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If the Plug Fits: the Computer Corner


February 25, 2024

by Charles Miller

Regular readers of this column might remember the story of the unfortunate experience one of my clients had with a brand new laptop computer. The regrettable tale deserves retelling as a warning of the dangers of making broad assumptions regarding apparently-simple electronics.

My client had an old Asus laptop with which they had been very pleased for quite a few years. The old laptop still works but at its advanced age was showing some symptoms of mechanical arthritis and perhaps the onset of electronic Alzheimer's. Since the Asus laptop had been such a good one for so many years, they decided to replace it with a new model Asus. When the new laptop arrived they decided to spare octogenarian knees the pain of crawling under a desk to plug in the new laptop power cord. The power cord for the old laptop fit, so why not use that one?

The new Asus computer booted up and worked fine, but over the next few weeks there were some annoying problems. First the webcam stopped working, meaning Zoom calls were voice-only. Then the sound system died. Next, the fingerprint reader quit then one by one all his USB ports became inoperable rendering the brand new computer half-alive and utterly unusable.

Long story made short: The power supply for the new computer was a different voltage than the one for the old computer. Over a period of a few weeks the wrong voltage destroyed the new laptop. Surprise, surprise; damage resulting from using the wrong power cord was not covered under warranty. "But the plug fit!" they wailed. I pointed out their finger would fit in a light bulb socket, and that that too was a bad idea. At last report, my client was still swearing they would never buy another Asus product so long as they live.

Just because a plug fits does not mean it is safe to use because manufacturers thoughtlessly use the same plugs and sockets for different voltages. Apple is much better at avoiding this problem, but even Apple is not immune to user error.

Just a few days ago someone else phoned me reporting his brand new iPad would not charge its battery. He told me he had tried several different chargers with no result. I knew instantly if he said he had tried three different chargers that meant they could not all be the original charger that came with the new iPad. Knowing that led to a quick resolution of the problem.

Apple products are particularly sensitive to using the correct charger and cord. This was a fact driven home to me on another occasion when the battery in a friend's iPhone would not charge. I took the phone to a trusted cell phone technician telling him I thought the battery was bad. When he suggested I buy a new charger I said "No way! I've already tried four different chargers." He then plugged the dead iPhone into a genuine Apple charger and it immediately started charging the battery. The grin on his face said "How do you like your crow Carlos? Fried, roasted, or do you eat it raw?"

The point of all this is to inform that it can sometimes be a costly mistake to assume that just because a charger cord fits that means it is the correct one for the job. To avoid problems you should immediately label the cord and the "wall-wart" transformer that came with your new computer and/or smart phone and/or tablet to avoid the mistake of using the wrong charger.


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with decades of IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico. The opinions expressed are his own. He may be contacted at 415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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