Liquid spilled on Macbook? Think fast

You or someone else spill something on your Mac. If this happened to you less than five minutes ago, read on. If it happened 10 minutes, a day ago or longer, bookmark this page and come back here to read how to minimize the damages for the next time it happens to you.  This post is not an instruction on how to fix your computer after a spill.   Instead its an “action plan” on what to do immediately after a spill to help you minimize the damage and potentially save yourself a hefty repair bill.

If you are unlucky enough to see it as it happens your brain and eyes get out of sync for a bit as the panic sets in. Your mind says “Why is it still on and working? ” How come it’s not sparking and smoking,” as your eyes finally signal to your brain to do something. Usually one of two instincts kick in; unplugging the machine, or tipping it over to drain out the liquid hoping to avoid damage.  By now those suppressed emotions set in. Momentary anger at yourself or whoever made the spill. After that, denial. “It’ll be all right, just needs to dry out and it will boot up fine.” Sound familiar?

When a spill happens to you, do this to minimize the damage. Practice it a couple of times on your still good or new Mac and you’ll thank us later. This is a little like those old propaganda films shown to school kids telling them what to do in case of nuclear war. Cover your head and get under your desk.

Here are the steps:

 

To save your precious laptop you need to act quickly while keeping your cool.

  • First, unplug the power. If you’re really quick, this can happen combined with the next step. Remember, don’t grab the MagSafe connector at the connection, grab it farther down the line in case water is there, just yank it out. Its highly unlikely you’ll get a shock from the 5 or 12 Volts DC but be cautious about touching anything thats wet. If your Mac gets wet from anything other than a little spill, like dropping it in water, leaving it on during a rain shower, or any condition where it gets wet from the bottom up while it is turned on, forget it. Start shopping for your new Mac.
  • Don’t try and shut the computer down by holding the power button down. Those 8 seconds can make the difference between life or death for your Mac.
  • Next,  flip the computer immediately before liquid has a chance to trickle down through the slits, holes, and fittings beneath the keyboard to the logic board, hard drive or other internal parts. This is a crucial step that needs to be done in a specific way. Do NOT simply turn the computer over because the liquid will roll to the downhill side as you’re turning it over and can cause liquid beneath the keys to spread to other more vulnerable parts of the under keyboard. You need to practice “The Flip”. The flip must be rapid and in a sense, gravity defying. Grasp one hand on the side of the lower case near the front edge and the other hand at the opposite side near the bottom edge of the screen. Lift the computer STRAIGHT upwards, then flip it rapidly in place and hold it in a level position. Look at the underside now facing upward and try to keep it perfectly flat. To help you visualize this, imagine a dinner plate with a piles of green peas in the middle. The object is to flip the plate over without letting the peas roll near the plate’s edges.  Mastering “the flip” will minimize water damage.
  • Once again, A slight upward movement, flip in place and then to level. (without slamming it on the table or dropping it) The idea is to keep any liquid from spreading wide under the keys or inside the computer. Now find a clean spot on the table thats not wet and ease the computer down so the downward facing screen is hanging over the table’s edge.
  • Once the computer is secured on the table, slide it slightly off the table’s edge so you can reach the power button. Keep your left hand holding the computer ( providing the screen is nearest you) and use your right to find the power button. If it helps, get down low so you can see it but usually the power button is about an inch in from the edge. Hold the power button in until the computer shuts off.
  • Now work quickly to remove the battery if your model has one on the bottom. If your model has an internal battery, skip this step. After your Mac is depowered, you have a few moments to breath relief. Your next step is to find a way to speed evaporation. If a fan is available, set it up to bounce air on the table top underneath the downward facing keys. But you need to raise the inverted computer a little for this to work. Use 4 equal sized blocks, like children’s blocks, in a pinch you can use face down forks, spoons or anything of equal size that raises the computer and keeps it stable and level. Keep the air flowing for a day or night to speed evaporation. You can count on 3 days minimum for enough of the liquid to evaporate to safely turn the computer back over. And this depends on the ambient humidity in your area. You must avoid at all costs the urge to test the power before evaporation is complete. And if Coke, coffee, tea, milk or anything other than water was spilled, Don’t turn the computer on after the drying time. The keyboard or top case needs to be removed and dried debris cleaned before its powered on.

 

Depending on the type of spill, sugary or acidic (coffee) spills need to be remediated before turning the power on as spills other than water can “bridge” circuits after they are dry. Water spills, depending on the amount of water, can most likely be recovered from, depending on the Mac model, how quickly action is taken after the spill, and drying time allowed. If it was just water, you can most likely test your Mac now to see if it was too badly damaged. Otherwise call Denver Macintosh dot com or have a tech check it out. Explain the accident and what you did to save your computer noting what was spilled and you would like the keyboard disconnected during power on testing.

Good for you. You have now earned a “Save a Mac” merit badge.

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