Will Your USB-C Cable Fry Your Laptop?

February 6, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

If you connect your new USB-C gadget with your laptop, there’s a chance the computer will instantaneously burn out. Fortunately, there’s a way to prevent that.

It all started several months with Google engineer Benson Leung. He has been reviewing USB-C to USB-A adapters—cables needed to use a laptop to charge devices like Nokia N1 tablet, 2015 Apple MacBook, and Google’s Chromebook Pixel. He found out that some adapters are not transmitting the power correctly and can even damage the laptop.

On Feb. 1 he noted in an Amazon review he won’t be testing more cables for a while since the last one, Surjtech’s 3M USB A-to-C cable, fried his Chromebook Pixel.

Luckily, there’s been a spreadsheet circulating online with reviews Leung has done so far and it seems it’s so far the best guide as to dependability of USB-C adapters.

You can find the spreadsheet here.

What’s USB-C Anyway?

USB-C is a standard for cable connectors developed to replace virtually all other cables. That’s right. It can replace standard USB cables, DisplayPort cables, HDMI and VGA cables, and it can also carry enough power to charge laptops. The good news is that if enough manufacturers adopt the standard, you can replace all your cables with just one. Well, you’d probably need a couple of them, but at least they’d be interchangeable. And one other nice touch—USB-C is reverse-plug, so it doesn’t matter which side is up when you’re plugging it in.

If you have or plan to buy a device that uses USB-C and want to connect it with some other device that only uses USB-A (that is the big old rectangular USB everybody knows) it seems to be the best advice to stick with the cables approved by Leung’s reviews. In the future it may be a good idea to look for certified cables. This post explains how to recognize some of those.


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