My MacBook won’t charge...

We recently encountered a problem with our MacBook Air. Less than a year old, the laptop started refusing to charge. We'd actually noticed that it had been a bit temperamental for a few weeks – on occasion the light on the power cable would fail to come on when it was plugged into our Mac, a little wiggling usually sorted the problem and we just ignored it. However, one day with 15 per cent battery left and a lot of work to do, the light failed to come on and the laptop refused to charge. 

Our first step was to try and troubleshoot the problem. We had been plugged into a power strip so we switched it for a wall plug. No change. No charge. 

We didn't have a spare power cable to test so our next step was to try and reset the SMC. The System Management Controller, to give it its full name, manages a battery performance and charging, amongst other things. To reset the SMC you need to shut down the computer; disconnect the MagSafe power adapter from the computer; press and hold the power button for 5 seconds; release the power button. You can then reconnect MagSafe power adapter and turn on the computer. Unfortunately this didn't fix the problem for us. 

Using Apple’s troubleshooting tools 

If you encounter a problem with your Mac you may wish to try and fix it yourself, as we did. You can get advice from Apple's web-based customer service and support pages, which includes pages of troubleshooting advice for each Apple product, video tutorials, and forums – referred to as Communities. 

To be honest the discussions in the Communities pages are pretty terrible. You get the option of submitting a question for the community; it isn't possible to search to see if other people have encountered your problem. This means that people tend to start up new discussions all the time, rather than joining existing ones and finding the answer there. Apparently Apple has plans to offer more tutorial videos and more interaction with Apple employees, hopefully this means that you will be more likely to get an answer in the future. 

If you can't find the answer in the discussion boards (and we will admit to being frustrated by the experience) you may wish to Contact Apple Support. Apple is still hoping to help you without a member of staff getting involved, so you start your support request online by choosing the product, and then whittling down through various options to get to the query that relates to your problem. 

Booking an appointment at the Apple Store

If that gets you no closer to the answer it may be time to throw in the towel and make an appointment at the Apple Store. From the troubleshooting pages you can select Take In For A Service and arrange to take it to a store to be investigated by a Genius. Pop in your postcode and choose the Apple Store that's most appropriate for you. 

The Genius Bar is the place for iOS device resets, Mac repairs and for reliable Mac hardware information. You can’t just walk up to the Genius Bar, you need to make an appointment. You can also book your appointment in the retail section of Apple's website

Apple divides the troubleshooting of its products into four categories: Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. When booking your appointment you need to select the right category and choose an appointment time, then sign in with your Apple ID. Pop in a few details about the problem if you can as this could help the genius diagnose your problem in advance and they may even have the necessary kit on hand for a repair. 

On the day of your appointment it's wise to check in early. When we arrived at the Apple Store in Bluewater with our MacBook Air and faulty power cable there was a member of staff with the sole responsibility of checking in people for Genius appointments. Apparently it should be possible to check in using the Apple Store app on your iPhone, but we couldn't get that to work. However, the app is the best way to check in as it sends you a banner alert when the Genius is ready, so you can browse through the store without missing your appointment. 

You will get between 15-20 minutes with your Genius – a bit longer than you get with your doctor. Most problems can be resolved during the initial appointment. If it’s parts-related and the store has the part in stock, all but the most difficult repairs can be executed within an hour while you wait. In our case the genius got a new power cable from the back, plugged it in and started charging our Mac. He suggested that something could have moved in transit, causing the Mac to start charging again, and offered to send our MacBook Air away for testing. This could have taken a couple of weeks so we just took our chances with the new power lead (which we were allowed to take away for free). 

Apple is said to be planning to do more fixes in store. For example, right now if you take a broken iPhone into the store, Apple staff can carry out replacements of batteries, vibrator motors, speakers, receivers and home buttons in store. Under the new plans the staff will be able to replace the display, cameras, sleep/wake button, and logic board. Apple Store employees will also get a new tool to diagnose specific hardware problems. Only if the fault can't be rectified in store will the phone be sent off site. 

Learning how to fix your Mac

If your problem is lack of understanding about how your Mac or Mac software works you could sign up for One to One training at the Apple Store. A set of specially trained employees will be on hand to provide you with teaching on subjects as simple as the Finder or as complex as Final Cut Pro. The £79 12-month One to One membership, provides you with as many 50-minute training sessions and two-hour Personal Project workshops as you can book. 

You could also join a free Workshop - available to both One to One members and casual customers. Workshops are limited to 12 people and topics vary by store. 

Related:

Apple to fix iPhones in store, revamp Apple Care

Will Apple replace my iPhone?