Different Types of Laptop Power Adapters Explained

Views 1 Like Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful
Different Types of Laptop Power Adapters Explained

With the fantastic propulsion of mobile technology since the beginning of the 21st century, the use of laptop computers for personal, educational, and business purposes has become more of an essential than a choice. However, though the utility of these portable computers cannot be denied, there are still several issues that users must iron out if they want to make the most out of their devices. Principally, this means looking toward power sources and considering the use of additional or backup power adapters or laptop chargers.

A laptop power adapter serves the purpose of charging a laptop's battery. Though everyone is given a power adapter along with their laptop purchase, it often becomes necessary to replace that adapter and/or acquire additional units for use in various spaces, such as keeping one adapter at work and one at home or acquiring a power adapter to use in the car.

However, before buying an additional or replacement laptop power adapter,, it is necessary to become familiar with the different types which are offered in order to find what best matches with one's personal laptop and needs. This means understanding several elements of laptop power such as how laptops use power, the basic types of adapters, as well as additional considerations such as voltage, output power, and connection.

Understanding Laptop Power: AC vs. DC Power

All laptops currently on the market use what is known as direct current, or DC, power in order to operate. DC power is simply electricity that only has the ability to flow in one direction. However, the wall outlets which supply power to a laptop and charge its batteries all run on alternating current, or AC power. AC power varies at a consistent rate, resulting in a positively charged current. The different types of laptop power adapters on the market serve to help convert the power provided by plugs into the power needed to operate a laptop computer.

Different Laptop Adapter Types

The charging units for laptops are known as 'adapters' because they must adapt AC power to DC power or one type of DC power to another type in order to provide energy to the laptop unit. As a result, there are two main types of laptop power adapters, AC adapters and DC adapters. Also, there is the more expensive option of purchasing a universal laptop adapter.

AC Power Adapters

An AC power adapter is the one included in a laptop purchase. The makeup of a laptop power adapter consists first of a wire which plugs into the wall socket and accepts AC power. This wire generally travels to a black box, called a transformer, which converts the AC power provided by wall the outlet to the DC power needed by the electronic device, the same type of power which is provided by its battery. This electric current it then carried by a second wire which connects to the device itself.

DC Power Adapters

Generally, DC power adapters are purchased aftermarket, though certain laptop packages may include a DC power adapter along with the standard AC adapter. There are many common types of DC power units, including car power plugs, those offered on aeroplane flights, and batteries designed to recharge other batteries.

Because laptops run on DC power, it is easy to assume that plugs which provide DC power can be connected to the outlet directly. However, this is not always a safe or helpful to the laptop since it is common for DC plugs to provide less voltage than is needed to power the unit. Therefore, DC power adapters need to store up the power that the plug provides in order to convert it to a voltage high enough to power the laptop itself.

Universal Power Adapters

Universal laptop power adapters are only available as an aftermarket purchase; they are generally much more expensive than either replacement AC adapters or DC adapters. The purpose of a universal power adapter is to accommodate all types of laptops and charging situations through the use of interchangeable tips. There are also various voltages and sizes offered to make sure that buyers can function in virtually any environment including AC and DC charging conditions, as well as across multiple brands and types of laptops.

Additional Considerations

In addition to knowledge about the general types of laptop power adapters available, buyers also need to consider a series of additional features that vary from product to product within these categories. Minimally, this includes voltage, output power, and connection.


The voltage of the laptop is the first point to consider when looking to buy a laptop power adapter. Voltage is a complex concept. However to put it simply, this number refers to the electric potential difference between two points in an electrical circuit. Failure to deliver a high enough voltage does not allow the unit to work, whereas too high a voltage short circuits the laptop and severely damages the computer.

Finding out a laptop's voltage is pretty simple. It is usually displayed somewhere on the unit itself, typically on the underbelly of the machine. It is also clearly stated within the printed materials that come with the laptop and on the original laptop power adapter. Voltage refers to DC power and is shortened to 'V'. Therefore, the laptop's voltage is expressed as such: 19.5V.

Output Power

The output power of a laptop is measured in amps (A) or milliamps (mA). This number refers to the current output that the adapter needs to function; it makes sure that the laptop receives the power that it needs to function normally and that it gets that power in a steady stream. Output power is generally found in the same location on the unit as its voltage as well as in printed materials and on the original power adapter that came with the unit. Like voltage, failure to provide the needed output power to the laptop causes the unit to electrically malfunction and has the potential to permanently damage the computer.


The final feature to consider when looking for a laptop power adapter is the connection to the computer itself. Many different brands of computers such as Dell, HP, and Acer use laptop power adapters with the same or similar voltage and output power needs. However, the ports used to plug the power adapter into the laptop itself vary from brand to brand and even model to model. Netbooks,, for example, have much smaller connection ports than full-sized laptops.

Buying Laptop Power Adapters on eBay

After reviewing the important differences between laptop power adapters as well as the features that are unique to each case, the time has come to begin the shopping process. While laptop parts and accessories are common in electronics stores and other computer-centred retail establishments, buying laptop power adapters on eBay is a great way to quickly sort through all the options to get exactly what you want at a good price.

Searching eBay

When searching eBay for laptop power adapters, be sure to include the proper details in the search terms. That means using the main search bar and entering more than simply "laptop power adapter&". Consider adding the brand and model of laptop that the power adapter is for, such as "Dell laptop power adapter&" or adding voltage information, such as "19.5V Dell laptop power adapter&".

Buying on eBay

Buying laptop power adapters or any items on eBay is fast and simple. Those without an account can register quickly. It is also a good idea to link in with PayPal as a means to protect financial information and save time at checkout. Buyers who are new to the site can also benefit from the Learning Centre which reviews buying basics to help make the experience of shopping with eBay fast and painless.


Laptop computers are far more of the norm rather than the exception in today's fast-paced, technology-driven society. For this reason, many laptop owners find that it is a good idea to own more than one power adapter or replace their old ones for more efficient models. To do this, however, it is first important to understand the different types of laptop power adapters as well as other important features that they contain.

There are three basic types of laptop power adapters: AC adapters, DC adapters, and universal adapters. Which one is needed depends on the circumstances as well as budget since universal power adapters tend to cost more money. In addition to the basic types of laptop power adapters buyers must consider, there is also the matter of going over additional features that ensure that the power adapter purchased is the right one. Minimally, this includes considering voltage, power output, and connection ports.

When all is said and done, finding a laptop power adapter to purchase is easy given the prevalence of computers in people's lives. However, shopping on eBay is easy and a great way to save money. With a few simple strategies, using eBay to buy a laptop power adapter is a great choice.

Have something to share? Create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides