I have an inverter that generates modified sine wave output. My newly purchased AC adapter for my laptop is not working (first thing I tried it on was the inverter), and I'm wondering: could the modified sine wave output have damaged my AC adapter?

I've been looking for an appropriate Stack Exchange site to post this question to, including more details about wattages, voltages, and the research I've already uncovered about this. After reading through the what topics can I ask about here and what types of questions should I avoid asking, I think Superuser is the right site, but I'm not 100% positive.

I think my question falls in the "computer hardware" category, plus "electronic devices ... insofar as they interface with your computer."

This could possibly be considered more appropriate for Electrical Engineering, but probably not because they specifically exclude "consumer electronics."

Is my question on-topic for Superuser?

  • As a moderator I'd say this is pushing the boundary of on-topicness. As someone who works with electronics I would be interested in seeing the question, modified sine wave adaptors are not all bad but they are not great by any stretch and many of them barely output anything like what I would call a sine wave at all.
    – Mokubai Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 17:16
  • Thanks for the responses. I posted my question on electrical engineering after being told by a user there that it would be on topic.
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


I am no expert in this particular knowledge domain, but my feeling is that the Electrical Engineering site would probably accept the question well enough that they'd be able to provide some degree of feedback. But then, maybe not -- I haven't been on that site often enough to get a feeling of just how vehemently they hate any questions mentioning consumer electronics.

On the other hand, I think I'm slightly more qualified to know what's on topic for SuperUser. Basically, I don't think your question is off-topic, strictly going by the topicality guidelines, but I feel that our community of experts do not typically possess the kinds of knowledge (physics, electrical engineering) to be qualified to answer your question while also being aware of any potential safety hazards if they ask you to do/try something.

I'm not saying that we have never had a practicing Electrical Engineer sign up to SuperUser, just that probably the majority of our active users are not extremely qualified to answer this type of question.

Therefore, I would recommend that, if you ask this question here, you are careful to take answers with a "grain of salt", unless they provide links to sources where the information they provide is substantiated by authoritative publications.

Usually on SuperUser, for topics that are exceedingly topical here -- things like questions about specific software such as Microsoft Excel, ffmpeg, etc. -- a reference is not always required. That is, references help a lot, and make the answer more believable, but you wouldn't be taking a huge risk by just doing what the answer suggests, because we as a community have an enormous amount of "knowledge capital" about certain areas, and almost anyone with a decent amount of reputation who offers you an answer is going to be on-point.

Also consider that for topics about software, it is fairly rare for "just try it!" to result in any catastrophic situation where you lose data, lose fingers, lose your life, etc. When dealing with any hardware device that's connected to a mains power source, you are taking the very real risk of injury or worse, as well as (perhaps more likely) permanent damage to your expensive hardware device.

So yeah. Make sure people back up their advice with sources before you start pulling wires or whatever.

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