Laptops are a device that many people have become dependent on in recent years. Writers, students, business people, and researchers all organize their lives around being able to pull a small computer out of a bag and work just about anywhere. A laptop battery that will not charge can mean a serious reduction in where and when a person can work. Sometimes the laptop does not work at all, depending on exactly what the problem is, and the information stored on a laptop can be irreplaceable (if not recently backed up). Fortunately, there are strategies for dealing with a laptop battery that will not cooperate.
Why a Laptop Battery Might Not Charge
Laptop batteries do eventually need to be replaced, but the battery itself is not the only component that could be at fault. Since laptop batteries can be expensive, it is important to find out why the battery will not take a charge before buying a new battery. The real cause could be quick, simple, and inexpensive to fix, or there could be a serious problem with the computer itself and a new battery is not the solution. Here are several possible causes of a non-charging battery, together with appropriate fixes. These are listed roughly in order of complexity, so it's a good idea to start at the top and work down.
Problems Plugging In the Laptop
It may sound simple, but the first stage of troubleshooting is to make sure the laptop is properly plugged in. There are both obvious and not so obvious reasons why the juice might not be flowing to begin with.
Not Plugged In
Follow the wire from outlet to computer jack. There are several connection points (more, if extension cords are involved), any one of which could have worked loose. A plug does not have to be completely out in order to be too loose to work.
Outlet Not Turned On
Make sure there is power flowing to the outlet. A fuse may have blown, power may be out, or someone could have flipped a wall switch and turned the outlet off.
Damaged or Dirty Plug or Jack
Tell-tale symptoms may include the "plugged in, not charging" message, or the computer may take a very long time to charge or even lose battery power while indicators say the battery is "charging." If damaged, the power cord or the power jack will eventually need to be replaced, but propping the plug up on a book so it cannot fall out of alignment can work as a temporary fix. To diagnose a problem with the port, try using a different battery and cord for a while.
Damaged Power Cord
The power cord is a wire inside a plastic sheath, and the wire can break with or without damage to the sheath. If the power goes on and off as the cord is moved or bent, the wire is likely broken. Try using a different cord as a test.
Each of these issues has to do with outlet and power cord issues. Since the outlet and power cord are essential for charging the laptop battery, checking them is the first logical step when experiencing battery problems.
Problems With the Adapter
The adapter, which is attached to the power cord, could be damaged or defective. If possible, use a different adapter for a while as a test. The output of the adapter can also be tested using a voltmeter; the proper reading should be on the label of the adapter, and the output should be within 5 percent of the proper reading. Adapters commonly make some noise or get warm to the touch, but an adapter that gets too hot to touch is a sign that either the adapter or the battery is damaged. If the adapter is bad, find out if it's under warranty or if it has been recalled.
Problems With the Battery
First of all, check to see if the battery is actually installed correctly. If the battery was removed and then put back in for whatever reason, it could simply be out of place. If the latches did not click closed, the battery is probably loose. Remove it and put it back in properly.
Battery life drops gradually over time, so it is common for a battery to not hold quite as much charge as it could when it was younger. This is not a problem but an inevitability. Likewise, how much power the computer uses will vary according to its settings and what the computer is being asked to do, so even a good battery will not always last as long as expected when used heavily. But batteries do have a limited number of recharges, and eventually batteries get old and die and have to be replaced. Even a new computer can contain an old battery, since batteries can age sitting alone in a warehouse. There are ways to extend battery life, and these vary somewhat depending on the type of battery and the type of computer in question. Batteries can also become damaged. Occasionally, defective batteries are sold; if a battery dies before its time, check to see if it is under warranty or has been recalled.
Batteries that do not need to be replaced can sometimes have problems as well. An extremely depleted battery can sometimes be brought back to life, depending on the battery type and the computer type; check the computer manual. Some people advise letting a battery drain completely in order to reset its "memory," something that may have been useful with the older, nickel-based batteries. A lot of confusion exists on which batteries should be run out completely and which should never be completely run out, so it is important to consult the manual on this as well.
The way to test if a problem is actually the battery is to remove the battery and try running the computer on outlet power alone. If it runs fine, the battery is at fault. If problems persist, the battery may be fine.
How To Deal With The Problem Once It Is Diagnosed
Obviously, if a connection is loose, tighten it. If a switch is turned off, turn it back on or use a different outlet. Otherwise, a part may have to be repaired or replaced. There are specific ways laptop owners can deal with damaged equipment, such as power jacks, cords, adapters, and batteries themselves.
Fixing a Damaged Power Jack
The power jack may simply need to have its connections resoldered. If that does not work, the jack itself may need to be replaced. Either job can be done inexpensively and quickly at home with the right equipment, though there is some risk involved. While DIY instructions are available for this task online, it does require taking the laptop apart. If the laptop owner has any doubt about putting the laptop back together again properly, simply take the laptop to a professional for repairs. Hiring a professional is usually less expensive than buying a whole new laptop.
Dealing With a Damaged Cord
Laptop power cords have two parts: the section between the adapter and the outlet and the section between the laptop and the adapter. The section between the adapter and the outlet almost never breaks. The other section often does and can be repaired at home. Instructions are available online and often require little more than a wire stripper and soldering equipment. Or the cord can be replaced entirely. Although the cord wire can break within the plastic insulation, if the insulation is damaged and the wire itself is showing, do not use it. Exposed electrical wires are fire hazards.
Dealing With a Damaged Adapter
While the entire cord plus the "brick" in the middle is usually called the adapter, it is the brick, or rectangular box in the middle that does the adapting. The adapter converts the alternating current from the outlet to the direct current that the laptop computer can use. Unfortunately, if this component fails, it must be replaced. Use only an adapter designed for the particular laptop type in question or a universal adapter. Using an adapter made for a different make and model of computer could damage both the computer and the adapter, even if the adapter's cord fits into the computer's power jack perfectly.
Can a Damaged Battery Be Fixed?
In a word, no. While it may be possible to baby a battery that is on its way out to get a bit more time out of it, a battery that really will not hold a charge has to be replaced. Trying to fix a battery at home could actually be dangerous. Remember to recycle the old battery; electronics stores and laptop manufacturers generally have battery recycling programs, and some offer cash rebates for returned batteries.
A Safety Warning
First, do not attempt home repair of electronics without at least some know-how. Making a mistake could result in a fire hazard, electric shock, damage to the computer, or all of the above. When in doubt, leave it to the professionals.
Second, do not take apart a laptop for repairs (or for anything else) without unplugging it and removing the battery. Even if the battery appears not to work at all, some charge could remain and cause a shock.
Buying Laptop Batteries and Adapters on eBay
While some battery-related problems can be fixed at home, others simply require buying new components. Here are some tips on how to find and buy new adapters and batteries on eBay.
Searching for Laptop Batteries and Adapters on eBay
The search for laptop batteries and adapters starts at the Electronics portal. From there, select Computers, Tablets & Networking and then Computer Components & Parts. From there, use the search bar at the top of the page, since batteries, adapters, cords, and connectors may all appear in several different subcategories. For example, type "laptop battery" without the quotation marks into the search box, and then use the category filters on the side of the page to narrow the search further. For a more refined search, use the Advanced Search feature.
Buying Laptop Batteries and Adapters on eBay With Confidence
Adopting a few good habits will help the buying process go smoothly. First, read the product listing carefully to make sure the item really is what you want to buy. Missing a word in the listing could result in a mistake. Do not hesitate to ask the seller questions. Second, remember to look up the seller to find out what kind of feedback he or she has gotten from other buyers. Find out if the seller has a return policy. Is there a money-back guarantee?
Sooner or later, even the best laptop is likely to have problems, and those problems could involve batteries that will not charge. Of course, it's important to address the problem quickly before it gets worse and causes a work interruption or safety hazard. Before buying a new laptop, however, it's worth taking the time to find out what the problem is. It might turn out to be easy and inexpensive to fix and it could mean a few more months or years of life for the laptop.