MagSafe for the Rest of Us: a DIY Magnetic Power Adaptor

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Introduction: MagSafe for the Rest of Us: a DIY Magnetic Power Adaptor

We all know that one of the most common places for a laptop to break is its power adaptor. The combination of being directly attached to the motherboard, heat, and constant moving and shifting leads the connector to become loose and sloppy. Eventually the connection stops working altogether. Apple has solved this problem on their laptops by use of a magnetic power adaptor, unfortunately for us they also patented the idea.

This is my version of a magnetic power adaptor for an Acer 1410 laptop, You should be able to modify the steps fairly easily for work for any laptop though. It is effective, easy to build with common materials, and takes the strain off of the internal connection and motherboard. It also holds on well enough to not come off unless it is supposed to.

Edit: There have been some changes to the design, mostly involving using thin copper foil in place of aluminum duct tape. There were heat issues involving the aluminum tape, these issues have been resolved by swapping out the aluminum tape for copper foil. Thanks to instructables members jeff-o and CyberBill for their insights and suggestions.

This modification should be completely reversible and do no harm to the laptop or original power adaptor.

Please always take your time to work safe and unplug the power cord and laptop battery.

A big thanks goes to breath for his original ThinkSafe instructable located here:
ThinkSafe: A Magnetic Power Connector for Thinkpads

Step 1: Tools and Materials

You will need:

Tools:

Pliers
Wire cutters
Scissors
Flashlight
Matchsticks (to apply epoxy)

Materials:

Neodymium Ring-Shaped Magnets (enough to cover your adaptor plug with some overhang)
Wire Studs (to fit into the power socket)
Steel Washers (asst. sizes, make sure your magnets will STICK to them)
Thin Copper Foil (Note: aluminum duct tape has too much resistance)
Electrical Tape
Two-Part Epoxy Adhesive
Nail(s)
Calming Incense (to keep you sane while working with the fiddly bits)

My design for building this adaptor changed many times throughout the build due to trial and error, it is best to start out with too many pieces and then narrow it down to what you actually need than to be stuck without a part you really need.

Cost Breakdown:
Magnets: $2.45 each
Wire Studs: $1.65 for 10
Epoxy: $5
Copper Foil: $10
Various Washers and Nails: $4
Incense: $1.95

Total Cost: ~$32 CDN

Step 2: Build Your Plug

The first thing to do is cut yourself a piece of the copper foil that is just wide enough to cover the metal part of your power adaptors plug. This is to remove any gap between the adaptor plug and the Ring Magnets. I cut my copper sheet width-wise and it was more than long enough.

Wrap this piece around the plug until it is wide enough that the Ring Magnets will fit snugly.

Next, fit your magnets, if there is a space between the plastic of the plug and the back of your magnets you should add a washer so that when it comes time to epoxy them, the epoxy will have more to hold on to.
I used 4x Magcraft brand Ring-Shaped neodymium magnets, size 0.500 x 0.125 x 0.250", Part number NSN0814.  

Push the magnets onto the plug. You may find it easiest to have the copper hanging over the edge of the plug and then to put the magnets over the copper and press the two sides together for a snug fit.

The most important thing is that your magnets have some overhang over the edge of the adaptor, this is so that the Center Power Pin you will make in the next step wont be openly exposed which could lead to a short circuit.

Now cut off any excess copper so that it fits below the edge of the power adaptor.

You are now ready to make your Center Power Pin.


Step 3: Build Your Center Power Pin

Now we will build the pin that will allow power to reach the center pin connected to the socket on the laptop.

First find a nail thats width is a comfortable fit inside the hole in the power adaptor. It should fit tightly but not require too much force to push in. Also the head should be large enough to provide a good contact surface while being small enough that it fits inside the magnet rings without coming in contact with them. The head should also be flat and the nail must be made out of a conductive material.

When you have found the perfect nail cut it to a length that will fit flush with the end of the power adaptor. It doesn't have to reach all the way to the back of the adaptor nor should it, just cut it so it will sit inside a ways and make contact with the internal connectors. 

Press the nail head flush with the adaptor and your power adaptor is complete.

When you are sure it all works epoxy the back magnet to the washer/plastic of the adaptor plug, the rest of the magnets will stay together by magnetism.

Step 4: Build Your Socket Insert Pt.1


This one took me a few tries to get just right.

First things first. You need something that will fit into the power adaptor socket on the laptop. I used some wire studs from Pico of Canada, part number 1769 DP, size 22-16. They just happened to fit in perfectly and this is where going to a store that sells single bits or that will let you try things works out well. Buy extras of these because you will most likely go through about 6 or so getting it right.

The next thing is to find washers that will fit around your insert. I used one small locking washer to take out the small gap between the plug area and the rest of the laptop side, and a larger one to have my magnets attach to. Again make sure they are magnetic AND conductive.

Ignore the piece of aluminum tape in the pictures I was just using it to test the connectivity of the pieces.

After you have found your washers the next step is to separate the 2 pieces of the Wire Stud, I accomplished this using a pair for pliers to push the metal pin out of the bottom of the plastic body.

On to Part 2.

Step 5: Build Your Socket Insert Pt.2

First, cut another piece of copper foil, this time to fit the plastic piece from the Wire Stud. Wrap the plastic piece in the foil until it is wide enough that the small washer fits snugly over it.

Epoxy the small washer to the copper foil, leaving enough space so that when you epoxy the larger washer over it, the larger washer will sit flush with the end of the plastic piece.

The important thing with this step is that you make sure the outer washer connects to the ground connection inside the power adaptor socket on the laptop. The best way to achieve this is to epoxy the small washer so that it is touching the Copper Foil wrapped around the plastic piece. And then to epoxy the larger washer so that it is in direct metal to metal contact with the small washer. 

In the end the whole thing should fit flush to the side of your laptop

On to Part 3


Step 6: Build Your Socket Insert Pt.3


Now you have to cut your center pin for the socket side.

This part is tricky as getting the length right can be a bit tedious, this is why I said to get extra wire studs. I went through about 6 before i got the perfect length

The first thing to do is put the pin from the Wire Stud into the socket, the hollow side should fit over the stock socket center pin easily. You may want to crimp the hollow end a bit to give it a tighter hold on the stock center pin.

Now put in the insert you made in the last step.

Next is to slowly cut bits of the center pin off, testing with your plug adaptor to make sure you haven't cut too much off.  Stop when you reach a length that allows your magnets to sit flush with the large washer of the insert while still allowing the center pins to make a connection.

When you find the right length you should wrap the pin with a bit of electrical tape to keep it from shorting out on the sides of the magnets when it is charging. Just be sure to leave the tip exposed.

Once you are close to the right length it may help to epoxy the socket insert down and leave the magnets un-epoxied. That way you have a bit of play on the magnet side to adjust and ensure a connection before you finalize the whole deal.

When you epoxy the insert down make sure it is sitting flush and hold it for a few minutes until it sets.

I would suggest that when you epoxy the insert down you take care not to get any epoxy into the actual socket of the laptop, just try to keep it only on the underside of the larger washer. This will make removal easier if it becomes necessary. 


Ensure it is all functional and epoxy down your magnets and you're done!

Step 7: Done!


You're done!

Now you can trip over your cord as much as you want.

Also i don't see how Apple has a patent on this idea when they stole the idea from Japanese deep fryers. oh well.

Anyways happy modding!

Step 8: Removal

I had to remove this mod once I had finished it to make changes to the design, these are shots of after the modifications were removed and before the changes in design were implemented. As you can see there are no permanent marks or damage to the original power adaptor or charging port on the laptop

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    226 Comments

    I made this exactly as you instructed, but became concerned and stopped using it when I tried it for the first time and it made sparks when connecting. Did I do something wrong?

    I wonder if you could help me. My old laptop fell off my bed and the port was jammed into the computer. I took the casing off and dug it out. But then it fell off. I was wondering if you'd have a modification to this for me. I believe I still have the port.

    I can't help but wonder if this could be done just as cheaply by grabbing a cheap replacement power adapter off of Ebay.

    Doing the cord half the same way you have it, but cutting the tip of the barrel plug out of the cheap cable for the in-laptop part and epoxying magnets to that instead of the pin.

    1 reply

    See, I thought of the same thing...I'm going to try that.

    Great job on the instructable will be doing this soon, you have done the community a service we don't just have to run to corporations in mobs like brain dead zombies vomiting money endlessly.

    As an owner of a magsafe mac dont do it, constant over heating melting and fires.

    1 reply

    "Overheating, melting, and fires" for Apple Magsafe connectors?

    It is true that there was a production run of power connectors which weren't very robust. But this was back in 2009... and you're posting your comment in.. 2015.

    http://arstechnica.com/apple/2009/05/apple-sued-ov...

    It's also worth noting this problem actually has nothing to do with magnetic locking of the power ports. Repeat, the technology itself had nothing to do with the complaints. So it's perfectly fine for folks to wish to emulate this method of plug.

    "
    Also i don't see how Apple has a patent on this idea when they stole the idea from Japanese deep fryers. oh well.
    "
    Because the people who process patent requests do not do their due diligence. In addition, no one protested the patent by providing the patent office with prior art as in the Japanese deep fryers.
    You can still submit this information to the Patent office in the event that someone decides to make ask for a review of the patent during a law suit.

    Is the idea to copy the magsafe system from Apple? Because, if the idea is to protect the laptop from being damaged when the cord is pulled, then there's no reason to put the magnet at the end of the cord. It could be placed at the middle of the cord, right? That way, you wouldn't have any issues with magnets being too close to the laptop, and it would work the same way, the cord will "break" in two parts keeping the laptop and connector safe. What do you think?

    I did cut myself doing this.
    I did make lots of pretty sparks when complete.

    Caution: The copper is sharp when cut.
    Caution: The magnets and heads will inevitably brush, this will make sparks. It may short/fry your electronics, blow some fuses, send some zaps your way.

    Advice: This is cool, but please do not do it. The reason it works for apples is because there is a third pin in the middle that the motherboard sends a signal and says there is a charger connected, then turns on the power. When the connection is broke, the power stops being supplied.

    This however, will not happen with this design, the power is always ON full blast. It will zap you, it will spark, even if done properly.

    It was however, a fun and interesting experiment.

    "The first thing to do is cut yourself"

    Do I have to? lol

    Great Concept.

    Seriously, great idea.  I've replaced many a laptop motherboard power connectors over the years.

    My only concern is the magnets.

    Magnets next to delicate circuitry = bad.
    Magnets inadvertantly wind up too close to the hard drive = data corruption.

    If the connector came off (as designed) and you set the lappy back down (or got to close to) the magnets, you could easily corrupt your hard drive... or if you set it down with the magnets too close to the bottom of the motherboard unpredictable system results - as the magnets will play havoc with the low voltage signals that make your compy tick.

      I'll have to break out an old junk lappy and try to 'break it' with rare earth magnets.

    Great idea!...  but be really really careful.

    8 replies

    Some of the strongest magnets around are PART of the Hard Drive! Very strong magnets are what allows the arm to be so fast and accurate when scanning the drive to recover data. And then there is an electromagnet on the read/write head of that same arm that creates all the data on the hard drive. So the hard drive is crazy in love with magnets... they make it work in every way!
    Putting magnets on the power tip is not going to do anything bad unless you make it wrong and short out the power cord.

    As for those going back and forth about Apple vs. PC... Get a life and a new hobby. If you enjoy picking fights and bitching about everything, go get married! Then you can do all that in person and leave real comments on the "SUBJECT" at hand to the rest of us. All this page should cover is the instructable, parse out problems and calm the fears if they are in deed unfounded fears.

    wow.

    ok, the magnets and electromagnets that are part of the hard drive are in very specific places, and under very tight control.  i would love to see your face after you stick a magnet to the outside of your hard drive and then try to start up your computer.

    in the case of a macbook, the magnet is in the computer, not the cord.  so they can put the magnet in a very specific place, far away from the hard drive, add some magnetic shielding around that small spot to shield the electronics behind it, and not have to worry about it at all.  having it stationary, inside the computer, is very different from having it on the cord that you might carelessly drape across the top of your laptop while under the desk, plugging it in.

    first of all, who the hell is going to even bother putting a magnet on top of their hard drive? what purpose is there for that?

    and second, the magnets don't do a lot of damage, if any to electronics. unless you are stupid enough to put a magnet on top of a microchip wondering wat it'll do, magnets wont do any permanent damage to electronics.

    now take a couple of examples;
    1: if you have a ds im pretty sure you know what happens when you put a magnet by the power switch. i do. it turns off the ds, a when you move the magnet away, it turns back on. just thinking it was closed and opened again. NO HARM DONE

    2: what about magnetic sensors, magnetic alarms and magnetic doorbells?
    its pretty sensitive circuitry, yet magnets are VERY close with absolutely NO sheilding. (strange... isn't it...?)

    3: as for cell phones, i dont know. im sure it'll have the same effect the ds has, or it'll malfunction or turn off. but that is because there is a lot of metal in a cell phone, and a lot of delicate electronics you wont find anywhere else

    now, are we clear?

     there's no reason to get angry, kid.
    "who's going to bother putting a magnet on top of their hard drive…"
    i'm sorry i even started this conversation with you, as you are obviously a child.  i assumed you would understand that i was giving an example of something you should obviously never do because everyone knows that magnets will erase magnetic media.

    there's a difference between electronics, and magnetic media.
    you're taking examples of things you've seen work, and coming up with childish conclusions.  just because one thing can come close to a magnet and not be damaged, doesn't mean everything can.  a hard drive and a reed switch are two completely different things.

    ever put a magnet close to a CRT tv?  it distorts the picture horribly.  well, there are closely calibrated electronic devices in there that can be pulled out of whack if you do that too many times.  i did it too many times when i was young, and the picture stopped returning to normal.  so i for one will not be taking the chance that there's something in my laptop that might also need to stay calibrated and might be sensitive to a magnetic field.  

    so, to anyone who doesn't think he's albert einstein's long lost great grandson, i would advise you to be careful with magnets around a computer.  chances are, 99% of the people that try this will be just fine, but you never know who's gonna be the unlucky one.

    The reason you have issues with a CRT TV is because of the way a CRT functions - it shoots photons onto a mesh - the photons are bent by magnets. You stick a magnet on the screen and it changes the color and the picture.

    Magnets work because they are made up of metal that is aligned magnetically with each other. You stick a magnet on something metal for long enough and it becomes magnetic itself.. Like how you can make a magnetic screwdriver by sticking a magnet on a normal screwdriver. The field is smaller but it's still there.

    Anyway, so you stick the magnet on the screen of a CRT monitor/TV and it magnetizes the mesh in the front of the screen that stops the radiation from leaving the TV (like the door of a microwave).. magnetized mesh = messed up picture.

    Modern (dare I say it..) CRT devices all feature a 'degaussing' function which, yep you guessed it, demagnetizes that mesh.

    okay, thinkdunson, i can tell when someone wants to be left alone in the corner with thier red, so i guess i might as well leave you alone.

    and why put magnets on a tv?

    im not gonna be the unlucky one. because unlike thinkdunson here, im not gonna bother putting magnets on electronics and hard drives that contain all of my information. you can, but i sure as hell am not

    Zack, I think his point was that this instructable is not going to affect your computer in a bad way. Sticking a magnet on your 'micro chip', or near one for that matter, is not going to hurt it. Sticking a magnet on the side of your computer is not going to affect the hard drive. Why not? Because in 11 years of computer repair, I have never seen a laptop in which the power adapter was right next to the hard drive, or any other components sensitive to magnets.

    Thinkdunson, nothing wrong with being cautious, but I've never been able to cause magnetic damage to a hard drive with a magnet this small. They really aren't that powerful at a distance. This is why the magnet doesn't go "SNAP" together from 3 inches apart. Even setting your laptop on the cord, I doubt it would hurt it.

    But if you're worried, maybe consider drilling the iron shielding from the back of a shielded speaker magnet, use that instead?

    i have something i would like to add on:
    macs use this same method for their power plugs, users sometimes will end up leaving their power plugs laying quite close to the hard drive, the macs all work just fine.