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Should I take apart my MacBook Air to get the spilled liquid out?
December 8, 2011 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Spilled a little coffee on my MacBook Air. I've done what I could to dry it out, but should I try and get inside the computer to do further damage control?

I've powered down my 2010 MBA, flipped it upside down, vacuumed out the liquid, disconnected the power source, sitting in a bag of rice, etc. I don't have the screwdriver I'd need to open the machine up, and don't even know if I'd be able to get the battery(ies) out if I had it. It'd probably be tomorrow or the next day at the earliest that I could get one. Should I just leave it to dry for a couple days and forget about opening it up? Should I hightail over to the Apple store, wait in line for 4 or 5 hours, and have a genius open it up to get out any pooled liquid? It was a small-ish spill.

Anything else I should know about handling coffee spills on a MacBook Air that differs from the volumes of advice on handling spills on computers that are easier to take apart? I've read the other threads on spills on laptops, but haven't found one on MBAs specifically.
posted by charlemagne to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Should I just leave it to dry for a couple days and forget about opening it up?

Probably. There is unlikely to be any large volume of liquid inside it, and it may work just fine the way that it is. Opening it up risks breaking a functioning laptop and voiding the warranty on it.

Should I hightail over to the Apple store, wait in line for 4 or 5 hours, and have a genius open it up to get out any pooled liquid?

They will tell you you got liquid on it so now the warranty is void for the life of the machine. Don't do that. I got this from a first-gen macbook air that got *one drop* of dried coffee on the inside of the vent, not even on the circuit board, just on the inside of the metal portion of the fan vent. I would never tell Apple about this ever.

If the machine isn't displaying any symptoms of failure, I'd leave it well enough alone. If you're not sure if it'll display any symptoms of failure, I'd just leave it in a warm dry place overnight and try using it again tomorrow.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:11 PM on December 8, 2011


Unfortunately those MBAs have built in batteries so there's not too much you can do to prevent a short at this point - the thing's almost definitely still on in some capacity. Opening it up will almost certainly void your warranty.

I'd wait until it dries (rice is helpful, 48 hours); then if it works but there is some stickiness to the keys you can have a Mac Genius get in there and clean things up, or replace the top section if you need to (that's the assembly including the keyboard, trackpad, backlighting, etc).

I've heard from friends with severe liquid damage that the geniuses can be pretty reasonable about helping people recover from liquid damage, at least the first time, and there is a flat fee repair rate if everything is ruined.
posted by iamscott at 2:13 PM on December 8, 2011


It was a small-ish spill.

My toddler's been trying to kill my MBP with my coffee on and off for almost a year and a half. You've done all the right things, just let it dry out for a day or two and it will probably be fine.
posted by mhoye at 3:26 PM on December 8, 2011


This is a Thirsty Bag, a higher-powered chemical desiccant thing that fits a telephone: http://www.ifixit.com/Tools/Thirsty-Bag/IF145-163

Your Macbook Air is too big for a Thirsty Bag, but consider the idea
posted by krilli at 5:01 PM on December 8, 2011


Place it in a large ziplpc full of rice. Rice is a desiccant.
posted by slateyness at 5:18 PM on December 8, 2011


Put it in the refrigerator for a few days. A fridge is a big dehumidifier. I've rescued three cell phones from 6 feet of water at the end of the dock by just opening every cover I could and leaving them in the fridge for a week.
posted by chazlarson at 5:32 PM on December 8, 2011


Thanks so much, everyone! I really appreciate the input.
posted by charlemagne at 6:04 PM on December 8, 2011


The same thing happened to me but with a MacBook Air and tea. I paid too much money to have the professionals take it apart and clean it out only for them to discover that the hard drive was failing (whatever) and that it was probably a preexisting condition but because of the tea, I had no warranty anymore. But if it wasn't for the tea, I probably wouldn't have discovered it until it was too late. Everything got cleaned and replaced and then within the next year, every piece of that computer started failing until I just gave up and got a new one.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 8:32 PM on December 8, 2011


Was it black coffee or full of sugar? Make sure it has had plenty of time to dry inside before powering up.
posted by PSB at 9:07 PM on December 8, 2011


Don't take it apart. Don't put it in the fridge. It's working, leave it alone!
posted by devnull at 1:02 AM on December 9, 2011


Rice is a pretty good desiccant, but crystal cat litter (aka silica gel) activated by baking in an open dish in a very low oven for an hour or two and then left to cool with the dish lid on is an even better one.
posted by flabdablet at 3:03 AM on December 9, 2011


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