10 Steps to Laptop Spill Repair

spilled coffee on laptop
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Your  laptop goes just about everywhere with you. And that’s exactly what it’s meant to do. While today’s laptops can handle a little bit of wear and tear, they are certainly not indestructible machines.

So while your laptop regularly travels with you, when you find yourself working in airplanes, cars, trains, and even the local internet café, you realize that just about everywhere you go poses a new threat to your laptop's safety.

One day, even while sitting in the comfort of your own home office, you may be faced with a mobile professional's worst fear: spilling a liquid all over your laptop. Be it water, coffee, or some unidentifiable substance, liquid of any kind is generally a no-no when it comes to your personal electronics. While it's a wise idea to keep a soft cloth in your laptop bag just in case (and you certainly will after reading this how-to), you might need a little more than a napkin to get yourself – and your laptop – out of this dilemma.

For the best bet for laptop survival, follow these steps to  clean up the spill and protect your laptop from further damage.

10 Steps to Saving Your Laptop After a Spill

  1. First and foremost, turn it off. Time is of the essence here, so if need be, go ahead and do a hard shutdown. If you can, remove the battery as if liquid reaches the battery, it will short out.
  2. Next, remove any cables, external drives, removable bays, and external Network Cards. You don’t want your laptop to be connected to anything.
  1. Then quickly, but carefully, blot up excess liquid with a soft cloth – preferably a lint-free absorbent fabric. Be sure not to use a wiping motion as that just pushes the liquid around. This is where that “just in case” cloth comes in handy.
  2. Blot up the liquid that may have gotten on the removable media.
  1. Tilt the laptop from side to side to allow the liquid to drain out. Do this gently; do not shake the laptop.
  2. Place upside down so that any excess liquid that you couldn't reach will drain out.
  3. If you have access to one, use a blow dryer on the coolest setting or can of compressed air to get into those nooks and crannies. Carefully dry the laptop with the cool air while still upside down to let the liquid drain. Pay special attention to the keyboard and the parts you removed. Keep the blow dryer or compressed air moving.
  4. The minimum recommended drying time is one hour, but it leaving the laptop to dry for at least 24 hours is preferred.
  5. Once your laptop has had time to dry, reattach the removable components and start up the laptop. If it starts up with no problems, then run some programs and try using the external media to ensure that everything is working properly.
  6. If the laptop does not start up or there are other problems, it is time to take your laptop to a certified repair service. If your laptop is still under warranty, you should follow those procedures first.

Other Tips for Saving Your Laptop

  • Unless you’re a computer professional, do not take apart the casing. This can void your warranty and you could damage internal components.
  • Water is the easiest liquid to clean up on a laptop. It is generally a case of moving quickly to ensure water doesn’t get into the internal casing.
  • Other liquids, especially those that are sugar based, will make things sticky and harder to clean up. They also tend to pose a greater threat of erosion to delicate parts of the laptop than water. Use a slightly damp warm cloth to clean up sugar-based liquids and fight the stickiness.
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