Dell, along with many other manufacturers, have begun to implement smart features into their laptop charging circuitry. This leaves the user out of luck if they wish to use an off-brand part, or get caught short when their original charger fails. [Neutrino] was in just such a position, and decided to hack around the problem.
The laptop verifies the identity of the attached charger by a third pin. This communicates with a One-Wire IC embedded in the charger, which reports the charger’s identity when queried by the laptop. When [Neutrino]’s charger broke, an attempt was made to use an off-brand charger, with the third pin hooked up to the original failed unit. This tricked the laptop into charging successfully.
For a more permanent workaround, [Neutrino] harvested the One-Wire IC from inside the original charger, and instead hooked it up inside the laptop, directly to the charge port. Thus, the laptop always thinks a Dell charger is connected when power is applied. There is some risk, in that if the user plugs in a lower-power charger than the original, there could be an overload event, but that’s just the risk inherent in the hack.
It’s a tidy workaround for an annoying problem that is all too common in the post-DRM world. Laptop chargers are often prime candidates for failure too; we’ve seen fixes as creative as repairing a Magsafe with a pistacchio nut before!
[Thanks to Levi for the tip]