the charger is to use and what the potential issue may be.
If the charger becomes hot when placed on insulating materials like blankets, move it to a spot with good airflow and see if the temperature improves.
You should also verify that debris on the plug prongs isn’t causing the charger to overheat or malfunction.
You can do this by unplugging it, inspecting the prongs closely for debris, and wiping them with a dry cloth if necessary.
You should also ensure that your MacBook’s charging port is clean.
You’ve verified that the charger connections are clean and can adequately cool down from the nearby air.
It’s worth considering where you sourced it if it still seems to be overheating.
If you’re using a third-party product, the hardware within it is likely faulty. You should discard it and purchase a MacBook charger produced by Apple.
If you’re using an official charger and it still overheats, you should consider whether your warranty may apply to have it replaced.
Of course, these aren’t the only factors that can cause it to overheat.
Are Overheating MacBook Chargers a Fire Hazard?
Overheating chargers can be a fire hazard. This is particularly common with poorly made third-party ones but can also happen with improperly used or maintained official chargers.
You should immediately disconnect the charger and stop using it if you notice clear signs of electrical fire burns, like burn marks or unusual smells.
If you notice any signs of a fire hazard, addressing the situation immediately and discarding the charger is essential for your safety.
Here are some signs you should look out for:
- Strange smells, such as the smell of smoke or burning plastic.
- Sudden, extreme amounts of heat.
- Visible melting or deterioration on the charger cable or plastic housing.
- Black or brown burn marks (scotch marks) on the outlet, cable, or plastic body.
- Physical damage, cable, or outlet damage, including fraying or cracks.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use third-party MagSafe chargers under any circumstances.
While you can find these chargers for cheap prices on online marketplaces, the lack of quality control for the internal components means that they can easily malfunction, often in extremely dangerous ways.
It’s also worth noting that if you have a MacBook with a USB-C charger, you can purchase third-party ones from reputable manufacturers like Anker.
While purchasing an official charger might be a larger investment initially, you’ll find that the device’s safety is worth it in the long run.
Why Are Official Macbook Chargers Better Than Third-Party Ones?
While MacBook chargers might seem like extremely simple devices, they’re very sophisticated devices.
They even include a small microprocessor that monitors the voltage going through the MagSafe charger and shuts it down if the voltage seems dangerous.
This small feature makes official MagSafe chargers significantly safer than third-party ones, which are likely only to include the components required to charge the MacBook without any extra safety features.
Aside from the safety features, the MacBook charger’s components are also of higher quality than those offered by third-party providers at a low price.
The resistors, transistors, and capacitors are all extremely well-made and less prone to breaking or creating electrical hazards.
You can trust a few manufacturers if your MacBook uses a USB-C charger, but you shouldn’t purchase third-party MagSafe chargers under any circumstances.
Is My Charger Fake?
There are a few signs you can look out for to determine if you have a genuine MacBook charger.
Notably, reputable third-party ones are often clearly branded as third-party, while fake ones attempt to mimic official chargers.
Here are some of the signs of low-quality fakes to look for:
- Fake ones often have shorter cables than genuine MacBook chargers.
- The cable on fake chargers often feels cheaply made.
- Fake ones typically have indicator lights that are slightly delayed.
- The divot on the back side of the wall plug is metal inside genuine chargers and plastic inside most fake ones.
- Fake chargers often have typos on them or the packaging.
- The Apple logo on the charger’s side is often smooth or barely indented in fake ones.
- Fake ones generally have uneven or imperfect seams on the sides.
- The serial number sticker above the ground pin is often poorly placed or missing entirely on fake ones.
- Fake chargers usually have plastic ground pins instead of metal ground pins.
- The weight of fake chargers is often significantly less than real ones since they’re missing a lot of components and often use substitute parts like plastic ground pins.
How To Prevent It From Overheating
Verify That Your Charger Is Legitimate
As mentioned before, one of the most common causes of an overheating charger is that it is illegitimate.
Before taking any other steps, you should verify that your charger is real by using the guidelines above to examine it closely.
If it seems legitimate, you can use the following steps to keep it running as intended.
Check the Voltage of Your Charger
If you’re using a third-party charger, it may give your computer the wrong voltage.
Improper voltage tends to overwork it and produce a lot of heat, and it can quickly become dangerous.
Official MagSafe chargers are sold at 45W, 60W, and 85W. Official Apple USB-C chargers can come in various wattages, including 30W, 67W, and 140W.
You should ensure your charger is the minimum voltage recommended for your MacBook model.
Ensure the Charger Is Properly Ventilated
One of the most common issues that cause MacBook chargers to overheat is improper ventilation.
While using your MacBook in bed might be tempting, allowing your charger to become insulated with materials like pillows and blankets is a recipe for disaster.
An essential step to using your MacBook safely is verifying that it is properly ventilated.
It shouldn’t be covered by any materials, surrounded by clutter, or placed next to a device or appliance that generates heat.
Ideally, it would be best to place it on a surface like a table, allowing heat to dissipate in all directions.
If it still seems to be running hot, you can use a small fan to improve airflow or attempt to find a cool, dark spot to put your charger in.
Check for Damage on Your Charger
Sometimes, physical damage to it can cause it to malfunction and overheat.
If you’re worried that your charger might be overheating because of damaged components, you should closely examine it.
Here are some signs of severe damage you should look out for.
- Fraying cable.
- Pin damage.
- Missing power plug prongs.
- Bent power plug prongs.
- Burnt or charred components.
- Strange odor.
If you think your charger might be damaged, stop using it.
Legitimate chargers are often covered under warranty, but you should read the warranty terms to determine whether they apply to your situation.
Specifically, it’s important to note that the warranty for Apple accessories protects against “defects in materials and workmanship for a period of one year from the date of original retail purchase when used in accordance with Apple’s user manuals“.
If you used it properly and it started overheating due to a defect within a year of purchase, you can replace it.
If it outlasted the warranty or broke due to user error or unintended use, you’ll have to replace it with your own funds.
Turn Off Demanding Applications
Another common cause of overheating is demanding applications be allowed to run for extended periods, especially when you’re not using them.
Suppose you want to keep your MacBook charger (and MacBook) in optimal condition. In that case, you should close applications when you’re finished using them and lower performance settings if you notice your MacBook or charger running hot.
Don’t Charge Your MacBook Overnight
Lastly, it’s important to note that you should never charge your MacBook overnight if you’re worried about the charger overheating.
There’s a strong risk that it will overheat when you’re not there to cool it down.
Unfortunately, many people were traumatized when they allowed their laptops to charge overnight.
This is particularly common with people who use third-party chargers since the devices offer none of the safety features of legitimate ones.
When defective or low-quality third-party chargers can overheat unattended overnight, they can often ignite in flames.
It can spread and cause significant loss of property and life without anyone nearby to extinguish the electrical fire quickly.
While charging your MacBook during the day and purchasing an expensive official Apple charger might feel like a hassle, the process is worthwhile when you know that you’ve significantly reduced the risk of electrical fires in your home.