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MacBook electric shocks: why is it shocking me?

MacBook electric shocks

If you have a MacBook, you might have experienced a slight tingling sensation whenever you touch the metal body. It might have even given you an electric shock – similar to when taking off a woollen jumper. But, before you ring up Cupertino and demand to speak to Mr Cook, there are a few simple explanations. Here’s why MacBook electric shocks happen.

And it’s not an obscure problem: type “MacBook shocks” into Google and you’ll be confronted with dozens of forum posts and a smattering of YouTube videos. However, there’s really nothing to worry about. Yes, Apple did have to recall some faulty plugs in April, but that was a rare issue and, for most of us, the tingling will just be a mild annoyance.

MacBook electric shocks: why they happen

There are three main culprits behind the tiny shocks: static electricity, an improperly grounded plug socket, a third-party charger or, quite simply, the age of the laptop. It can be just one of the above or, as I suspected recently with an old MacBook of mine, a combination of all of them.

Here’s what happened: I was sitting at my wooden kitchen table tinkering with a venerable 2013 MacBook Air, which was plugged into the outlet beside the cooker using a cheap third-party charger bought on Amazon, when suddenly – ouch! It was a perfect (electrical) storm that I, a Big Tech Plonker, could have easily avoided.

How to stop your MacBook shocking you

Switch plugs

It’s highly likely that you’ll only experience the shocks/electrical “rumbling” when your laptop is charging.

An easy fix, then, is to unplug it and try a different socket. If you’re still getting non-static (i.e. more significant) shocks when the laptop is unplugged there could be a more serious issue, such as leakage, so contact Apple support.

Examine, or change, the cable

If you’re still getting the tingling from another plug socket, it could be the charging cable that’s at fault – especially if it’s a knock-off bought from Amazon. I know they’re outrageously expensive (a MacBook Air charger is £79, for Pete’s sake), but it’s worth buying official kit, if possible.

If your charger is getting old, it’s also worth checking that it hasn’t accumulated any gunk. Unplug it, obviously, and then run a dry cloth over the plug prongs. It’s a long shot, but it might work.

Avoid humidity

Okay, this is obvious advice, but you’ll be surprised at how many people ignore it: don’t use your MacBook in the bathroom with a hot shower running or in the kitchen when, for instance, you’re boiling pasta. Water and electricity really don’t mix.

“Ground” yourself

To avoid a buildup of static electricity, you could regularly touch hefty metal objects – a filing cabinet would be perfect – to dissipate the charge. It may raise eyebrows in your office, though.

The nuclear option

Occasional ramblings, tingling and mild shocks can just be part and parcel of an ancient MacBook. If you can live with them, great. If you’ve tried all of the fixes above and have reached breaking point, it might be time to find a replacement.

Please let me know in the comments section if you’ve experienced this issue and what, if anything, you did to fix it. Don’t suffer the shocks in silence.

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Max Figgett


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  • I, too, have been surprised by this electric shock issue, which I experience as tingling when touching the case (body) while the device is plugged in. I say device because I have experienced it with my previous MacBook Pro 15” (~2008) since it was brand new, my current MacBook Pro 15” (2017) since it was brand new, and even my iPad Pro—again since brand new—all while using only the original Apple cables that came with the equipment. It is not occasional—it is continual every time I place fingers on the metal parts of the equipment while it is plugged in, for the duration that I am touching the metal.

  • My wife’s and Son’s Macbook Airs both do the same, both with the original Apple chargers. I have also noticed this on other equipment, lots of it very expensive and well made professional broadcast equipment.
    In the past, in the studios I have worked in this has sometimes been cured by re earthing the equipment. This is obviously not possible with a Macbook.
    My wife became so concerned today that I thought it best to check and take some basic measurements, First I checked ground resistance between the extension block the charger was plugged in to and the incoming house ground, which was suitably low at 0.3 ohms. Checking the voltage between the Macbook case and earth showed no more than around 1.5v, for this I used s good quality Fluke Multimeter that I know is good up to at least 100khz so it would measure leaked current from the switching PSU. Resistance to ground between the charger 0v / Macbook case was 1Kohm and unmeasurable between live/neutral and case.
    In conclusion, there is no obvious leakage and there is a drain resistance to earth from the case. All of which is good, but doesn’t explain the shocks. I can only assume that the shocks are due to electrostatic leakage building up on the metal case of the Macbook from the PSU, especially if the PSU isn’t very well grounded, this is then discharged through the user at points where the case anodising may have worn away such as the corners, it shouldn’t be dangerous but is uncomfortable and is just one of those things you get with a metal laptop.

    • I’ve been experiencing it too with 2 different brand new macbook pros, but I must admit, i’ve used multiple different metal laptops and i’ve only experienced it with mac.

  • It’s tedious getting this pins & needles sensation. I either unplug or better still wear rubber sole shoes! My pug is from Apple.

  • Here’s my fix, Mag Fixxett, sorry Max Figgett. It only produces shocks when charging therefore don’t work on it when it’s charging if it causes you discomfort. Charge it up. Unplug it, work on it. When on charge have a break from work.

    • Jimbob gives a very sensible solution. I get occasional shocks from my MacBook casing, but I find that simply unplugging the power cable and then re-connecting it, tends to sort the problem; which in my case (pun probably intended) is a poor earth connection in the connector.

    • while it may be sensible, $3k spent on a MBP instead of a third or less for a comparably powered windows machine is also a nuisance.

  • My newly purchased MacBook m1 air is giving me shocks when using with a usb hub(Anker) with a hdmi cable.It occurs when the MacBook is running on battery and not even in charge.Soon as I remove the hdmi cable it get sorted.Causing a lot of discomfort .Any help is appreciated.

  • Does this make sense? I was getting burning shocking feelings in my wrists and forearms resting on the body while I typed. The battery was fully charged. I was plugged in and the outlet is properly grounded… I believe. As soon as I read your response, I unplugged and went back to typing and stopped feeling the annoyance.

  • The tingling is specific to Macbooks and has been for over a decade. Having recently moved jobs and been given a nice new Macbook Pro M2 I was concerned that the tingling was far worse on it than on my wife’s and my son’s 9 yr old Airs. I measured the voltage between the case of the new Macbook, using a case screw for a good connection, and the earth pi on the mains socket, I measured 114 volts AC, /i checked again exchanging my ‘cooking’ cheapo multimeter for my high end Fluke meter, it measured the same, just with 10 times the accuracy!
    I must stress that there is no direct connection to mains voltage, the charge on the case is either capacitive or inductively coupled and is not dangerous and won’t do you any direct harm as there isn’t enough current flow for that.
    On looking at the charger on the new laptop, I noticed that the earth pin is not connected st all! \At least the old ‘Airs were slightly earthed, the earth is carried through on the main cord to the metal knob on the power supply, but not fully from the PSU *Power Supply Unit) to the laptop itself, the PSU output is coupled to earth via a 1Kohn resistor
    I feel this is a terrible piece of design by Apple. Other manufacturers don’t do this, I have a newish Dell Lattitude with a metal case that is fully grounded and doesn’t tingle. Neither did the new dell Precision or the HP Z-Book G8 at my last place of work. I can’t understand why Apple persist with this design
    I’ve now binned my Appl charger and use a Dell USB charger and hry, no more tingling! The case Macbook case measures 0v with respect to earth and I’m happy.
    in Conclusion: If your Macbook has USB C sockets that it can charge from, ditch the Apple charger and use a USB c one instead. You’ll need a decent one of at least 60W, preferably 90W. The Del works well for me.