I'm looking to replace the female 5.5mm barrel jack connector on my laptop with a female USB C connector. The replacement USB C port need only provide power and nothing further. I'm not sure how to go about this. I've never modified anything electronic before, soldering is new to me.

The model of the laptop is a Lenovo X230t

My hope is that the scope of the project is just:

  • Open up laptop.
  • Remove old jack.
  • Solder on USB C jack.
  • Get USB-C AC adaptor with matching DC output for laptop.

What I want from y'all are:

  • An understanding of the difficulty of doing this: the time and money costs of this project. Time covers any time spent doing the actual task and learning skills that I'd need to learn to do it competently.
  • Is the project more complicated than the steps listed above? If so, how?

Some suggested contributions to satisfy these goals are:

  • Pointing out difficulties that I will face outside of the above listed hopeful project scope. For instance, saying that I'd have to modify something on my motherboard, or I'd have to add something else after the USB C female port so that power from the port can go to the motherboard. This will help me ask further questions about both the time and money costs of dealing with these problems.
  • Giving a solution to one of the pointed out difficulties and giving some estimate of the time/money costs involved in carrying out the solution.
  • Helping me understand the skills required to carry out this plan (I assume soldering is one). If the project would involve more detailed knowledge than "connect this wire to that other wire", then I'm out of my depth, and I wouldn't know what to do or where to look to gain those competencies.
  • Giving a the broad strokes of a plan to work this project, from start to finish. That's
    • The steps of the plan, stated in general terms ("solder this", "buy that", "attach blah blah thing"). I ask only for broad strokes because detailed plans are time consuming to create, and it would be easier to prepare some of these details in conjunction with me, so you can get an idea of the sort of things I can do/learn quickly.
    • A list of the materials involved and where to obtain them (as best as you can). If you can't provide a location, please try to provide an approximate price and/or the sort of retailer that may sell the item (like "hobby shop" or "old pc parts store" or something).

This is a somewhat similar question: Replacing a 5V female barrel connector on USB hub with female USB micro

PS: Another possibility might be some sort of adaptor from USB C male to 5.5mm barrel male that would provide the correct amount of power. This is okay, but not desired. I have to replace the barrel jack itself on my laptop anyway. The plug of my AC adaptors doesn't hold well in them. But if this method is significantly easier than replacing the connector altogether... then I'll probably do that.

Edit: My original intent was to get/construct a magnetic connector for an older laptop. To that end, I've found the following sources, which make these connectors for a barrel-jack-style plug:

I was surprised to find these, given that magnetic connectors for power cables are supposed to have a very broad patent on them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I am very skilled at modding electronic devices including laptops. I have changed / modded DC jacks on laptops. Would I attempt what you ask above: Nope. Why not? Because even if you pulled it off the connector will break eventually. The case isn't designed for a USB-C connector. The connection will be fiddly and a potential fire hazard. \$\endgroup\$ – Bimpelrekkie Sep 3 '18 at 20:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to EE.SE! This is a very broad question. To be effective on this site, it is important to ask specific, concise questions. This not only makes it easier for people to answer, but also helps the post provide help for others in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Sep 3 '18 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Daniel Can you give me some pointers on how to be concise? I spent around 30 minutes drafting that question so that I WAS concise. There's a whole section at the bottom about what sort of concrete answers to give. Did you read that? \$\endgroup\$ – Beelzebielsk Sep 3 '18 at 20:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I recommend reading on XY problem. "change the connectors" is not a problem, it is your solution to some problem you failed to mention. And just FYI, the cheap magnetic cables with USB C plug flooding the market, claiming to deliver 7-10A charge are nowhere close to that and usually just safety hazards \$\endgroup\$ – Maple Sep 3 '18 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Here is an example of actual problem: "The jack in my laptop <insert model here> is broken, how can I replace it?" This can be answered, although not on this site. Or "I want to replace stock power connector with magnetic one for convenience. Here is the connector I found <insert link to connector>. Can I use it?". This also can be answered, and many people here would be glad to help. \$\endgroup\$ – Maple Sep 3 '18 at 20:49

My hope is that the scope of the project is just:

There are several problematic points in your "scope of the project". Let's go point-by-point:

(1) Open up laptop.

Okay, no problem here.

(2) Remove old jack.

Okay, doable as well, with certain care and right tools like hot air pen (since the connector might have through-hole legs across a thick ~12-layer PCB.

(3) Solder on USB C jack.

Here the problems start. Type-C footprint is very tight, and there is 2500% probability that you can't fit the old footprint. You will need to use some interposer mini-board, and glue it somehow into the old place. Mechanical properties of this rework will be highly questionable, and the new Type-C connector will likely fall off after 10-15 insertions. But this is still doable. However it won't be functional unless you add proper pull-downs and other sophisticated electronics to it, see below.

(4) Get USB-C AC adaptor with matching DC output for laptop.

Now this is a real problem. Your laptop has likely something as 19-20-V input for normal operation. If you plan to get a "USB-C AC-DC adapter", this is not going to happen, even it would list "matching DC output" as one of its output options. The reason is that any Type-C adapter-charger must have a Power Delivery negotiation protocol in place, to move form the default-safe initial +5V level to higher power profiles. More, initially a Type-C charger-adapter won't output ANY VOLTAGE at all until the Type-C cable will see 5.1k pull-down on CC lines (which you should have after attaching your new Type-C connector).

The second hurdle will be PD, Power Delivery. Unless you get a set of special ICs, hook them up to CC line and program them for desired PD profile (19-20 V 3 A or something), a normal Type-C adapter won't give you the desired power.

One thing you can do is to get the fixed-voltage (your old) AC-DC adapter (19 V 3 A) and replace the native barrel plug with Type-C plug. However, in this case you are seriously risking to fry many other Type-C gadgets if somebody accidentally will plug your modified self-made Type-C charger into them, at least Type-C smartphones will be 98% fried, since they wouldn't have the tolerance to 20-V profile.

ONE MORE: The ThinkPad X230T laptop has three-pin connector,

enter image description here

The third (center) pin is used for power identification of the adapter. I am not sure which method is used, but you will need to emulate proper conditions (analog level or serial protocol) before your laptop will resort to full functionality.

I feel somehow that at this point you will abandon this project, so the IC sourcing and pricing won't be needed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ At the moment, your suspicions are correct; I cannot pick up this project any time soon without some extended guidance. I want this to work well, so I'd need to have a discussion about getting around the hurdles you (and others) presented, and some guidance on where/how to get the skills to pull it off. At the moment, it seems this isn't the place for that (or my topic doesn't warrant it), nor do I know of one. FWIW, this is exactly the sort of answer I wanted; you broke down the difficulties I'd face in a more complete manner. Thank you, really. \$\endgroup\$ – Beelzebielsk Sep 3 '18 at 23:12

I'm looking to replace the female 5.5mm barrel jack connector [...] laptop is a Lenovo X230t

Not a good idea. These jacks are 3-pin connectors (with an inside metal layer), and use the 3rd pin to detect the PSU type. Without the proper communication on this line, the laptop might not charge at all.

The replacement USB C port need only provide power and nothing further.

USB-C does no loger provide power by default, unfortunatlely. You need active electronics (that is different from lenovo propritary PSU connector) in order to tell an USB-C PSU to turn on the 20V output.

I have to replace the barrel jack itself on my laptop anyway.

The DC-In connector is not soldered to the motherboard, and can be replaced relatively easy - just not with an USB-C one.

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Let me begin with saying that I agree with everything in @ale..chenski answer. Type C USB connector is absolutely bad fit for this application, but that was an answer to your actual question.

I'd like to tackle it from different point. If your question had been "how to replace original connector with magnetic one" the answer would be different. If you simply type "magnetic connector" into google search you'd see hundreds of pictures like these:

enter image description here

Links: 6-pin, 5-pin, 3-pin. Also the last company has tons of different connectors, many designed specifically for laptop charging.

As you can see, it is possible to find good quality connector rated for your application and most important, much easier to solder than USB type C.

Don't forget to look for either polarized connectors or 5+ pin ones. Polarized connectors won't allow you to plug it in wrong direction. 5-pin (and up) connectors can be wired symmetrically, so the insertion direction does not matter.

What you can do then, is:

  • find a place on your laptop with enough clearance inside to safely mount the connector without touching anything else;
  • figure out the way to securely attach connector to laptop. Screws are the best, epoxy is OK. Solder to tiny PCB and then glue it inside also works;
  • Mount the connector and solder 3 wires between it and original connector. Now you have an option to use either one;
  • Buy spare Lenovo AC adapter. Cut off its connector and solder magnetic plug instead. This way you will be using exactly the same adapter as your original one, so laptop would not know the difference, and you wouldn't worry about mismatched power requirements.

This is not an especially easy project, but certainly doable and most of all, it at least makes sense.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep, if the original idea was about magnetic connector, then MacBook 2007 had it. You can go to a junk computer store and get the Macbook, and chargers are still available, cut the cable and adapt. \$\endgroup\$ – Ale..chenski Sep 4 '18 at 2:37

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