Why Does My Laptop Only Work When Plugged In?

Updates, cord problems, faulty hardware, and battery issues are all possible reasons your laptop dies as soon as it’s not hooked up to a power source.

I have dealt with and fixed various laptops over the course of my life. My time with the different devices, paired with additional research on computer issues, is what enabled me to properly cover the following guide.

Each of the below paragraphs goes over the possible reasons a laptop turns off as soon as it’s plugged in. They cover how to best identify and fix the issue as well.

Key Takeaways

  • Always check the power cord and computer software before going out and replacing your laptop’s battery.
  • Constant overheating, frequent charging problems, or unstable power are all signs that your laptop’s battery needs to be replaced.
  • Trying a new power cord, checking your recent updates, and cleaning the battery are all ways to fix your laptop dying as soon as it’s not plugged in.

Laptop Power Issues

Laptops, for all of their functionality and useful traits, are not without issues. The machines are fragile devices that will slowly break down over time. All models experience problems eventually, but batteries tend to go before anything else.

Such issues are typically indicated by the device only working when it’s plugged into a power outlet and shutting off anytime it’s on its own. However, while that can be an extremely frustrating issue to deal with, it’s not always the battery’s fault. 

There are a few different reasons your laptop shuts down as soon as it’s unplugged. When finding a fix for that issue, identifying the sole cause is the first step. Luckily, with the proper information, that’s easier than it sounds.

Adapter and Software Problems

Many users go out and buy a new battery as soon as their laptop starts to die without an outlet. Though that can be a fix, it can also be an unnecessary use of time and money. Always troubleshoot before taking that route.

The first problem you want to look at is any power cord issues your computer might have. As with battery problems, that’s a common issue that can cause your computer to suddenly die. However, replacing a cable is much cheaper than a battery (which can run $50 or more).

Most laptop chargers are made of a two-piece AC adapter that connects to both the socket and the laptop. Plug them both in and see if your computer charges up. If nothing happens, then something is likely wrong with your cord.

Another way to test is to shut down your laptop and leave it plugged in for a few hours. If it’s not up and running after that, the adapter may not have enough juice left to properly charge the battery.

You can also borrow another adapter from a friend or family member with the same or a compatible laptop and see if that works.

Beyond that, a software malfunction can also cause your laptop to die at unexpected times. There are many popular operating systems that come with issues or known bugs. They typically occur when technology ages out. If that happens, your laptop can reject the AC power adapter.

Updates can cause issues as well. If everything worked fine and then your laptop only works when plugged in, the change may have corrupted or uninstalled your battery drivers.

A Degrading Battery

If the above problems aren’t the reason for your laptop’s various shutoffs, the battery is a likely culprit. Degrading laptop batteries happen all of the time, especially if you have an older laptop that’s been through a lot of use.

Though they aren’t necessarily indicative of a failing battery, a lot of overheating or long charging times both suggest that something’s wrong with your device. 

If you suspect the battery is the cause, use the power cable to connect your laptop to an external power source. After that, leave your computer plugged in overnight to make sure it has plenty of time to charge. Then, unplug the computer and check to see if it works.

If it still shuts off immediately, or if it turns on but shows the battery has no charge, then you likely need to replace the power source. Using your laptop with a weak or damaged battery can harm its health and lead to complications like frequent overheating.

In that situation, first, remove the battery and clean it. Power down your computer and unscrew the battery compartment. Remove the power source and then use a microfiber cloth to wipe it down. That will get rid of any dust or dirt that might have got inside.

If that, and none of the other solutions, work, it’s time to replace your laptop’s battery. Purchase the new one based on your laptop and battery’s model numbers.


These are some of the most common questions users ask about laptop power issues.

How Many Years Should My Laptop Battery Last?

Though all brands have different specifications and manufacturing, a laptop battery should be expected to last anywhere between 2 and 4 years. However, the higher quality brand will almost always be on the higher end of that spread. 

How Do I Know If My Laptop’s Battery is Failing?

It’s not always easy to tell if something’s wrong with your laptop’s battery. However, if your laptop suddenly shuts off while being fully charged, or if your device frequently overheats without a lot of use, your battery is likely to blame.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Laptop Battery?

Laptop batteries, as with any accessory, vary greatly in cost. Cheaper options can be as little as $20 or so, while more expensive ones can run over $100. It depends on the make, model, and overall quality.

Final Words

Laptops are great devices that run most of the modern world, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t without issues. Battery failures happen a lot, and they are extremely frustrating. If your computer shuts off without a plug, look into the above causes and find a solution as soon as you can.

Has your computer ever only ever worked when plugged in? How did you fix it? Let us know in the comments below!

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