Laptop Chargers & Adapters

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What’s the Difference Between a Laptop Charger and an Adapter?

When it comes to laptop accessories, one of the more confusing aspects is laptop chargers. In particular, what is the difference between laptop chargers and adapters?

This isn’t necessarily the case for all electronics, but when it comes to laptops, there really isn’t a difference. Companies use the terms laptop charger and laptop adapter interchangeably. What it boils down to is the “power brick” you plug into an electrical outlet. Laptops need power to charge their batteries and to run, but they lack an internal power supply that would let them plug in to a wall outlet directly—look at the size of a “power brick” and you’ll understand why manufacturers don’t want to stuff all that inside the laptop.

Laptop chargers and adapters convert the power from the wall outlet so it can be safely used by the laptop to operate, and to charge its battery.

The Various Types of Chargers for Laptops and MacBooks

Portable chargers for laptop use are often offered for sale by the companies that make the computers. Sometimes a laptop charger needs to be replaced, and many people like to have a spare or two, so they can have one at home, one at the office and one for travel. These are direct replacements for the charger that came with the laptop when purchased, and it’s important to pick the correct model.

For example, Apple offers a number of laptop chargers. There are MagSafe and MagSafe 2 versions that attach magnetically and pull away if someone trips over the cable. There are also various wattages available, including 45W laptop chargers used by the MacBook Air, and 85W adapters needed by the more powerful MacBook Pro.

If you can’t find an original, or want to save a little money, you can find third party replacements for many laptop chargers.

Whether you buy original or third party, check your owners’ manual before buying a laptop charger to make certain you have the correct version for your model.

Universal Laptop Chargers and Adapters

What happens if you want a charger for multiple different laptops, or if the original version is no longer available for your laptop? That’s where universal laptop chargers are a great option.

What makes a laptop charger universal? It’s all in the tips ... These laptop chargers all come with the familiar “power brick,” but they include a collection of different interchangeable tips for the cable that connects to the laptop’s power port. Each tip is designed to fit a different power port, and inside the tips are resistors that changes the voltage. This allows one power adapter to be used with a variety of laptops from different manufacturers.

One thing to note: Apple laptops that don’t charge by USB use proprietary charging connectors that you won’t find included in most universal laptop chargers. For a MacBook, you’ll need to track down an original Apple laptop charger, or the proper third party version for your model of MacBook.