Water and Liquid Damage

Computers don’t get thirsty, so spilling any kind of liquid on your laptop is a Big Problem.

It only takes a single droplet in the right place to completely destroy an electronic device, and liquid damage can take many forms: a loose water bottle in your bag comes open. The cat knocks over your mug of coffee. You fumble a glass of wine. You leave it outside for a few minutes and suddenly, unexpected rain. Overspray from a hose or sink. We’ve even seen a laptop completely killed by just a few snowflakes.

 

Our ultimate advice: bring your computer in for service AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after an incident. The quicker you get it to us, the more likely it is to survive, and the less it’s likely to cost. But since you likely can’t get to us immediately, here’s some additional free advice:

 

1.) MOP UP! Clean up any excess liquids that you can, as quickly as possible. Don’t have a towel handy? Use your shirt! A new shirt is going to cost a lot less than a new computer.

2.) FLIP IT! If the spill is on the keyboard, invert the computer (open the lid and flip it over), if possible. This will help prevent fluid from intruding further into the unit.

3.) TURN IT OFF! Hold down the power button for at least 10-12 seconds, even if the lights or screen turn off sooner than this. Do not turn it back on or plug it into a charger until you’ve had a professional tear it down and inspect for damage.

4.) DON’T PUT IT IN RICE! The “rice” trick doesn’t even really work for phones in most cases, but it definitely doesn’t work for computers. The sheer volume of what can get into a laptop (even in the event of what appears to be a small spill) is much more than what rice can pull out of the air. What will actually happen is that the rice will get into the chassis, slide around until it encounters a droplet, then soak up the moisture and stick to components, where it will short them out and/or slowly corrode them. It will also jam up your fan.

5.) IF YOU’RE BRAVE… If you have the right screwdrivers handy and have the confidence, you may want to try disconnecting the battery, which will help slow the corrosive process (electricity accelerates this). However, if you don’t have the right screwdrivers, it would be best if you don’t strip the screws trying to open it up. Likewise if you’re unfamiliar with the various styles of battery connectors, damaging these can be irreversible. Particularly with MacBooks, we discourage users attempting to do this themselves.

6.) IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT WAS “JUST A LITTLE BIT”. It only takes a single droplet in the wrong place to absolutely and permanently destroy your device. A trained technician can disassemble and inspect your components for liquid intrusion, clean up any mess using specialized tools and chemicals, and thoroughly dry everything before testing it. Commonly, if your keyboard gets wet it will likely need to be replaced (though not always immediately, it can take weeks or months for laptop keyboards to deteriorate), but if we get to it quickly enough, an alcohol rinse and drying process might salvage it. Wet batteries almost always need to be replaced as well, as they are extremely sensitive.

7.) NOT ALL DAMAGE IS VISIBLE. CPUs, GPUs, RAM, and some other components sit on “BGAs” (Ball Grid Arrays), meaning they are attached to their boards with tiny blobs of solder, sitting just above the surface. Water and other fluids can easily get into this area and cause short-circuits. Likewise some components can fail without visible damage. While some “burned out” components quite literally explode, many just simply stop working. In many cases, this is a death sentence, but rarely these parts can be traced and identified and replaced.

 

Our technicians have been inspecting and repairing liquid-damaged computers since 2010. For newer Macs, we also work with a local provider who specializes in these. In most cases, your computer can be inspected, cleaned, and tested within 24 hours, and ordering replacement parts usually only takes a few days if the parts are available domestically. Get your laptop to us as soon as you can, and we’ll do everything we can to save it!

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