Quarter Life Crisis

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MacBook Charging Flicker

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Another quirk came up with the MacBook. Nothing that is critical yet, but it does have that fishy smell. While I didn’t observe any more flickering of the screen in the past weeks and I kept seeing that strange flicker of the lights in the Caps Lock and Num keys, the new thing that flickers is the light on the charger’s computer plug

Essentially, once the battery has been fully charged – i.e. when the light on the plug should switch from red to green – the light indeed does that switch but after about a second it switches back to red and after another second it switches to green again und so weiter und so weiter… And the computer reflects those changes by toggling the icon in the menu bar battery status display between its ‘charging’ and ‘charged’ images:

I have no idea whether or not this is a big deal. But I heard people say that you aren’t supposed to start and stop charging batteries all the time. Or perhaps that extra toggling could put additional stress on the charger or the computer and break it? (Or – paranoia! – set it on fire.) I’m not particularly comfortable with that idea. I guess I should drop in at the local dealer to ask for advice. That might be a good opportunity to mention that the charger tends to make slight buzzing noises – which tend to drive me mad when it’s quiet. Perhaps there’s just a problem with the charger… wouldn’t be the first Apple charger with a problem I had.

In the end it turned out that the battery was to blame for this. The local Mac dealer ordered a replacement battery for me and things have been fine since.

December 16, 2006, 1:00

Tagged as apple, apple defect, broken, macbook.


Comment by gummi: User icon

Does the flicker occur when you use an electrical plug with the “third prong” or is “earthed”?

December 16, 2006, 8:01

Comment by ssp: User icon

I’m using a non-earthed two pin plug (the one that you attach directly to the charger).

December 16, 2006, 9:13

Comment by Draw: User icon

i’ve got the same exact problem.. did you get it resolved?

January 7, 2007, 20:58

Comment by ssp: User icon

I’ve just been to a local Mac store. We crossed checked with another MacBook and charger and could reproduce the problem with their charger on my computer (while not being able to reproduce it with my charger and their computer). So the charger should be fine.

The guy said that it’s most likely a problem with the battery then. As I also had problems with the MacBook just turning itself off without a warning or properly shutting down, that seems quite likely. He ordered a replacement battery and I should be able to see whether that resolves the problem in the next days.

January 8, 2007, 13:23

Comment by Aig: User icon

I had the same problem as you, but it was fine after replace a new battery.

March 12, 2007, 10:47

Comment by DH: User icon

My macbook just started doing this as well two days ago. It flicks between 99 and 100% in the battery menu bar and the charging light goes from orange to green like the above video.

Things became weird three days ago when I attached the charger and it was at 77% charged running on battery power.

When I attached the charger, the green light came on and wouldn’t turn orange. I did a restart and then I got the orange light.

But now, I get the same symptoms, — the orange/green flicker and 99/100% charging/charged in the battery menu.

March 15, 2007, 0:38

Comment by Mark King: User icon

I had the exact problem and found your page after googling. Thanks for the “solution”. I’m gonna go to Apple store to get it fixed. Thanks.

March 23, 2007, 16:36

Comment by Daniel: User icon

I’ve now got the same problem too. Was it a warranty replacement for you?

April 8, 2007, 8:25

Comment by ssp: User icon

Yes it was a warranty replacement for me.

April 8, 2007, 12:09

Comment by Daniel: User icon


A follow up to my previous post. I had this problem also. I’ve just tried a smc reset where you power down your macbook, remove the battery and mains power and hold the power button down for 5 seconds. Now I no longer get the 99%/100% flickering - I hope it stays that way.

April 8, 2007, 14:50

Comment by Randy: User icon

Add me as yet another with the exact same issue. Green/orange, back and forth. Hopefully Apple will cover this under warranty as well!

April 9, 2007, 1:17

Comment by ssp: User icon

Thanks for keeping us updated on that Daniel. I tried those resets as well before having the machine checked and they didn’t help in my case. Let’s hope things stay good for you!

April 9, 2007, 3:20

Comment by Daniel: User icon

Sigh.. you are right. I think it worked once after doing the SMC power management reset, but now, on my second full recharge it has been bouncing again for at least the last 30 minutes. I’ve noticed the flicker rate varies quite a bit. Sometimes 30 seconds, sometimes just 2 seconds, with the rate increasing as time goes on.

April 11, 2007, 15:47

Comment by daywalker1001: User icon

Geeeeez, I thought I’m the only one out there having this flickering weird problem. Thanks for this report! I’m definetly gonna get a new battery for my MacBook as soon as possible! ;-)

April 18, 2007, 19:43

Comment by emathias: User icon

Exactly the same with me … and SMC reboot didn’t work for me too… I may go to an apple store to check this problem. (I’m just worried because I need my laptop to finish my thesis) btw, how much time did you wait to get your battery replaced ? Ah, and thanks for blogging it ;)

May 22, 2007, 5:09

Comment by ssp: User icon

It took some days for the replacement battery to arrive at the store. But they just called me when it arrived and I went there to exchange it then which just took a minute. (I’m not sure, though, whether all stores will let you do that or whether they’re just particularly helpful in mine.)

May 24, 2007, 13:20

Comment by Doug: User icon

Hello, sorry to be an outsider but I have had the same problem. I had the battery replaced, and It still would not charge, then I sent it in. Had the board replaced, and another new battery, it worked for a week now it won’t charge at all and the light stays off.

September 28, 2007, 2:48

Comment by matt: User icon

You’re not the only one. Many, many people have the same problem. I’ve had two fail on me myself.


ps. Do you mind if I link to you on my website?

October 29, 2008, 17:22

Comment by ssp: User icon

Link whatever you like on your site… it’s a free internet after all.

Do you also have (quiet, but still audible) buzzing noises when your computer is attached to the charger?

October 29, 2008, 18:01

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