Do not buy these dangerous USB-C accessories

Aftermarket magnetic USB-C adapters pose real risks to your hardware.
usb-magnetic-cable-2

If you’ve ever tripped over a power cord and knocked over your phone, tablet, or laptop, you might wonder why connector tips don’t have magnetic safety release mechanisms like Apple’s MacBook and Microsoft’s Surface laptops.

But you found a cheap solution: an $11 magnetic adapter that attaches to any USB-C cable! Problem solved.

Unfortunately, while the generic adapters on Amazon might seem like a good idea, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest they’ll put your hardware at risk.

Risks cited by USB-C experts include:

  • Risk of electrostatic discharge.
  • Electromagnetic interference from exposed POGO pins (tiny metal pins that protrude for contact) leading to data loss and performance degradation.
  • Risk of arcing damage between pins in high-humidity environments.
  • Debris could short-circuit exposed magnetic pins.
  • It’s not an official part of the USB-C specification.

The last point might sound like a barroom argument about obscure NFL rules, but it could actually be the best reason not to buy a magnetic tip adapter.

Beware those magnetic connectors!

Since USB-C’s design assumption is that USB-C cables will plug into USB-C ports (rather than connecting via magnets), engineers didn’t consider the side effects. For example, USB-C’s design can anticipate a 65-watt laptop suddenly being unplugged and minimize arc risk by cutting power within a set time frame.

When you attach a magnet to the end of a cable, all that engineering goes out the window, and disconnection can happen faster. If power is still flowing through the cable, the risk of arcing increases.

But, you say, “Apple and Microsoft use magnetic connectors on their laptops, and they’re perfectly safe.”

Yes, they do (Microsoft has even patented a USB-C magnetic connector, though it hasn’t acted on it), but both device makers probably put engineering work into their proprietary connectors and chargers to mitigate the risks of damage and data loss from sudden disconnections—and they have the resources to back up the products.

usb-magnetic-cable

Magnetic USB-C adapters and cables do carry the risk of damaging hardware.


You’re unlikely to see such high-level engineering work from a small vendor producing $11 magnetic adapters. While you’ll find anecdotal reports of people saying they’ve had “no problems at all” using these magnetic adapters, you’ll also find plenty of anecdotes about using these adapters damaging phones and laptops.

These reports match up with warnings about interference and charging port damage due to arcing caused by metal shavings sucked into the magnetized connectors.

On the Framework laptop forums, a customer shared their bad experience with using a magnetic tip adapter: “I bought a magnetic USB-C cable, and the static on the exposed plug nearly fried something in my laptop. The laptop wouldn’t boot and the flashing LED indicated a memory failure with error code 00001110,” the person wrote. “The next day it booted fine, which was strange. Memory tests showed no issues. Warning signs of something about to fry: screen glitches or sudden blackouts during use.”


The solution was to unplug the USB-C cable and its detachable tip from the laptop,” the person wrote. “There are indeed some posts about magnetic USB-C cables warning you not to use them, but I didn’t realize it was an issue until it was too late.”

On the USBCHardware Reddit forum, for over three years, it’s been a steady warning, and I found this report:

“My laptop got fried due to the magnetic connector coming off while connected to the charger. Then I examined the connector part under a magnifying glass and it was done well to prevent such accidents. In fact, I couldn’t understand how it happened. But, on the other hand, the laptop damage is also undeniable. Since then, I stopped using them and recommended the same to my friends.”

There’s more out there to be found, but we’ll stop our parental lecture here. In the end, it’s up to each person to decide how comfortable they are with the risk of using magnetic adapters, and you must weigh the relative risks of damaging ports or laptops due to cable tripping, and the relative risk of damaging a laptop, tablet, or phone from using an $11 magnetic adapter.

For me, I’ll pass, but you’ll have to decide your stance for yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *