41

My girlfriend has a Macbook Air. The power supply is smaller and lighter than the Pro. It has an output of 14.85V and 3.05Amps. My Pro Retina has a power supply that is 20V and 4.25 Amps.

Both supplies have the same Magsafe adapter, so the power supplies seem interchangeable at a physical level, but what would happen if one of us plugs in using each other's adapter?

  • Could damage result from under-powering my MacBook Pro? (like a brownout)?

  • Could damage result from over-powering her Air? (like a power surge)?

  • Will the Macbook Air charge faster with a Pro adapter?

  • 4
    For what it's worth, I've got a 2012 13" MacBook Pro (non-Retina) and my girlfriend has a 2011 MacBook Air. I've used her charger a lot and she used mine, no issues so far (4 months in and battery charge capacity is the same). My MacBook Pro takes longer to charge with her charger, though. – bogdansrc Nov 17 '12 at 17:17

10 Answers 10

45

You can safely use the 85W adapter on any Mac, it will only draw as much power as it needs. The 45W adapter from the MacBook Air may just about manage to power your MacBook Pro but it won't charge it. It will not damage your Mac, but you may notice the battery may still deplete when using it.

Here is the information, straight from Apple:

  • 5
    This is the accepted answer, so most will only read this one, therefore I feel the need to mention as per my own answer that using a lower rated supply from say an Air to power something with higher requirements like an MBP, is potentially bad for the charging unit (not so much for the MBP) as it will eventually burn out from running at 100% capacity. – stuffe Apr 4 '14 at 13:13
  • 3
    "Eventually burn out" is a fairly vague term. I imagine that the OP will only use the MBA charger once in a while in a pinch to power the MBP as has been noted, the MBA charger isn't powerful enough to run and charge the MBPs battery. I do this as well when I bring my MBP home from work and use my wife's MBA charger. If I don't tax the MBP, I find that it does charge slowly.. – Ashwin Jul 27 '14 at 18:01
14

You have 2 scenarios as I see it:

1) Using a higher rated power supply than the original unit.

This is absolutely fine. The power supply will never just automatically run at 100 % of it's capability, it will only supply what is requested. If you use a MacBook air that is supplied with a 45 W adapter with an 85 W adapter instead, it will still only draw what it needs, which is likely a whole lot less than the rated capacity of the charger anyway, which is rated to be able to not only keep the computer going at full bore if required, and also charge the battery at the same time.

2) Using a lower rated power supply than the original unit.

Chances are this is fine most of the time but there are more risks. The same rules apply, it will draw the power that it needs, and no more. Assuming you use a MBP on a MBA charger, then light use will likely never draw enough power to max out the charger. If it's in sleep and just charging it will be fine, however the chance is there that if you thrash it it will start requesting more power than the MBA charger can safely provide. There are 2 points to note here:

  • Although it isn't stated in obvious terms, the 45 W (or whatever) rating shown on the power supply isn't necessarily accurate, it is in fact the guaranteed minimum continuos rate that it can supply. Changes are that it can supply more, say (depends on the quality of the unit) +10%.

  • A high quality unit (such as an official Apple unit, not an eBay Hong Kong special) will have various safety measures to prevent all sorts of things, from overheating, over current, etc etc, and the worse you can except is the unit to fail gracefully with protected systems. Get a cheap unit made from chicken wire and chewing gum though, and you are asking for a fire.

As for charging speeds, the Air likely wont charge any faster at all, but the MBP may charge slower (or, like an iPad running off an iPhone charger, not at all when in use and merely provide enough power to keep the device going).

5

I am surprised that no one has noticed the attempt to power a device who's stated power requirements is "14.5 Volts DC at 3.05 Amperes" (The MacBook Air) with a 20 Volts (!!) DC 85 Watts power adapter.

Yes, I agree, there is nothing wrong with using a higher wattage than the original power adapter for powering the MacBook Air, but it has to be at least very near the originally required voltage of 14.5 Volts DC. 20 volts is just a too much of a jump from the manufacturer's stamped device's voltage requirements. I would accept voltage variations at no more than 2 extra voltages, say, 16 volts DC at 85Watts or whatever wattage, but never would I dare power any equipment that says that it needs 14.5 Volts with a 20.x power adapter. That's, in my opinion, is asking for trouble, and I am surprised that many users here say that they have been doing it for months and it's working just fine. It's a gamble and I am glad it's paying off for these users, but me, as a computer engineer, I would never do such a thing.

I have with me a MacBook Air that one of my computer repair customers just dropped off at my computer repair shop, stating that it doesn't turn on. Upon examining it, it appears that its AC Adapter is at fault. Problem is that Apple decided to ship the A1369 MacBook Air whose power requirements are: 14.5 Volts DC at 3.1 Amps with a 14.5 Volts DC 45 Watts AC adapter. 14.5 Volts times 3.1 Amps equals 44.95 Watts, yes, the Maximum energy that this particular product will ever draw from the power adapter is 44.95 watts. Apple merely gave this pesky 45 watts power adapter a 0.05 watts head room when the customer is charging the battery and the customer is maxing out the CPU and GPU which I assume would be the conditions for the MacBook to consume its maximum rated energy at any given time and on these times the adapter is being taxed at 100% of its capacity it can deliver, no wonder it burned out. Apple should have shipped this MacBook Air with at least a 60 watts adapter so that it can have a head room and not be working 100% in any given time so that it can actually last. Well, guess what, I will be providing this customer with a 60 watts adapter since that would be the most responsible thing to do, but I would never provide a 20 Volts power adapter to power a 14.5 volts device.

So, in conclusion, be careful with attempting to over volt any given device with an input VOLTAGE greater than what it needs. Remember, you can power the 14.5v MacBook Air with a 14.5 volts AC adapter of any wattage of your choice greater than the baseline wattage of 45 watts:

Example: It's perfectly alright to: * Use a 14.5 volts DC of any wattage that happens to be a minimum baseline wattage output of 45 watts to power the MacBook Air. The adapter can say that it can power up to 1,000 watts at a rate of 14.5 volts DC and the MacBook Air will be alright, perfectly fine. The Mac will only draw the first 45 watts off the adapter, not needing to use the rest that the adapter can supply. * Use, let's say, a 16.5 volts DC of any wattage. I wouldn't go too high on the wattage here as I would be over volting the input by a factor of 2 volts, and it is almost certain that the MacBook, along with most notebook computer, have a circuitry in place (voltage stabilizer) to keep the "working" voltage stable at its best operating voltage, despite irregularities of the input voltage which is probably trues given that many of you are being successful at powering your 14.5 volts MacBook with a 20 volts adapter without burning out some components, but the voltage stabilizer can only work for a certain range, and the higher you go in terms of voltage, the more risk you go in terms of burning out the voltage stabilizer, thus causing your Mac not to power on again under any adapter.

It's not alright to: * Power your 14.5 volts MacBook Air with a 20.x power adapter of any wattage rating, even if it does work at the moment, because the voltage stabilizer has to work extra in order to down convert the voltage to 14.5 volts so that the rest of your Mac doesn't smoke up, and most likely this is causing the voltage stabilizer/regulator to heat up beyond its rated specs, which once again, translates to a shorter lifespan of the MacBook Air.

  • Well written. Worry about the voltage part guys, rest things can be fine. In layman terms, voltage is force and ampere is volume. Higher volume is okay, you'll just take what you want. But higher force can blow you away. – linuxeasy Jun 21 '17 at 7:57
  • 2
    The MagSafe charger changes its output voltage to match the attached computer's needs. righto.com/2013/06/teardown-and-exploration-of-magsafe.html – Elliott Apr 30 '18 at 6:43
3

If the magsafe plug (1, 2 or whatever) fits then use it. I can assure you there would not be any problem except for the slower charge rate. It wont burn anything. Apple's engineering is topnotch and they wont design the magsafe plug to fit if something will go wrong. You can count on that. Bogdansrc has even attested to it already.

Never mind the wattage (45W, 60W or 85W) the load or the apple unit being charged will vary the voltage and ampere depending on the processing tasks on hand. As Nike says Just do it" Cheers !

3

It's perfectly safe to use the MacBook Pro Charger with a MacBook Air.

Going the other way around though will most likely charge the MBP at a slow pace, like an iPad charging through USB or a 5W Wall Adapter.

For more information, see this Apple KB article: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2346

1

I use work MB Pro (2014 top of the line) when I work from home and use my MB Air charger and it's been working fine for the past 2.5 years. Although charger and magsafe connector do get hot (sometimes too hot to touch), it never failed.

It's when I run bunch of software, VM and max out all resources, charger just can't keep up, and it actually depletes faster than it charges. So, after heavy morning of coding, it's usually at 20-30% at around noon. I put it in sleep and go get lunch, and it's close to 70-80% when I come back - enough to last for the rest of the day. Having said that, it never happens when using original MB Pro charger even when running at max.

So is it safe? I'd say yes. Is it good? Not if you run it at max power.

1

It absolutely fine to use the Macbook Air's charger on a MBP. You just need to make a few changes such as- Decrease your MBP'S display brightness to 50% and turn off the backlight. Turn your bluetooth off and try not using chrome(Its okay if you want to use it). By doing this, your MBP will pickup charge and get to 100% soon. It will not harm your laptop or your charger.

  • You may want to edit your answer to also cover the OP's other scenario - namely using the MBP's charger with the MBA. – Monomeeth May 22 '17 at 5:41
-1

This definitely hurt my dad's Mac. He used my Air's charger for his 17-inch MacBook Pro, and it burned up his battery. When he called in a tech said it was a result of using the less powerful charger.

  • 1
    Sounds like the tech make up an excuse to not RMA a faulty battery :) – Navin May 30 at 9:19
-3

There is little risk of physical harm occurring if you use her adapter on your computer. You will likely just get a slower charge since there is less voltage going across the line. There is always greater risk of using a higher powered adapter, though. Current MacBook airs use a 35 Watt power supply, whereas MacBook Pros use a 60 W power supply. I'm just throwing those in as an addition to the amperage and voltage specs that you reported. Bogdansrc is not reporting problems doing this, but I would air on the side of caution in this case. The last thing that you want to do is replace a fried logic board when you could've avoided it. I have, in the past, fried an external HDD by using a 1.5 mA supply when it called for 1.0 mA.

  • Interesting. What would this mean for the Thunderbolt Display? It has a MagSafe connector and appears to be intended for all Mac types...Pro/Retina/Air ... – goodguys_activate Nov 17 '12 at 20:37
  • Good question. I'm not sure. My best advice would be to treat it like finding wild mushrooms: unless you're absolutely, totally certain, about what you're doing, leave it alone. Like I said, I've been adventurous before, and later wished that I hadn't been. – soxman Nov 17 '12 at 20:49
  • 1
    I believe this answer to be wrong, it's a misconception that using a larger PSU is dangerous, the opposite is true. The important element is the device using the power. Imagine a home made PC with a 1000w power supply in it, powering just a motherboard and some RAM because you have yet to fill it with hard disks and graphics cards - perfectly safe. However try to run a PC stuffed with power hungry cards like that on a 250w supply, and you can expect major issues. – stuffe Nov 17 '12 at 23:23
-4

-Will the Macbook Air charge faster with a Pro adapter?

Don't ever do this, it could permanently damage MBA.

-Could damage result from under-powering my MacBook Pro? (like a brownout)?

Actually, there's a few things interesting with how power system work on MBP.

As far as I know, my Retina MBP runs at 12392 mV (12.392 V) while I'm just browsing, and bumps up a lot when I'm gaming. So, it is possible to give it only 14 V, but it will charge extremely slow, and "Please Don't Try That If You're Ready To Take Risk! More Importantly, Don't Blame Me For Any Damage!"

Also, I want to mention one thing, that is the MagSafe Airline Adapter:

http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB441Z/A/apple-magsafe-airline-adapter?fnode=5a&fs=m.manufacturer%3Dapple%26m.productKind%3Dadapter

This adapter by Apple connects to Airplanes, and they are basically one end MagSafe, another end this EmPower thing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EmPower_(aircraft_power_adapter)

It's 15V, and at the end of that Wikipedia page it reads,

Apple offers an EmPower Magsafe power adapter for their MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air lines of notebooks, and also includes a cigarette lighter socket adapter. However, this system only runs the computer and will not charge the computer's battery, and Apple indicates that users should not plug this device into a car's cigarette lighter outlet.

So my guess is, it will work, but not well.

It's ultimately your choice, and if I were you, I'll test it secretly on my friends' laptop.

  • By the way, on Apple's product page, it says that MBA power supply is only for MBA. So... – Shane Hsu Nov 23 '12 at 17:08
  • 3
    Per the link in Justsomeguy's answer: "Although you should always use the proper wattage adapter for your Apple notebook, you can use an adapter of a higher wattage without issue." (emphasis mine) Please don't offer FUD without citing some source that backs it up. In this case, Apple contradicts your warning. – Dan J Nov 23 '12 at 17:11
  • @DanJ On the bottom of the 85W product page, it reads, "Compatible with MacBook Pro with Retina display." So at my personal point of view, I don't really think it's a good idea. – Shane Hsu Nov 23 '12 at 17:20

You must log in to answer this question.

protected by bmike Aug 3 '17 at 9:15

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .