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Basic question from non-engineer about power cable specifications and safety

  1. Feb 17, 2012 #1
    Let me start by stating up front that I am not an engineer, but as far as I could tell, this "outsider" question does not violate the forum rules. I searched (Google and this forum) for an answer, but couldn't find one, and was confident readers of this forum could probably help.

    My boss's boss lost the power cable for his HP digital picture frame, and they came to me (I'm young = assumed savvy in all things tech) to see about getting a replacement. So I spent an hour on HP's site finding very little help at all, but what help I got---in the form of PDFs of the user manuals---did not actually specify much about the power cable.

    All I know is that it shipped with an "AC adapter, 5V / 1A," but I cannot find anything about the part number, original manufacturer, etc. HP was totally unhelpful on the phone, but with additional Googling I found http://www.impactcomputers.com/ulb-050100.html and this product, which meets the specifications.

    My question is: is it safe to use any (properly constructed) power cable with a device so long as those basic specifications (AC vs. DC, voltage, wattage, amperage, all that) match? Or are there many other factors that could cause my boss's boss's digital picture frame to catch fire (as I'm imagining) if I don't find the *exact cable* intended to be used with that exact model of digital picture frame?

    I hope that question is clear and not too laughably simple for the experts! I happy to read either a full technical discussion or just the basic yes/no answer. THANKS!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2012 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Amperage doesn't need to match, only voltage. The frame will draw whatever amperage it needs -- so the adapter just needs to be capable of providing more than is required.

    So you don't need any special adapter. If you're an electronics hoarder like me you probably already have five of these in a box in your basement. If not, any electronics store worthy of the description will have one - and it won't cost $35. Radio shack even sells them with interchangeable tips in the unlikely event that this picture frame has an odd sized tip.
  4. Feb 17, 2012 #3

    jim hardy

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    Science Advisor
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    2018 Award

    look carefully at the receptacle.

    Recent HP laptop computers are three conductor though the plug looks like just two.
    They have an outside barrel that's power supply negative
    and an inside barrel that's power supply positive
    and the tiny center pin is some kind of digital communication between the "smart" power supply and the computer.

    See if the picture frame connector has pins to grasp an inner barrel . If not you should be okay just matching the plug style and voltage.
    Be sure of polarity for some are cener positive and some center negative and some AC, .
  5. Feb 17, 2012 #4
    Go to HP and buy the cable from them.
    If cable costs 3 times what is should, no one will say anything.
    If you buy X brand cable and there is any problem, even if the cable didn't cause the problem, you will be in trouble.
  6. Mar 9, 2012 #5
    Thanks for all the advice! We at last found the right part number and were able to find a third-party match online that works!
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