You are sitting at your desk typing up a paper on your Macbook. You turn to grab your ringing phone and in the process your elbow nudges that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte on your desk. You watch in slow motion as the cup precariously teeters on the brink of falling onto your laptop; then slowly but surely gravity conquers all of its efforts to stay upright. In a Sisyphean effort your hands scramble to grasp the cup during its inevitable descent. It’s too late. Now your keyboard smells like Pumpkin Spice latte and anxiety creeps into your brain uninvited. It’s going to be okay right? It’s just the keyboard, nothing is wrong, you try to convince yourself. But soon, just like clockwork your computer turns off automatically and you can’t turn it back on again.
Does this scenario seem familiar to you? Even if an event like this hasn’t happened to you, it probably fuels your nightmares, especially if you work on your computer a lot. If it does happen to you Apple will not touch your laptop much less make a concerted effort to fix it. Their stance is based on liability concerns and it makes sense from the point of view of a large company trying to protect itself from being inundated by lawsuits over lost data. But, from the point-of-view of their customers who have already gone through this disaster, it is dastardly deed to sell a product that is vulnerable to damage and then not offer the support systems to aid in repairs. You are left all alone and confused as to how to proceed because now you are locked out of your computer along with the important documents held therein.
Apple has left you high and dry to find your own recourse, but the recourse might not be as elusive as you think. you have some options available to you. First and foremost, it is upto you, the user, to find assistance as soon as possible. Assistance, in this case, might not be too far away as there are a number of locally owned computer repair shops all across the country ready to give assistance for this laptop which Apple won’t touch.
Most locally owned shops have techs who are as competent as, or much more competent than the techs you will find in Apple’s Genius Bar. However, there is a reason Apple refuses to fix issues where liquid spill is involved; one is because of liability, as mentioned already, the other is because components that are usually affected by a spill are the most vulnerable to liquid damage.
If you are uninitiated to the world of liquid damage laptops, you might harbor the delusion that spilling a liquid onto your keyboard might cause localized damage to the keyboard and will not affect the whole computer. This is a very common misconception. The fact is that all laptops, not just Macbooks are vulnerable to complete failure as a result of liquid spill. The major contributor to this fact is the way laptops in general are designed. Due to the need to fit a lot of components into a small form factor the designers place the computer’s crucial components, most notably the motherboard, right under the laptop’s keyboard. Unlike desktop motherboards which are orientated vertically to make sure any kind of liquid drains off aided by the force of gravity, laptop motherboards lie flat right under the laptop’s keyboard. There are seldom ever any waterproofing mechanisms put in place in between the keyboard and the motherboard and as a result any liquid that falls on the keyboard seeps down onto the flat motherboard. If conductive liquid comes in contact with any part on the motherboard that has current running through it there is a high likelihood of the motherboard short circuiting.
Even if you take it to a repair shop that is able to do motherboard liquid spill repairs, the chances of successful repair varies widely. However, there is hope; if you are reading this article you are already well on your way to improving the likelihood of successful repair. Yes, you, the user, without any technical knowledge whatsoever can improve the likelihood of successful spill repair. Indeed, you are the first line of defense. Your precious motherboard relies on your knowledge to keep it safe from harm. So, what can you do after you have explicably spilled your Mountain Dew, or your hot cocoa, or your Soy Venti Caramel Ice latte or your plain old water onto your laptop keyboard? Here is what:
Step 1: When the spill occurs, immediately, and I mean immediately, turn off all power going to your motherboard. Forget about that Word document that you haven’t saved or that savepoint you haven’t reached! Every second is crucial. Do not force shut down the computer by holding down the power button; there isn’t enough time! You are fighting the clock while liquid refreshments are on the way to do anything but refresh your motherboard. The fastest way to cut off power to the motherboard is to remove the battery. Flip over the laptop and remove the battery. For most laptops this is an easy task (simply pull a switch and the battery comes off.
Ofcourse you are the owner of a Macbook and the genius designers at Apple decided that giving so much user control over the battery is a bad idea (they really don’t trust their users very much). You don’t have enough time to remove a million screws to get to the battery. So, for Macbooks it’s a unique circumstance. For Macbooks, immediately flip the laptop over, you should do this regardless of type of laptop because this way the force of gravity is no longer pulling your drink down towards the motherboard and instead the drink is falling outside away from the motherboard. While the computer is flipped over press and hold the power button to shut it down. While this method is not as effective as removing the battery, it’s something.
Step 2: Do not attempt to turn on the computer! You might think that following Step 1 you are in in the clear and the computer will start up. You are wrong. If liquid made its way to the motherboard and is sitting on the motherboard, attempting to power on the computer runs the risk of causing a short circuit
Step 3: It is time for you to find a local computer repair store that will handle spill damage. Ofcourse, Apple’s Genius Bar won’t be on the list. Try to find a store that offers free diagnostics. Obviously you don’t want to be told that the computer cannot be fixed and then be handed a diagnostics bill. The diagnostics will enable the shop to determine the level of damage which, assuming you followed Step 1, shouldn’t be much. Based on the diagnostics a reputable shop should offer pricing for either internal cleaning (nominal fee), motherboard repair (medium fee), motherboard replacement (really expensive, because of the motherboard part cost). Good shops like GeekABC do not perform any services until they get your decision and price approval.
In some cases, it might be better to just buy a new laptop and bring over data from the old computer, assuming the harddrive wasn’t also damaged by the liquid. Good repair shops are able to perform data migration services on non-damaged harddrives and even perform data recovery on damaged harddrives. With modern technology complete data loss is a relatively infrequent occurrence.
With the above information you are now equipped with the basic precautions to take after you have already spilled something on your laptop. Considering the dire consequences, perhaps you will think twice before letting any risky paraphernalia anywhere near your laptop in the future.