Why Is My Laptop Dying While Plugged In?

Many things could make your laptop die suddenly, even when it’s still plugged in. It can be frustrating if you don’t know why it keeps happening.

It’s safe to say that most issues stem from the power source (most likely the battery, charging cable, or socket on the laptop), insufficient cooling, and malware. 

Here are some of the most common causes:

1. Non-working power sockets/outlets

Problems with the power supply are a common reason this happens. Although laptops can run for a while with battery power, they need a reliable power source to back up the battery once the power drains completely.

The laptop will shut down once the charge drains, and there’s no power supplied to charge the battery.

It might be that the power outlet is faulty, and no power is going through the power adapter and into the laptop battery.

The power outlet could malfunction due to a tripped circuit breaker or a bad power connection caused by general wear and tear.

Sometimes, a faulty power outlet can make all the nearby outlets lose power or even trip the whole breaker panel.

If true, the problem will persist even if you try a different socket. 

2. Faulty Power Adapter

A laptop charger or power adapter.

The adapter (the laptop charger) delivers power from the outlet to the computer battery.

If this mode of power transport is compromised, it’ll hinder power delivery, and the laptop battery won’t charge. 

Once the battery completely drains, the laptop will shut down. The AC adapter can fail due to a burnt/worn-out AC adapter, broken/damaged power cable, damaged DC-in connector, etc. 

Like non-working power outlets, a faulty power adapter means the laptop isn’t charging.

Some laptops give an error message (“AC adapter type cannot be determined”), making it easier for you to recognize the problem.

However, you can also check the charging LED light to see if the laptop is charging if you don’t get this warning. 

Faulty power adapters are often caused by choosing the incorrect model, overheating charging blocks, and aging. HP states most power adapters last up to 1,000 or more charges.

If your adapter is old or overused, it won’t supply a powerful enough current to keep your laptop charged. When you unplug it, the trickle effect won’t work anymore and will die every time.

3. Worn-out or Defective Batteries

It’s natural for laptop batteries to degrade over time, and once they wear out, they can cause severe problems to the laptop.

It can make the computer unable to charge and maintain power, overheat, and even lead to a sudden computer shutdown.

This response is typical, especially if the battery is a few years old

Laptop batteries, e.g., Ni-Cad, are affected by a defect commonly known as the memory effect.

The continuous damage caused to the battery is due to continuously charging it without allowing it time to discharge fully.

Over time, the battery memory distorts, and it starts draining power too fast or shutting down unexpectedly. 

You may also experience charging problems if you leave the laptop unused for an extended period when the battery discharges completely.

If you don’t intend to use the computer for an extended period, remove the battery and ensure that it doesn’t entirely discharge while outside. Battery overheating is also a sign that you need a new battery.

This would be a common and likely cause why your laptop turns off when you unplug it from power.

4. Overheating

Most computers have built-in thermal protection that protects the machine from the dangers of overheating.

This mechanism automatically shuts down the laptop once it starts to overheat. If the laptop overheats and the system shuts down, it won’t power back on until it cools down.

This problem is more likely with older laptops with a lower-quality cooling system.

However, even using a slightly new model, ensure the cooling vents aren’t blocked.

This is especially true if you use your laptop on the bed, pillow, or anything fluffy.

However, if the laptop is overheating without any apparent reason, it might be because some internal components aren’t malfunctioning.

It could be video card fans, processor fans, or even case fans. 

I have written another article about how to keep your laptop cool and encourage you to read it.

5. Hardware or software conflict

The hardware issue can also be another culprit. Hardware conflict can happen when you add in new hardware, especially if the laptop was fine before the addition.

It could also result from a faulty pilot update with automatic update settings. 

It’s common to see computers crash due to faulty pilot updates that conflict with the rest of the hardware.

You might receive a hardware error code notification before the shutdown, but sometimes, the laptop will shut down before you can do anything. 

6. Malware

A system infected by malware is vulnerable and likely to shut down or crash anytime. There are various types of malware.

Some work in the background and take a long time before realizing the damage it might have caused.

Malware often comes from corrupted USB drives, unsecured websites, and public WiFi connections.

But some will lead to apparent symptoms, such as your laptop powering down at a specific time of the day or when you open a particular application.

This will happen if your computer isn’t protected by powerful antivirus software.

Weekly scans will show signs of malware, letting you remove them to keep your laptop running smoothly.

7. Operating system downtime

If you’ve ruled out all of the above, the issue might be with your operating system. If your operating system is down, your computer might suddenly power down.

The best way to check for operating system failure is to reboot and enter a CMOS Setup while the computer is still rebooting.

Although, it’s best to leave all the internal computer problems to the experts.

What to do if your laptop dies while plugged in

Although you might not fully understand the source of the problem yet, it still doesn’t hurt to try a few tricks and see if the computer will power back up again.

Here’s what you should do if your laptop dies while plugged in:

1. Check the physical charger connections

The first step is to check and ensure that you inserted your AC adapter correctly into the power source and that you turned the switch on.

Ensure the laptop is inserted correctly into the charging port and the power socket/outlet.

Double-check just to be sure. Try charging a different device from the same power outlet to see if it works. 

2. Check if there’s power from the power outlets

Check if the power outlets are working correctly. You can do this by using the charger on a different outlet (preferably on a different wall or in a different room) or charging a different device from the same power outlet. 

You could solve the problem with a quick reset if the circuit breaker tripped. The same logic applies to a tripped main breaker panel. 

3. Are you using the correct charger and the right port?

Check how much power your computer is receiving. Ensure that you’re using the correct charger for the laptop and that it’s connected to the correct computer port.

Most laptops have one charging port. But if you’re using the newer USB-C models, try all the USB-C ports on the computer to see which works. 

For best results, ensure that you use the original charger that came with the computer. Fake chargers can cause lasting severe harm to your laptop.

Each charger is designed to deliver a specific wattage to the laptop. Using a different charger might not deliver the correct wattage, which might be the source of the problem.

This is a problem mainly with laptops that charge using USB-C cables. 

4. Check both the charger cable and port for damage

After checking for cable connection issues, thoroughly check for any cable and charging port damage.

Check the entire cord and adapter for minor fraying and damage. Run your hand down to check for any unevenness on the whole length of the cord.

Smell the connection part and the adapter for any burning smell. If you smell that burning aroma, something might have gone wrong, and the charger needs immediate replacement.

If nothing is unusual with the charger, look at the port where the charger connects to the laptop.

Usually, the connection will fit snugly. If it feels a bit loose or jiggly, there might be a problem. Try moving it around to see if you can get a good connection. 

If the laptop starts to charge when you hold the charger at a certain angle, it means the port might have a problem; take it in for repair.

To avoid future damage to the charging port, keep some slack in the cable and avoid letting the adapter dangle from a table, which puts pressure on the port and can easily damage it.

5. Check the health of your battery

Check the battery’s integrity once you’ve ruled out a faulty power connection. Some removable batteries wear out pretty quickly and need frequent replacement.

To check the battery, follow the steps below:

  1. Take the battery out and drain out the residual power from the laptop (you can do this by holding down the power button for 15 seconds).
  2. Then, without the battery, plug in the computer and turn it on. If it powers up, the machine and the adapter are working correctly, and the battery is the problem.
  3. To be sure, re-install the battery and try again. Maybe you installed the battery improperly, and the power didn’t deliver correctly. If it still doesn’t work, you need to replace your battery.

Some laptops, like Macs, don’t have a direct battery compartment, and you might need an expert to look at it.

Don’t forget to care for your battery properly to avoid future problems.

6. Reduce resource usage

Other than the hardware, overloading your computer can also cause charging problems. A computer working too hard discharges faster than usual and could lead to power problems.

If the charger isn’t delivering enough charge to replenish the battery as quickly as it’s discharging, the laptop will inevitably die. 

This is especially true if several programs run simultaneously, overloading the laptop.

In this case, the laptop will get hot due to overloading, making the fan work harder. The fan will work harder to cool it down, using more power. 

To solve this problem, wait until it cools down before powering it up again. After it powers up, allow it time to charge and avoid running several power-hungry programs simultaneously.

7. Let it cool down

Turn the laptop off if you notice it’s starting to heat up, and wait until it cools down.

Remember that if the laptop suddenly doesn’t turn on but turns on once it has cooled down, the problem is with the cooling system.

Ensure that the vents are clean and free of dirt and debris. If the laptop still has heat problems, the fans have a problem and need a replacement.

8. Reboot your computer

Rebooting a computer helps clear a lot of problems. Hence, it’s a good idea to reboot your laptop.

Entering the CMOS setup while the laptop reboot will help reinstall the operating system.

If the laptop successfully powers back on, then the problem could have been the operating system downtime. 

But if it powers up for a while and shuts down again, the problem might not be with the operating system.

It could be due to a failing hard disk, motherboard, CPU, or other internal components. Get the laptop checked by a professional if you don’t know your way around computers. 

9. Hardware conflict solution

If you recently added new hardware like a CI/PCIe card, the solution is to remove the hardware altogether.

However, if not, you may need a professional to diagnose the problem. It might be that an automatic update to internal hardware is causing the problem.

New plug-in extensions for your internet browser can also cause these issues.

Applications and plug-ins in a beta phase are known to consume too much power, causing your laptop to overheat or drain quicker than it can charge.

10. Check the laptop’s power options

There are also some software issues/conflicts that might cause your laptop to die unexpectedly.

For example, some computers have a system setting to shut the laptop down when it reaches a certain battery level (usually when it’s almost fully discharged). 

This is common with Windows operating systems. If you suspect this is your problem, follow the steps below:

  1. Connect your laptop to charge until it powers back up. 
  2. Once it’s back on, go to the power settings page and reset this option. You can do this by going to settings and clicking on systems, then power and sleep
  3. Press power settings and then click on the change plan. 
  4. Next, click on restore default settings and click OK. 

If you’re using a MAC, here’s a guide on resetting the power options for your computer.  

11. Get professional help

If none of the above has worked, your laptop might have other severe problems, and it’s best to let a professional diagnose.

If your laptop still has a valid warranty, bring it to the manufacturer for diagnosis and repairs. Otherwise, book an appointment with a reliable computer repair shop.

Note: Always visit a MacBook specialist if you have an Apple laptop. Their unique OS (operating system) makes them much more challenging for people accustomed to Windows products.