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Apple hit with class action suit over fire-prone MagSafe adapters

post #1 of 107
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A new lawsuit seeking class action status has accused Apple of neglecting a flaw in the MagSafe power connector for MacBooks that might not only cause a break but could trigger sparks, forcing customers to buy replacements and even creating a potential fire hazard.

Submitted late last week to a Northern District of California court in San Jose, the joint complaint from Tim Broad, Naotaka Kitagawa and Jesse Reisman claims that the MagSafe cable used for the MacBook and MacBook Pro will inevitably fray near one of its connecting ends, contradicting Apple's claims that the adapter is "durable." The plaintiffs believe that day-to-day use, including winding the cable around the power adapter's pop-out guides, ends up destroying the cable over time -- and that Apple is aware of the problem but hasn't fully addressed it with a safer design.

All three at varying points have had to buy replacement MagSafe adapters for their systems that, in two cases, have already either needed a replacement or are showing signs of needing one. The plastic sheath on the cable in each circumstance was often melted away and exposed the bare wiring; Broad noted the heat was enough that it might have caused fire damage to his home if he hadn't been present to watch for the danger signs.

"It almost burned my hand when I brushed it accidentally," he says in the 27-page filing.

The trio also points to numerous examples of similar patterns online, including Apple's own online store, where the cables had frayed, melted or sparked and forced customers to get one or more replacements. Apple, meanwhile, only asks customers to visit a certified Apple service location if sparks occur anywhere other than at the power plug's metal prongs; many of these visits, however, only result in the customers buying another $80 adapter rather than receiving a free replacement.

As the problem is already known to affect "at least thousands" of users and may well include hundreds of thousands with the exact same issue, the plaintiffs want class action status to represent anyone who may have bought an affected MacBook and have charged Apple with violating California's business codes as well as breaching the implied and explicit warranties attached to the computers.

A MagSafe adapter cable whose sheath has melted, exposing the wire. | Image credits: Flickr user AriXr.

Broad, Kitagawa and Reisman want Apple to not only refund any of the associated costs with the known defective products but to warn the public and, if successful, pay punitive damages alongside the expected compensation.

As always, Apple hasn't commented on the lawsuit, but faces a large hurdle given the collective evidence. AppleInsider has also heard of Apple redesigning its adapters as early as October 2007 to try and resolve its cable issues, but many of the incidents reported in the new lawsuit have occurred well after the fix was supposed to have taken effect that year, surfacing as recently as March 2009.
post #2 of 107
At least that is what I understood, that is the power supplies would be either repaired or replaced no questions asked.

As to things wearing out, well if Apple can solve that problem they could very well own the world. There isn't a know way to make anything last forever. The closest we have come is the cast iron frying pan, everything else has limited durability.

It is funny that this should crop up because I just got back from my local Apple store where I had to replace the USB cable for my iPhone. Funny but it broke down in a similar manner, that is right at the connector that plugs into the dock socket. Now this was a warranty replacement but it didn't take more than ten minutes to get that taken care of. Probably would have been less than ten but there was a new guy involved.

As a side note if Apple focuses to much on making the environmentalist happy you can expect even more durability problems in the future. Not that I support pollution just that sometimes the environmentalist have ill advised policies.

Dave
post #3 of 107
If the magsafe is say %20 defective then it's certainly a problem but if it's only %5 defective them the risks are mitigated by the amount of laptops save from untimely death being yanked from where they are perched.

Perhaps Apple needs to redesign the magsafe connector and offer a model that locks onto the laptop and make the magnetic latch optional.

Punative damages should be levied when a company actually does something worthy of punishment. In this case the uncomfort of a few is usurped by the benefits to the extreme majority IMO.
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post #4 of 107
Hmm...looks to me like these folks are trying to create their own "economic stimulus" at Apple's expense.

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post #5 of 107
my iphone plug does that also...i tried covering it with tape but its still not great
post #6 of 107
I had this exact same problem with my Rev.A MacBook Pro about 6 months back. It seems to be pretty random. I was using my MBP at home and all of a sudden I smell smoke. It took me a minute to realize where it was coming from until I actually saw the white smoke pouring out of the cable. It actually looked worse than pictured, believe it or not.

I was pretty ticked off but the service I got from the Apple Store made up for it. No appointment; I just walked in with my heavily burnt MagSafe adapter and in less than 5 minutes I was walking out with a brand new one, right off the shelf.
post #7 of 107
I've got to tell ya, I've had my MacBook Pro for nearly two years. During that time I have travelled all over the US, and 'plugged'/'unplugged' my cable hundreds of times, yet it still looks nearly brand new. Certainly there is no evidence of the wear pattern shown in the photo.

Makes me wonder what kind of unplugging action would damage the insulation like that. I mean the magnetic connection comes off so easily. I'm wondering if it isn't the way the cable is twisted/bent/banged around inside the carry case.

P.S. I've never wrapped the cable around the male ends of the adaptor.
post #8 of 107
Apple need to make sure they are putting the "Safe" back into MagSafe power supplies. These power supplies need to be as hazard free as possible from a health and safety perspective.

I had two that did this, one went on fire with smoke in the room. If I had not have been there at the time...

I got both replaced with no problem and the new ones are way better than the originals. I thought the problem was solved?! I'm in Ireland and have no interest in this class action stuff, so long as Apple do their job and get them up to safe standards then that is fine by me.
post #9 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

If the magsafe is say %20 defective then it's certainly a problem but if it's only %5 defective them the risks are mitigated by the amount of laptops save from untimely death being yanked from where they are perched.

Perhaps Apple needs to redesign the magsafe connector and offer a model that locks onto the laptop and make the magnetic latch optional.

Punative damages should be levied when a company actually does something worthy of punishment. In this case the uncomfort of a few is usurped by the benefits to the extreme majority IMO.

If "uncomfort" is defined as "the thing sets on fire and burns your house to the ground", then I think that's a big problem even if it is "only" a 5% risk.

Think about it, 5% would mean that one out of every 20 Macs caught fire. You don't think that would be a problem?
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post #10 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post

If "uncomfort" is defined as "the thing sets on fire and burns your house to the ground", then I think that's a big problem even if it is "only" a 5% risk.

Think about it, 5% would mean that one out of every 20 Macs caught fire. You don't think that would be a problem?

Yes I was actually mentally think more like .5 %. I would have to see numbers that show Apple was hiding a LOT of failures. Any device I plug into the wall has the potential for sparking. It has to be proven that Apple is negligent here.

I think people have a distorted view about how our legal system works. The courts understand that little issues arise but they don't levy punitive damages unless there has been gross negligence on the part of the defendant or egregious damage to the plaintiff's body or circumstances.

I say good luck to them but it'll take a lot more than a few flickr pics to win the case.
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post #11 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

If the magsafe is say %20 defective then it's certainly a problem but if it's only %5 defective them the risks are mitigated by the amount of laptops save from untimely death being yanked from where they are perched.

Perhaps Apple needs to redesign the magsafe connector and offer a model that locks onto the laptop and make the magnetic latch optional.

Punative damages should be levied when a company actually does something worthy of punishment. In this case the uncomfort of a few is usurped by the benefits to the extreme majority IMO.

The "magsafe" is not the issue (idiot)... it's that the cable frays... which imho, is something all cables do, especially the used and abused ones.

My original power cable from my Ti PowerBook frayed like this (not mag safe) after three years of use (abuse)... it was time to replace! It that guy was too lazy to replace a frayed cord, then he deserves to get shocked!
post #12 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gregg Thurman View Post

I've got to tell ya, I've had my MacBook Pro for nearly two years. During that time I have travelled all over the US, and 'plugged'/'unplugged' my cable hundreds of times, yet it still looks nearly brand new. Certainly there is no evidence of the wear pattern shown in the photo.

Makes me wonder what kind of unplugging action would damage the insulation like that. I mean the magnetic connection comes off so easily. I'm wondering if it isn't the way the cable is twisted/bent/banged around inside the carry case.

P.S. I've never wrapped the cable around the male ends of the adaptor.

Ditto- my cord is perfect after three years of use!
post #13 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gregg Thurman View Post

I've got to tell ya, I've had my MacBook Pro for nearly two years. During that time I have travelled all over the US, and 'plugged'/'unplugged' my cable hundreds of times, yet it still looks nearly brand new....
P.S. I've never wrapped the cable around the male ends of the adaptor.


I'm pretty sure that the wrapping and unwrapping is what causes the problem, at least in a lot of cases. That's what did it to mine. (I use my laptop from multiple locations throughout the day, and I wrap and unwrap the adapter each time I switch locations.)

I have AppleCare, and I took my almost-3-year-old MacBook in with the frayed cable and they replaced it for free, no questions asked. I don't know if it would have been different if I didn't have AppleCare or not.
post #14 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

... Perhaps Apple needs to redesign the magsafe connector and offer a model that locks onto the laptop and make the magnetic latch optional. ...

It doesn't appear to be anything to do with the magsafe part though. This is simple wire stressing/breaking almost certainly. The magsafe tears away with even the slightest pressure, locking it on would only increase the stresses and make things worse.

I've seen many Apple adapters and power supplies that have failed over the years in this way, but except for a few models that have very thin wires, they are mostly just fine.

The majority of problems in this area seem to be caused by people who wind them really tightly around the brackets. Every time I've been handed a laptop with a bad power supply cable, it's wound up tight like thread on a spool, or the person in question is very strong, or both. Almost always a male too for what it's worth.


Apple does have some problems in this area IMO, but they do their best to fix them and a class action suit is totally not necessary. The majority of the time it's the user being too rough with the product. As many have already said, Apple will replace them the minute they are frayed or overheating, and the only reason they would overheat is again the wires breaking in the middle (from the winding) and the current trying to go through less wire.
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post #15 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Yes I was actually mentally think more like .5 %. I would have to see numbers that show Apple was hiding a LOT of failures. Any device I plug into the wall has the potential for sparking. It has to be proven that Apple is negligent here.

I think people have a distorted view about how our legal system works. The courts understand that little issues arise but they don't levy punitive damages unless there has been gross negligence on the part of the defendant or egregious damage to the plaintiff's body or circumstances.

I say good luck to them but it'll take a lot more than a few flickr pics to win the case.

Well that good... on the product end, the more durable components, such as PVC, is bastardized by the green movement. Companies respond, taking out PVC from the jacketing, and you end up with a less durable cord, and more landfill.

Unintended consequences.

It's the same with all cords and wire jacketing. Non-plenum rated material is very durable (PVC) while plenum rated material is less durable & can be very brittle at certain temperatures.

STILL- it's the responsibility of the owner to replace a worn out cord! Apple can't guarantee it for life!
post #16 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

As a side note if Apple focuses to much on making the environmentalist happy you can expect even more durability problems in the future. Not that I support pollution just that sometimes the environmentalist have ill advised policies.

Yes.

Blame for Apple's gradual descent into half-assed QC should be placed on the "environmentalist" and their "ill advised policies."

It's good to know that you don't "support pollution."

post #17 of 107
Form over function once again bites the Apple.
post #18 of 107
These cables are damaged because they are removed by pulling on the cable instead of pulling on the connector.
post #19 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

If the magsafe is say %20 defective then it's certainly a problem but if it's only %5 defective them the risks are mitigated by the amount of laptops save from untimely death being yanked from where they are perched.

Makes sense.

After all the potential of a burnt house and people killed in an electrical fire due to faulty adapter is mitigated by laptops saved from breakage when someone yanks their cable.

WTF?
post #20 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by KnightoftheWord View Post

Apple need to make sure they are putting the "Safe" back into MagSafe power supplies. These power supplies need to be as hazard free as possible from a health and safety perspective.

I had two that did this, one went on fire with smoke in the room. If I had not have been there at the time...

I got both replaced with no problem and the new ones are way better than the originals. I thought the problem was solved?! I'm in Ireland and have no interest in this class action stuff, so long as Apple do their job and get them up to safe standards then that is fine by me.

I have to say that I just don't believe this post at all.

Wires don't overheat to the point of spontaneously catching fire for no reason. For that to happen Apple would have had to purposely undersize the wire and the odds of that are remote given that it works for the majority of folks and that it would be criminal fraud or criminal negligence to do so.

The two most common causes of this kind of thing are handling it so roughly that some of the wires inside break, or cat pee, with cat pee being the more common one.
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post #21 of 107
If the complaint of the users is real, Apple should replace all their damaged hardware at no expenses to the users.
post #22 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nano_tube View Post

If the complaint of the users is real, Apple should replace all their damaged hardware at no expenses to the users.

End of story.
post #23 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilco View Post

Blame for Apple's gradual descent into half-assed QC should be placed on the "environmentalist" and their "ill advised policies."

Oh, so Apple designed a new, SAFER AND SMALLER, power adapter, and you say that the company "descents into half-assed QC" because a few out of 5-6 million sold have problems?

Really, when was that time before Apple "descended into half-assed QC"? Surely, they didn't have any problems with their products back then.

Can you point me to specific incident numbers over time?

Oh, you made that statements out of your arse. I see.



(Any company has faulty products. Apple had the G3 logic board failures, the pro G5 cooling liquid dripping, problems with early Titanium powerbooks and other such major stuff. One cannot talk about a "descent into half-assed QC" without numbers and qualitative differences).
post #24 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Form over function once again bites the Apple.

Blitheness over seriousness once again bites you.

The sad fact is, you don't (perhaps can't) even see it.
post #25 of 107
The main cause of this problem is people always unplugging their laptops via the cord instead of the plug itself.

You don't yank power cords from the wall by the cable, do you? Well the same applies to magsafe.

Just because it was designed not to yank your laptop off the table when you trip over the cord doesn't mean it was designed to always be unplugged by yanking the cord.

I know this because I used to yank mine by the cord and it failed within a year. After that I always grasp it by the plug to disconnect it, and since then I've had no more problems.
post #26 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by foljs View Post

Makes sense.

After all the potential of a burnt house and people killed in an electrical fire due to faulty adapter is mitigated by laptops saved from breakage when someone yanks their cable.

WTF?

You can't walk into court talking about potential. Hell my George Foreman grill has the potential to burn the house down and all of its contents. I'd like to know what Apple's replacement level is for burnt magsafe adapters.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ten View Post

The "magsafe" is not the issue (idiot)... it's that the cable frays... which imho, is something all cables do, especially the used and abused ones.

My original power cable from my Ti PowerBook frayed like this (not mag safe) after three years of use (abuse)... it was time to replace! It that guy was too lazy to replace a frayed cord, then he deserves to get shocked!

True and when I say magsafe in this context I really mean the cable. Forgive my incomplete hastily input message.
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post #27 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

I have to say that I just don't believe this post at all.

Wires don't overheat to the point of spontaneously catching fire for no reason. For that to happen Apple would have had to purposely undersize the wire and the odds of that are remote given that it works for the majority of folks and that it would be criminal fraud or criminal negligence to do so.

The two most common causes of this kind of thing are handling it so roughly that some of the wires inside break, or cat pee, with cat pee being the more common one.

VirgilTB2,

I agree, wires don't spontaneously overheat/degrade. I tongue in cheek pass on the cat pee, though.

One time, I was browsing at an Apple Store (novi, mi, as I recall). A rather frumpy, heavy-set middle-age individual stomped up to the counter, schlepped his bag onto the Genius Bar, and demanded replacement power cords. This was before the Mag Safe, but after the Yo-yo power cable.

As I recall, Apple replaced them (under Apple Care), but after the guy left, I approached and commented to the Genius about those frayed, burnt cables. He had 3 cable sets, each looked burnt and frayed like a hamster on PCP had gone nuts on them.

In reality, after looking at the man, and even how he wound the cables, and also pulled them out of his bag roughly, I can see that he really beat up on his power cords. It seemed like he travelled a bit, and I understand there is normal wear and tear, but this guy obviously didn't treat his cables near as nice as his laptop.

It's too bad, because Apple took it on the nose. I hope this doesn't end up in a stupid class action that costs Apple.
post #28 of 107
Here's a tutorial to fix the connector. I don't recommend anyone use it.

http://sm-url.com/MagSafe

Don't use this tutorial.
post #29 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Form over function once again bites the Apple.

Yet Apple is still tops in customer satisfaction . . . survey after survey, study after study. Year after year, and nearly across the whole range of its producs

In light of that, and until we see the actual merits of this case, it's a money-grab.
post #30 of 107
This happened to me! I've had one MagSafe connector melt while on vacation. Once I got back home, the Apple Store guy would not replace my power supply, telling me it wasn't part of the MacBook's warranty.

Was the guy giving me bull? If not for the AppleCare, what reason would we be allowed to get our power supplies replaced?

More recently, I've had another one crack, but not melt, and it still works. It's now on light-duty and I don't carry it around with me.
post #31 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by iHSE View Post

I had this exact same problem with my Rev.A MacBook Pro about 6 months back. It seems to be pretty random. I was using my MBP at home and all of a sudden I smell smoke. It took me a minute to realize where it was coming from until I actually saw the white smoke pouring out of the cable. It actually looked worse than pictured, believe it or not.

I was pretty ticked off but the service I got from the Apple Store made up for it. No appointment; I just walked in with my heavily burnt MagSafe adapter and in less than 5 minutes I was walking out with a brand new one, right off the shelf.

Exactly the same thing for me. This problem happened on my connector last year, so I took the charger to the Apple store and they just swapped it for a new cable. It costs me nothing and took all of 10 minutes. I haven't had any issues with the new cable so far, and even if that were to happen, I'm sure the same policy would apply.
post #32 of 107
Guess that's what happens when you're careless with your stuff.
post #33 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Yes I was actually mentally think more like .5 %. I would have to see numbers that show Apple was hiding a LOT of failures. Any device I plug into the wall has the potential for sparking. It has to be proven that Apple is negligent here.

Dude, 0.5% would still be one in every 200 MacBooks. That's a lot of MacBooks. And we're talking about a fire hazard. Fire hazards are not something you mess around with. How many iBook G4s were actually bitten by the exploding battery problem? I think it was literally only a handful of people, but it sparked a massive recall of all batteries for the affected models. Heck, the infamous PowerBook 5300 incident back in the day was Apple's biggest embarrassment to that date, and that issue was never reported in the wild at all - the machines that exploded and sparked the recall were in the factory, not in end-users' hands.

If the MagSafe connector truly is a fire hazard, that is a big deal no matter what the percentage of affected users is.
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post #34 of 107
How did I know that "punitive damages" would be involved? I'd be a lot less skeptical if the plaintiffs agreed to donate any punitive damages to charity. The Fire Safety Institute?
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post #35 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Master Cheech View Post

These cables are damaged because they are removed by pulling on the cable instead of pulling on the connector.

You got that right. Dipshits that don't know how to follow basic instructions of ANY power cord. Do not pull on the cord, pull on the actual plug. These dipshits probably thought they could pull on the cord every time to disconnect it from the Mac, simply because it was a magnet connector. Morons.

My power adapter for my 7 year old PowerBook G4 is in perfect condition. I don't wind it with excessive force, and I never pull on the cord to disconnect it from the PowerBook. Hopefully it won't obtain class action status, and they won't be able to prove any liability on Apple.
post #36 of 107
I think apple should do this.....

Say..... would you please back up your computer and send it to us.

Then... give them a full refund and keep the computer.... give them a check and a letter that says they have proved that they are entirely TOO STUPID to own a COMPUTER.

Like another person said in here... I've had several power books and ibooks... and the cords were fine so long as you didn't close one in a door... have a pet that chewed on it... or anything like that.

You know.... things that can beat the heck out of a power cord and break it.

These kinds of lawsuits are such total bullshit! 3 idiots find a lawyer that will represent 3 idiots since they have a gripe with Apple.... which should be a gripe for just being freaking STUPID. This is like the guy that sued McDonalds for spilling hot coffee on himself. Or the other guy that said his daughter was so traumatized by not having a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks that he really needed millions of dollars to help her feel better.

This is the wussification of America. We need one of the few things that the UK has that we don't. It's called LOOSER PAYS. The idea being if you start some kind of fraudulent lawsuit against someone, or some company... and you LOOSE (As these morons should) You have to pay the legal bills for their defense.

We can all have accidents with these cords.... I know I have. I closed one in a door next to my desk once... duh... blonde moment on my part. But I didn't go screaming to Apple... YOU MADE A DEFECTIVE CORD....waaaaaa...

Take some personal responsibility folks. These guys are tards trying to take advantage of Apple.... If there was a real problem we would have heard tons of people complaining on here.

Geez..... I'm surprised they didn't have their computer plugged into their cig lighter in the car while they were filling up on a hot day with no breeze....

Then I guess we'd be talking about a Darwin Award.

Z
post #37 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post

Dude, 0.5% would still be one in every 200 MacBooks. That's a lot of MacBooks. And we're talking about a fire hazard. Fire hazards are not something you mess around with. How many iBook G4s were actually bitten by the exploding battery problem? I think it was literally only a handful of people, but it sparked a massive recall of all batteries for the affected models. Heck, the infamous PowerBook 5300 incident back in the day was Apple's biggest embarrassment to that date, and that issue was never reported in the wild at all - the machines that exploded and sparked the recall were in the factory, not in end-users' hands.

If the MagSafe connector truly is a fire hazard, that is a big deal no matter what the percentage of affected users is.

The infamous PowerBook 5300 incident never made it out of the labs! There never was a recall for batteries that were never used in production models. The problem had nothing to do with Apple either. Sony's Lithium Ion batteries were a problem at the time and Apple decided that the shipping product would continue to use NiCad batteries instead. The iBook/PowerBook battery recall was also caused by Sony and the cells used in those batteries.

This problem with the MagSafe adapters is caused by idiots that are pulling on the cord instead of the connector. Any power cord is a hazard when you damage it from abuse. All power cords for any product have the same warning: Do not pull on the cord to unplug it.
post #38 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by hillstones View Post

The infamous PowerBook 5300 incident never made it out of the labs! There never was a recall for batteries that were never used in production models. The problem had nothing to do with Apple either. Sony's Lithium Ion batteries were a problem at the time and Apple decided that the shipping product would continue to use NiCad batteries instead. The iBook/PowerBook battery recall was also caused by Sony and the cells used in those batteries.

This problem with the MagSafe adapters is caused by idiots that are pulling on the cord instead of the connector. Any power cord is a hazard when you damage it from abuse. All power cords for any product have the same warning: Do not pull on the cord to unplug it.

Amen Hillstones!!!!

These three buffoons would be much better off as PC guys....

"I'm a PC"... and I use my powercord to play with my cats..... Meow...Spark fizz,,, screech from poor cat with idiot for owner.....Followed by MS X logo....LOL

Z
post #39 of 107
I just bought a bunch of replacement dock cords for my iPhone. The original one was fraying at the USB end.

Why? Because I kept disconnecting it from the plug and my computers by pulling on the cord!

I would have been way to humiliated to ask Apple to replace the cord that I'd damaged by being an idiot.

Instead, I bought four new cords, one for each computer and one for the plug. Now I never have to disconnect a cord (or get on a plane and realize I'd left it at home).

I still have the frayed cord. Maybe if I get enough people to join a class action suit, Apple will pay me for being stupid and I'll get lost in the crowd so nobody I know will notice what a bonehead I am.

I can't do that with my MagSafe cord though. I've treated it like crap for 2 years, but the damn thing wont break!
post #40 of 107
We smelled it and looked around the house for 20 minutes before we figured out what was burning. It looked exactly like a picture. She kept it plugged in all the time, and only used it as her home adapter.

Julio
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