Thursday 15 May 2008 — This is 15 years old. Be careful.
This past weekend, someone accidentally spilled about half a cup of water onto my laptop keyboard. I actually shouted “Agghhh!” like a cartoon character, and we all burst into action, grabbing paper towels, mopping up water, moving books, etc.
When I picked up the laptop, water came dribbling out the other side of it, making a puddle on the table. It was not the kind of thing you want to see involving your laptop. The screen started flashing and going into video conniptions, so I flipped the computer over and removed both batteries.
Max searched Google for what to do, and found a page recommending opening every part you could, and blow-drying on the coolest setting. So I got a screwdriver and started opening panels. When I got the hard drive out after 20 seconds and three screws, Max (a hardcore Apple devotee) exclaimed, “Wow, you can get it out just like that!?” I was a little pleased to have at least a small advantage go to the PC.
Max also found the service manual for my model laptop, so we could get under the keyboard and other hard-to-reach places. The scary thing was that no matter where I looked, I saw droplets of water, except on the RAM.
Over the course of two hours, we blow-dried it a few times, marveled at the insides, and discovered new places to poke paper towels to get the last of the moisture out. Finally, I put it all back together, put in the batteries, and booted it up. With a sigh of relief, I saw that it was going to be fine.
Once it was all over, my computer was cleaner, and I learned something to add to my Middle-Aged Man repertoire of minor but useful knowledge.
I once spilt a glass of orange juice next to my laptop and a little bit went in through the speaker grille in the side. Luckily it was only a little bit in this localised area, but not the easiest to clean.
I say that if you dump WATER on a laptop, just turn it off and remove power from it for a day or two. No need to go opening it up. In my experience, the same is true and more common for cell phones as well.
Luckily, the drink was very thick. I immediately disconnected the power, removed the battery and flipped the laptop upside down so that the stuff would not go very deep. I spent the next few hours taking the machine apart and letting it air dry. I hate to admit this, but I also used the vacuum cleaner to pull the dried-up drink from the hard to reach places.
Ultimately, I had to replace the keyboard because some keys stayed sticky.
However, recently I did something that still amazes me. About two months ago I was babysitting granddaughters, and had just opened a bottle of beer and set it down on the coffee table next to my PowerBook G4. In came a small girl, who immediately ran into the bottle and knocked it over onto the keyboard, pouring at least a half bottle of very foamy brew right into the center of the running laptop. I grabbed it and turned it upside down, draining out as much as I could, then propped it upside down on the table with a wad of paper towels under it to absorb what ran out. After an hour I turned it back over, and found the screen frozen. Finally forced it to power down and restart. It came back up and worked fine, and is still performing perfectly. Used hard every day, no sticky keys, no lost data, no problems with any drives.
I'm so pleased, I think I'll go have a beer!
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