Spilled water on my MacBook Pro and it's still making noise. What's happening?
October 27, 2012 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Spilled water all over MacBook Pro. I turned it off to dry it out, but it's making horrible crackling sounds. What's going on?

Earlier this evening I spilled several ounces of water directly onto the keyboard of my MacBook Pro (2010 model year). I tried to turn it off but it took several attempts--and many scary moments of a flickering screen and what sounded like crackling speakers--before it finally shut down.

Now it's upside down, drying, but the crackling noises continue. What's going on? Is it not actually off? The screen hasn't shown any signs of life since I ostensibly shut it down, and I just closed it briefly to make sure the sleep light didn't come on. (It didn't.)

So now what? Is this noise normal? Is my computer already destroyed? Bonus question: assuming it's not destroyed, how long should I let it dry before attempting to switch it on again?
posted by serialcomma to Computers & Internet (26 answers total)
 
Did... you... take... the... battery.... out?????
posted by phaedon at 8:33 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


No idea about the state, but place it in a giant thing of rice and seal it off ASAP. The rice will absorb the water in all the weird little cracks and stuff. Worked really well for my touchscreen phone whose screen looked like it died in pouring rain on a bike ride.
posted by fuzzysoft at 8:34 PM on October 27, 2012


Sounds like the battery is shorting out and arcing.

Put your mac someplace where if it gets hot, it won't start a fire. If you have a fireplace, put the mac on a cookie sheet, and place that in the fireplace. Then call your local Apple store and explain what is going on. Apple doesn't generally fix machines due to water damage, but a shorting battery may be something they want to jump on. It would look really bad if a wet macbook caused a house fire.

I'm sorry if this sounds alarmist, but getting your mac away from flammable stuff should be fairly easy, and it sure beats a house fire.

The best case is probably that the water is just causing power to be intermittently shunted across the speaker leads.
Did... you... take... the... battery.... out?????
Not easily done on a 2010 MBP.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:35 PM on October 27, 2012


and unplug it?

Sounds serious, I would put that sucker in a bag of rice for about two weeks before I even thought about turning it on...
posted by HuronBob at 8:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Take the battery out RIGHT NOW. Do not turn the MacBook on. If it's the sort of MacBook you can pop the keyboard off by sliding two keys, do that too. Turn it upside down. Shake it for awhile to get as many drops of water out and off as possible.

Then put the whole laptop in a plastic bag full of as much raw rice as you can find and seal it. Completely covered in a gunny sack full of rice would be great, but unless you're a Mormon survivalist, you probably don't have that much around.

Don't do anything else for at least 24 hours.

(Disclosure: I am saying this from much personal experience.)
posted by rokusan at 8:36 PM on October 27, 2012


(Ugh, is the 2010 one of the sealed battery models? Well, you can't remove the battery then, but follow the rest of the advice. The good news is that the battery is almost certainly very well sealed, anyway. Just don't turn the sucker on.)
posted by rokusan at 8:37 PM on October 27, 2012


Take the battery out RIGHT NOW.
There are a bunch of tiny screws that hold the bottom panel on, and more that hold the battery inside the mac. If you are going to try and take the battery out, make sure you have eye protection. I don't know what an exploding macbook battery looks like, but you sure don't want any of that stuff in your eyes.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:38 PM on October 27, 2012


Yeah, there's no simple way to remove the battery. It's nearly midnight where I am, but I'm going to try calling Apple support and, in the meantime, stash the laptop in the stove.
posted by serialcomma at 8:41 PM on October 27, 2012


Seriously, call Apple. This should scare the hell out of them. [looks like you are going to]
Are you kidding me? I have a 2008 MBP and it just pops out.
Not kidding. The 2010 MBP batteries aren't intended to be user serviceable. I didn't look closely when I last had mine open, but I suspect that you can unbolt it and unplug the power leads, or snip them. My worry is that if the crackle is due to power arcing, the battery may be very hot and dangerous. So spending 10 minutes trying to open it up may put you at risk of bodily harm. Thus the call to Apple for guidance. After you've put the Mac someplace where it can't start a fire.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:41 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apple doesn't generally fix machines due to water damage, but a shorting battery may be something they want to jump on.

Wait, no. Dropping liquid on your laptop voids AppleCare, period. They use a chemical paper to tell if this has happened, and they always check for it. Dealing with Apple should be your last resort, and keep in mind the cost of the motherboard - well, if that fries, you may as well get a new laptop.

I would follow the suggestions of everyone here and keep in mind, don't turn on the computer again for at least 3-4 days. Even if there was crackling and crazy shit happened before turn-off, it doesn't mean the end of the world.

Also, if you ever need to do a hard shut-down, slam your finger on the power button and keep it pressed. This always works the first time.
posted by phaedon at 8:43 PM on October 27, 2012


I didn't look closely when I last had mine open, but I suspect that you can unbolt it and unplug the power leads, or snip them.

I have a quick squizz on mine, and it seems like it's not that hard, once you're in there.
posted by pompomtom at 8:46 PM on October 27, 2012


Assuming you have a 15", here are some schematics on how to open the unibody, if you decide to go down that road. Those screwdrivers you will not probably not find at HomeDepot.
posted by phaedon at 8:49 PM on October 27, 2012


I have a friend who works at an Apple store. She says the biggest mistake you can make when you get an electronic device wet is to turn it on too soon. You always want to wait at least 24 hours before trying. The bag of rice trick is not a bad one either, but the important thing is to try to let the water dry out for a sufficient length of time. Just because the outside of the device is dry definitely does not mean the inside is.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:49 PM on October 27, 2012


fuck the battery! get your HARD DRIVE out of that thing STAT!
posted by sexyrobot at 8:51 PM on October 27, 2012


Apple support is closed. If it is indeed the battery arcing, there's no way I'm opening the back. (I have no special tools or protection.) I just remembered there's a 24-hour Apple store in NYC, so I'm going to head over there with my potential fire risk and let them evaluate it.
posted by serialcomma at 8:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You might want to wrap it in a towel and carry it in a bag you don't mind being damaged if you head over to the store tonight. The towel will (unfortunately) keep the mac from cooling down, but will provide a buffer between you and any battery badness.

Good luck! I hope my worries about battery danger prove to be unfounded.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:02 PM on October 27, 2012


One word about the bag of rice trick: My wife's MBP keyboards got dumped with wine, and after I wrapped it in a towel and drained out what I could. I then covered it with rice for 24 hours. Honestly, I doubt it did much good. A MacBook is nothing like a cell phone or other small device. There are slots, nooks, crannies, and a lot of stuff inside that rice can't possibly absorb anything from. After removing it from the rice, I took the back off, set it on end with the screen opened, and used a blow dryer to dry out whatever I could. Wine leaves a sticky residue, but I was able to get it to boot up and work, besides the trackpad, which never did work right again. We just used a USB mouse from then on.

But, it turned out that rice got into some vents and worked its way into the fan, creating an incredible racket. It took lots of patience to tease the rice out of there.
posted by The Deej at 9:35 PM on October 27, 2012


Back from the 24-hour Apple store with good news and bad news. The good news is that it's not going to catch fire. The noise was (merely!) various components shorting out. The bad news is that the Genius Bar staff expects that my computer is basically dead and that my data is unrecoverable. There are actually droplets of water on the hard drive. I'm going to let it dry for a few days, then try switching it on, because why not? But it's probably a total loss.

Thanks for all of your super-prompt answers. I'm glad I went to the Apple Store right away, if only so I know what to expect once the laptop dries out.
posted by serialcomma at 10:15 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Droplets of water on the hard drive might not be enough to kill it, but trying to power it up after who knows what has shorted out might. Remove the hard drive, order a cable like this, and try plugging that hard drive into a computer that still works in order to pull files off it.
posted by hades at 10:24 PM on October 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Great news about your laptop not catching fire. Unless they unplugged the battery for you (unlikely), I'd still be fairly paranoid about where I let it dry out.

I agree with hades - definitely pull the HDD and do the rice thing with it, then put it into an external drive enclosure and plug it into another mac for recovery.

The Deej indirectly makes a good point. You don't want to cover the wet item in rice. You want the wet item to be in close proximity to rice or silica gel so that it will be absorbed as it evaporates. Ideally, you'd disassemble the Mac as much as possible and dry out any visible liquid by hand, but that requires funky tools that you won't be able to get in the middle of the night.


In the case of wine, I'd use 99.9% alcohol, or (less ideally) distilled water, to clean out the sticky stuff. Then do the rice / silica gel thing.


If you really want to press your case, you can probably make a solid argument that the MBP shouldn't be able to short out enough to continuously crackle and pop. If the battery interface was built with PTC fuses, then you would just get a pop or two before the fuse opened up, making the death-by-water failure mode much safer. You might be able to go back to the Apple store and try this out with a different Genius, but they will probably be less concerned now that it isn't making noise anymore.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:50 PM on October 27, 2012


There are actually droplets of water on the hard drive.

The hard drive is a sealed system. Some of them have a filtered vent and so submerging the thing would be bad, but, imagining all the things you might have lost, saying your data is unrecoverable after merely looking at the drive is downright sociopathic.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:35 AM on October 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


The bad news is that the Genius Bar staff expects that my computer is basically dead and that my data is unrecoverable. There are actually droplets of water on the hard drive. I'm going to let it dry for a few days, then try switching it on, because why not? But it's probably a total loss.

I'd be willing to bet that your data is recoverable. You can try it yourself by putting it in an external enclosure and plugging it into another Mac (complications arise if it was encrypted, though). You can also send it to a data recovery company; it is expensive, but for a small fee they'll at least tell you WHAT they can recover. I've had good experiences with data recovery services.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:18 AM on October 28, 2012


Get in touch with Expert Mac Repair in DC. They are water damage experts and they can help you with your data also. Really!
posted by jgirl at 6:19 AM on October 28, 2012


... and that my data is unrecoverable.

It's totally possible that the hard drive will survive. Pull out the hard drive, dry it separately, plug it in to another computer with one of these.

As for drying, you can get a big jug of silica crystals at a pet store in the cat litter aisle. Put the computer in a sealed container with those. Should be more effective than rice.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:18 AM on October 28, 2012


Thanks for the multiple reassurances about the hard drive. Once I calmed down I realized that a lot of my photos and documents exist in the cloud, so hopefully I won't have lost too much once this is all over.

Jgirl, I'll check out Expert Mac Repair, and qxntpqbbbqxl, the laptop is in a big container of silica crystals now.
posted by serialcomma at 12:33 PM on October 28, 2012


If you have the tools for it, it is worth pulling the drive and putting it in a separate bag of silica gel. The drive is tightly wedged into the mac, so water could get trapped between it and other components.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:10 PM on October 28, 2012


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