Ask LH: Where Can I Buy Proprietary Power Adaptors?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a few gadgets around the house (a portable hard drive, netbook and a mouse, to name a few) that I've lost the proprietary power adaptors for. I've searched everywhere but can't find anything that fits. What's the best way to replace them? Thanks, Sadly Wireless

Dear SW,

This is something that practically everyone with a keen interest in technology has experienced at one time or another. It can be extremely aggravating — especially if the gadget in question contains irretrievable files and photos. (Pro tip: Backup your data!)

Obviously, you should avoid plugging in random power supply units that happen to have a similar connector shape. If the voltage is wrong, you could end up with a fried gadget and might even receive an electric shock for your troubles. (I once inadvertently used the wrong PSU on an external hard drive and my house instantly smelled like used firecrackers. Fun times.)

If the missing adapter uses a propriety cable, it means it is protected by a registered trade name belonging to the manufacturer. In most cases, this means you'll need to order a replacement through the vendor.

Your best bet is to scour the manufacturers' websites and customer support pages. If they offer PSU repairs or replacements, this should be possible to arrange online. Failing that, you might also be able to score secondhand adaptors on eBay. (The usual "buyer beware" caveats apply, natch.)

Your chances of success will largely depend on the age and popularity of the devices in question. If your gadgets are old and discontinued, it's going to be tougher to find a replacement. Most vendors cease supporting models they no longer sell. This goes doubly if it's a cheap product from a no-name manufacturer. The adage "you get what you pay for" also applies to customer support, sadly.

How many years ago did you buy these gadgets? How much did they cost at the time? If you're not trying to recover data, it might be better to cut your losses and buy a newer, better replacement. Otherwise, you might need to go to an electronics specialist who will be able to circumvent the power connector and retrieve your files for you. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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    You will in all likelihood be able to find an appropriate replacement device, be it first or third party, on ebay.

    As always, your mileage may vary, but it's served me well in this situation.

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