Why your iPad, MacBook, or even iPhone might stop charging this winter


Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received quite a few messages from people who have had trouble charging their Apple devices in the cold, winter weather.

iPads, MacBooks and iPhones suddenly stop charging, and owners try different chargers and cables without success. They start pointing fingers at the battery and think it’s time for a replacement (battery or device).

Also: How to build a winter emergency kit (and why you should)

And then, later in the day, the device suddenly starts charging again, and everything seems fine.

It’s like the problem just fixed itself.

So, what’s going on here?

The common element in all these messages is temperature, specifically low temperatures. People left the device in a car or garage or outbuilding, let the device really cool down, and then tried to charge it.

If the device still had a charge, then it could run out of the charger, but if the battery was already dead, then the device itself would also play dead and not turn on.

But bring the device into a “room temperature” environment and leave it there for a while, and the device will resume charging.

This is not a bug but a feature.

Rechargeable devices have an operating temperature, and there is an upper and lower limit beyond which the battery goes into a sort of “safe mode” to protect itself from damage.

Apple publishes this data:

Phone, iPad, iPod and Apple Watch

  • Temperature works best: 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C)
  • Storage temperature: -4° to 113° F (-20° to 45° C)


  • Temperature works best: 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C)
  • Storage temperature: -4° to 113° F (-20° to 45° C)

This applies to all rechargeable devices and batteries, but in my experience, Apple enforces this more than other manufacturers, so the problem is more apparent.

Apple goes to great lengths to protect the battery from damage through improper use and charging.

At the other end of the temperature spectrum, leave your iPhone in a hot car for too long, and you’ll get a message telling you it needs to cool down before you can use it or charge it.

Also, because of the temperatures involved, MacBooks are more prone to this problem, so don’t leave them in the car overnight in cold — or hot — weather.

So what should you do if you find a device that is stone cold and won’t charge?

The safest thing to do is to bring it into a “room temperature” environment (something around 64° to 72° F (18° to 22° C)) and let the device warm up normally.

Are you in a hurry and tempted to speed up the heating process?

Be careful!

Exposing a device to high temperatures can cause problems and damage the battery, so only heat up a device if you can guarantee you won’t push the temperature above that 95°F (35°C) mark. I’ve used a heated blanket or on a hot water bottle to do this, but I monitor temperatures closely to make sure things don’t get too hot.

My advice is to do your best to keep your devices in that “best” temperature, and if your device steps outside these ranges, let it return to operating temperature slowly.

I’ve found that if it’s absolutely necessary to keep a device outside in cold weather, plugging it into a power bank helps keep it running and slows down the battery drain in the cold weather. Anker power banks is my deed for this.


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