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What is Apple MagSafe? The History. The Problems. The Counterfeits.

The Apple MagSafe connector has been in use with Apple laptops since February 2006. In the last 15 years, there have been many different sizes, styles, and designs of the charger and its connection to the computer. 

Apple MagSafe 2 Charger

From the beginning, the MagSafe was revolutionary. Instead of having to physically plug a cord into the computer to charge, its magnetic connection locked the power pins in place. It held them firmly, providing a secure connection to the computer. But in case of an accidental disconnect, such as somebody tripping on a cord, it would break away from the body of the computer and safely disconnect without damaging either the connector or the computer if it was pulled off of a desk. 

I am sure that many computer users remember the pain of a bent power cable. Or, worse yet, a broken power port on their laptop and having to replace or repair it from a simple mistake like forgetting to unplug when getting up and feeling that terrible “YANK” as the cord was pulled out of the wall or computer.


Steve Jobs and the History of MagSafe

It’s rumored that Steve Jobs himself used to visit department stores and walk the aisles looking at the different manufacturers and their industrial designs. It’s likely that’s where Apple came up with the idea for MagSafe, since MagSafe is derived from a magnetic power connection that deep fat fryers used to keep dangerous accidents from happening in the kitchen, and it certainly has saved many a MacBook in its history from damage. 

MagSafe adapters came in two different types – MagSafe 1 and MagSafe 2. MagSafe 1 was in use from January 2006 until June 2012. MagSafe 2 was in use from June 2012 until June 2017. 

Computers that used MagSafe 1 adapters:  

  • MacBook Pro 13” (June 2009 – June 2012)
  • MacBook Pro 15” (January 2006 – June 2012)
  • MacBook Pro 17” (April 2006 – October 2011)
  • MacBook (May 2006 – May 2010)
  • MacBook Air (January 2008 – July 2011)

Computers that used MagSafe 2 adapters:

  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13”) (June 2012 – May 2015)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15”) (June 2012 – May 2015)
  • MacBook Air (June 2012 – June 2017)

Apple also made a converter to be able to use MagSafe 1 connections with a MagSafe 2 computer. This was very handy since Apple also included MagSafe 1 charging capability with their 27” Apple Cinema Display and 27” Apple Thunderbolt Display. If you had a newer model MacBook Pro with MagSafe 2, you had to be able to adapt that connector to use the display properly. 

MagSafe adapters of both generations come in three wattage output sizes (and three physical sizes) – 45W, 60W, and 85W. Depending on the model of computer you are using, the size of the adapter would be MacBook (60W), MacBook Pro (60W for 13”, 85W for 15” or 17”), or MacBook Air (45W).  


Manufacturers

Apple does not actually manufacture its own MagSafe adapters. Over the past 15 years, a few companies have produced them under contract for Apple and they are…

Delta:

Delta Magsafe sticker
Delta Magsafe sticker

Liteon:

Liteon Magsafe sticker
Liteon Magsafe sticker

Samsung:

• Only on older adapters, and not used since MagSafe 1


Power Plug

Also, the power plug itself is removable and able to be switched out depending on what country in the world you are using the MagSafe power adapter. That component is also not manufactured by Apple but made under contact by two other companies –

Volex & Well Shin MagSafe power plugs

MagSafe cable failures & problems

MagSafe 1

Two different magsafe connectors: L-shaped & T-shaped

The original MagSafe 1 power adapters made in 2006-2007 connector used a “T” shaped plug to connect the computer to the power adapter. While it was very effective, it did have some shortcomings, the connector would fail at the cable strain relief, and many users were plagued with issues such as this. Apple changed the shape of the plug to be an “L” shape in 2008 with the release of the new MacBook Air systems to work better with their sleek new body lines, and it had the benefit that it reduced the strain on the cord and made it less likely to separate at the connection to the MacBook Air.

Apple continued using the T-shaped cord connection with the MacBook and MacBook Pro models until 2010 when they switched to having the “L” shaped cord style for all models. Still, problems persisted, and users were more likely to pull on the cable rather than the connector of the MagSafe to disconnect it from the computer. After repeated misuse, the cable would wear out and short out or even break out of the connector’s body. The “L” shaped connection was supposed to help alleviate this issue, and it did somewhat.

However, here at OWC, we still see many damaged or worn-out MagSafe 1 cables with strain relief failure when we purchase used computers for refurbishing. There was a class-action lawsuit against Apple and their MagSafe connection back in 2011, and Apple replaced older T shape MagSafe 1 adapters with L-shaped units. 

MagSafe 2

MagSafe 2 is thinner & wider than MagSafe 1

In the middle of 2012, Apple changed from the MagSafe 1 to the MagSafe 2 power adapter. They went back to the T-shaped power plug, but made the body of the connector thinner, and wider and increased the length of the strain relief. This helped with the removal of the magnetic connector from the computer, but still, problems persisted with the cord becoming damaged from customers removing the power connector by pulling on the cord, and not the connector itself.

Also, the MagSafe 2 connector did not always stay in place in the connector of the laptop as intended, especially if you used the laptop on your lap. Newer Technology marketed a product called “Snuglet” that inserted a very thin collar of metal into the socket of the MagSafe 2 connector on the computer, to tighten up the plug when inserted into the laptop and stop it from being able to be lifted upward to disconnect and require a direct pull on the connector to remove it. No more plug-falling-out-problem! Unfortunately, they have ceased production on that product, it had run its life cycle.

A broken MagSafe cable
Broken MagSafe Cable

Across the entire 15 years of production of MagSafe adapters, one consistent issue has been a problem – animals chewing on cords. Cats, Dogs, Rabbits. You name it, they’ve chewed on it. Always keep your pets safe, and keep your cords where they are not laying around and being used as a toy. It’s bad for your pet and bad for the life of your MagSafe adapter. That’s not a design flaw, but certainly, a problem that has plagued pet owners.


Counterfeit & knockoff products

Apple has NEVER licensed its MagSafe products for 3rd party use. Meaning, you can’t just come up with your own MagSafe adapter design and market it. That’s not allowed – but it still happens, and is happening to this day. No link is provided, but you can search on the largest retail store online and find many knockoffs. Unfortunately, just look at the prices, and you can tell what is right and what is wrong.

A couple of companies have even tried modifying MagSafe adapters, by integrating their product to work using a MagSafe adapter with the cord cut and other connections spliced into it, such as a battery pack and a vehicle adapter, but Apple filed lawsuits against them and the products were removed from the market. You can’t even purchase a replacement cord if your cat chews your MagSafe cable up to be able to repair it – they do not sell them so any replacement cords you see out there for sale on the internet are not genuine but are counterfeit.

And that brings us to the fun part of this article. Identifying counterfeit MagSafe adapters.

OWC goes to great lengths to bring only genuine Apple products to market on our website. Some of the things that we use or do to verify authenticity are:

1. Visual inspection

Apple MagSafe adapters are made to the highest quality and therefore are generally difficult to duplicate. The most obvious determination of a non-genuine product is in the look of the text on the body of the adapter. Apple products have perfect printing of the text on the sides of the MagSafe adapter and are accurately colored. We have seen adapters with the wrong font used (something Apple would NEVER do), dark print, light print, colored print, general sloppiness, and most laughable, misspellings. If it does not look right, it probably isn’t legitimate.

Genuine

A genuine example of text – see also the Delta and Liteon photos above as genuine units:

A genuine example of the text on an 85W magSafe 2 power adapter

Counterfeit

These two adapters are counterfeit; one even is not the same shape and does not have an Apple logo on it. Unfortunately, this unit is currently for sale on the internet and is of extremely low quality internally:

Several counterfeit MagSafe adapters

More photos of the counterfeit adapters – showing their text on the sides of the units:

Several counterfeit MagSafe adapters

2. LED operation:

  • Apple’s LED in the power connector of the MagSafe adapter operates in a specific pattern. There are counterfeit detection tools that we utilize to test adapters and make sure that the LED functions in the proper manner. You can perform the same testing using your computer. However, the tool that we use automates the process and evaluates other aspects of the adapter.

3. Serial number: 

  • The serial numbers used by Apple are programmed into the adapter itself and printed on the body of the adapter. Those numbers are inspected and logged as part of our quality control process. Labels and printing have changed over the years, but we have reference points from years of doing this to refer to and verify accuracy. 

4. Weight measurement:

  • While this is not quite as scientific of a method since there have been multiple vendors manufacturing MagSafe adapters for Apple over the last 15 years, OWC has established baseline weights for adapters and uses that as part of the process for authenticity. We occasionally had customers complain that they think an adapter is not genuine because of the weight difference, not realizing their adapter from 2009 probably has newer components in it with an adapter that was manufactured 10 years later in 2019. Rest assured, technology moves on even in something as simple as a power adapter, and weights have changed between models and manufacturers.

5. Physical testing:

  • OWC will randomly disassemble MagSafe adapters and verify authenticity by physical internal inspection from time to time. Taking a hammer to a perfectly defenseless MagSafe adapter doesn’t sound like fun, but it can be therapeutic. It also is another way to inspect the product, and we do perform that test.

When inspecting genuine units vs. counterfeit, the differences can be quite large. The bottom two adapters are genuine units, the top is a counterfeit. Look at the far smaller number of components used. 

Internal components of a MagSafe power adapter

Internal components of a MagSafe power adapter

Hopefully, this article has given you a bit of insight into the MagSafe connector, its history, and OWC’s commitment to bringing great products to you!

OWC Jamie
the authorOWC Jamie
Jamie has been an Apple user since 1979, and an Apple-certified tech since the age of 16. How's that for a first job other than working for parents/grandparents?! He has been a Macintosh owner since 1989, and an OWC employee since 1999. From packing/shipping, answering customer service/tech support calls, designing award-winning products, and buying everything ever devised for the Apple universe, he's pretty much done it all at OWC over the last 21+ years.
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12 Comments

  • No wonder we hear stories of fires and burns when people use cheap counterfeit chargers. Apple should do more to warn people of the risks.

  • Great article. How about telling us more about the differences in longevity, charging ability, quality and safety.

  • Cats are attracted to cables not only because they resemble strings that cats like to polay with, but also cats are attracted to the taste of many plastics. having lost some expensive Apple cables to my cat biting through them, I cat-proof my cords and cables by enclosing them in a split plastic wire loom material that is widely available. I have bought it at Harbor Freight, Micro Center and at auto supply shores. It is a flexible plastic tube that is split down one side. It is available in different diameters. I use the diameter that is the best match to the cord, cut the loom to the length I need, and put it on the cord. A wrapping of tape around the end of the loom (but not taping it to the cord) keeps it from coming off.

  • Most of my Apple power bricks have had their cords fray at the strain relief on the block. I’ve quit winding my cords around the clips and now just stuff it in my bag in a lose coil so I can use the frayed cable as long as possible. It feels like such a waste!

    • I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t even realize that the body of the unit has clips that open to wind the cord around. Probably for the best, though. Like you, I have always loosely wound it by hand (not around the brick itself) before dropping it in my bag.

  • I wish you still had a snuglet lying around. I’ve upgraded to a newer MacBook Pro than my old 2012, and I struggle with the looseness of this design. I did buy the MagSafe 1 to 2 adapter for one of my old chargers and that has been a blessing.

  • If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Then Is a Video Worth a Million:

    Snuglet – Keeps your MacBook power cable connected!

    • The article said it’s life cycle ended, but the adapters are still available, so…? My daughter and I both need one.