The USB-C port on MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops is fast, versatile, and apparently unreliable. After six months of use, many users are experiencing poor connections to external devices. Are your MacBook USB-C ports loose? Read below to find out what you can do about it.
USB-C Ports in MacBooks
Way back in 2015, Apple released their first 12-inch MacBook, replacing the long-standing MagSafe with a single USB-C port. Apple boasted USB-C’s ability to function as a versatile connection to a range of external devices alongside its ability to provide power to the laptop.
What’s more, USB-C is reversible! Gone were the days of turning over the USB cable in frustration as you try to put it in the right way around.
USB-C has since made its way into Apple’s entire lineup of MacBook Pros. The latest of which features up to four USB-C connections, now paired with Thunderbolt 3 support to work with even more devices.
Sadly though, despite USB-C’s high speed and range of uses, it doesn’t seem to be as durable as it’s predecessors.
Loose USB-C Connections
Many MacBook users have experienced poor connections through USB-C on their MacBooks. Although the problem certainly isn’t affecting all MacBooks, for those who have been affected it can be infuriating and upsetting.
Typically, the issue arises after about six months of use. It seems to be due to poorly manufactured parts that wear down over time making the MacBook USB-C ports loose.
The once sturdy and reassuring ‘click’ that accompanies plugging a cable into the USB-C port fades away and the connection becomes loose and unstable.
As a result, slight movements of the cable or MacBook can cause the USB-C connection to drop out. This could cause external monitors to flicker, or in worse cases, it could cause external hard drives to corrupt.
What to Do About It
Check for debris inside the port
It’s a good idea to take a close look at your USB-C ports and ensure there isn’t anything stuck inside it!
Use a flashlight or another light source and a magnifying glass (or use the magnifying glass function on your iPhone) and inspect the inside of your MacBook’s USB-C ports.
If you see any trapped lint, grease, or other debris, try cleaning it out–very carefully. You don’t want to damage any components in the process!
Try using something flexible like an interdental brush or a very soft toothbrush. You could also use a toothpick to pull anything that’s stuck in there out–just be extra cautious when using something hard and pointy.
Compressed air may also help–but can also make the problem worse by pushing that debris in further! So if you use compressed air, always hold it at an angle rather than using it straight into the port.
What about using isopropyl alcohol?
You can use a little alcohol (like drops) if needed to clean out things stuck inside the port like grease that won’t come out when using a brush or compressed air.
Always drop the alcohol onto the brush or device you use for cleaning first. Never place drops of alcohol directly into the USB-C port!
Don’t spray ANY liquid directly into the port or use any other cleaning aerosols, solvents, or abrasives to clean your ports–these all could damage them.
If your MacBook USB-C ports continue to be loose, then we’ve got good news and bad news for you.
The good news is that the ports are replaceable. If your laptop is less than a year old or covered under AppleCare, then Apple might replace them free of charge.
If your MacBook isn’t covered then the fix is relatively inexpensive — costing approximately $20 plus labor.
You should make sure you visit an official Apple Store or an Authorised Apple Service Provider, otherwise, you could void whatever warranty remains on your laptop.
Additionally, you should go to your appointment prepared. Make a strong case for a replacement part by bringing your external devices to show the unstable connection.
Be sure to explain the consequences of this fault: data corruption, work interference, laptop not charging properly.
Now for the bad news. And it is bad news, unfortunately. It appears that the reason the connection becomes loose is due to the construction of the USB-C port. Apple doesn’t seem to have changed the part yet.
As a result, you may experience the same problem again six months after receiving a replacement part. At which point your laptop may not be covered by the warranty.
Maintaining your MacBook’s USB-C Ports
Fortunately, not all USB-C ports are equal and only a relatively small portion of MacBook users are experiencing this issue.
That being said, you should do everything possible to maintain your USB-C ports, minimizing the risk of encountering such an issue. To do so you could follow some of the maintenance tips detailed below.
Get a Laptop Sleeve
Protect your laptop from damage and your ports from dust build-up by using a laptop sleeve. Purchasing a padded laptop sleeve is one of the most cost-effective ways to provide long-lasting protection for your expensive device.
It also defends your ports from excessive dust and dirt which could lead to connection problems down the line.
Buy a USB-C Dust Cover
For further protection against dust and dirt, a USB-C dust cover can be helpful whenever you aren’t using the ports.
These silicone caps cover the port and can be purchased cheaply in bulk. Alternatively, use small pieces of tape to cover the ports, however, this might leave sticky areas on your precious MacBook.
Clean with Compressed Air
If you do find that dust or dirt is clogging up your USB-C port you should use cans of compressed air to clear it out. These can be bought online and are by far the safest way to clean your laptop ports.
If you do find your ports clogged up with particularly stubborn dirt you could use a toothpick to carefully scrape it out. Although, when doing so you must be very careful to keep the toothpick against the outside edge of the port and away from the sensitive connections in the middle.
Take Care with Use
Take care whenever inserting or removing USB-C cables from the port. Hold the laptop in place and grip the USB-C connector firmly by its plastic casing — not the cable.
With a cable connected, be sure to avoid knocking or putting pressure on it, as that may stress the USB-C port. These tips may seem obvious but this deliberate use can go a long way to preserve your device.
Drop us a line!
Let us know your thoughts on Apple’s move to USB-C connections. Are your MacBook USB-C ports loose or have you had any other problems?
- Reader Peter recommends that we all check our USB-C cables, even Apple-branded oF Made-For-iPhone/iPad/iPod. After his MacBook Pro’s USB-C ports were not working reliably, he reached out to Apple Support and made an appointment at his local Apple Store. On that recent trip to the Apple Store for this loose port problem, Pete discovered that his new original Apple USB-C cable was defective. Apple replaced it under his Mac’s warranty at no cost, and now the port works! Pete suspects that these MacBook USB-C cables are prone to defects.
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.