Suicidal macbook with buttons not working, how to escape ridiculous fee at mac store
December 12, 2008 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Problem: spilled coffee on macbook, so it's out of warranty—now strange things are happening (like the period key isn't working), but at random, and I'm hoping the problem isn't as bad as all that, but need advice so I can finish a sentence properly; thanks!

I spilled coffee on it, but not much, dried off the keys, turned off the computer, let it dry for a while! When I first turned it on it was on caps lock the whole time, a couple of the F buttons weren't working, and I couldn't eject the DVD! Now, those buttons are fine, but the period and return buttons aren't working (thus the exclamation points), and when I tried turning it on this morning the screen remained black! Really! Black!

While it was off, i took out my hard drive and put it in another mac to back up my stuff! Now it's back in mine again!

I managed to get it turned on using the option+command+p+r thing, but when I lifted it it turned off again! This happened a second time too! This mefi question might say what the problem is, but not offer the best financial solution?

The problem is that liquid damage isn't covered by their warranty, but a dislodged hard drive might be! Does my problem sound like just a dislodged hard drive? Apple charges about $790 plus tax to fix stuff, and if I do it elsewhere I lose the warranty on the computer!

Just to recap, sometimes keys aren't working (now the return, period, and f1 to f9 keys), and when I move it it turns off! As a freelance writer, I feel I won't be able to sell anything with this many exclamations! I suppose I could switch to questions?

Macbook 10,5
posted by omnigut to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You did not let it dry enough! Two days.
posted by rokusan at 10:08 AM on December 12, 2008

Response by poster: Spilled on Monday, it's now Friday!
posted by omnigut at 10:12 AM on December 12, 2008

Not in any way a permanent solution, but you can copy/paste periods. There you go: ................

Funny post, sorry I can't be of more help.
posted by neblina_matinal at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2008

No, it doesn't really sound like a poorly seated hard drive, but that's easy enough to check. Pull it out and push it back in. Make sure you reinstall the L bracket that covers the drive and the RAM, that holds the drive tightly in place.

Also, you may have gotten coffee into the computer or deep into the keyboard that hasn't dried yet. And it sloshing when you move it is causing the shutdowns. Give it 24-48 hrs to dry.

Two days ago I spilled a little beer on my MacBook, let it dry (24 hours) and booted it up. Over several boots the keyboard fritzed out and now will not respond at all, but since it booted up a few times after letting it dry, I doubt my board is shot. I ordered a replacement keyboard from and will replace my fried one next week. There is a chance the board did fry.

If you want to, and both offer pretty good instructions for taking apart your computer (this WILL void your warranty). You could check for evidence of a spill inside and let it dry. After checking you may try booting with your keyboard unplugged and an external keyboard plugged in, if it boots your keyboard is shot but not the computer. You can then replace the keyboard.

As far as the drive goes, there is nothing separating the drive from the keyboard chassis. If the coffee went in around the arrow keys, it might have reached the drive connectors and that's where a short is coming from. Since the drive worked in another mac, it's probably not the drive which means it's somewhere in your computer and caused by the spill.
posted by Science! at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2008

Oh, it's been a few days? Yeah the liquid is probably dry. You may try booting it while pressing the drive into place with your hand, or adding some material to the bracket to increase pressure on the drive.

For safety's sake, both of these might result in damage to you or the machine. I mean I would try it, but I'm not you.
posted by Science! at 10:32 AM on December 12, 2008

Oh, sorry to keep piling on answers here, but when you put the drive into another machine did you by chance remove the thin metal bracket/half case (different from the L bracket above) or any of the screws that hold it to the actual drive and forget to reinstall it? That may change how the drive sits in the macbook.
posted by Science! at 10:34 AM on December 12, 2008

Response by poster: No, just the L bracket. (Thanks for the periods, neblina, good idea). If I bring the mac back to the store, you think the warranty would cover a "loose hard drive"?

posted by omnigut at 11:01 AM on December 12, 2008

They might, it's entirely possibly that the hard drive problems are separate from the keyboard problems but not likely. If they open it up and see evidence of a spill elsewhere they probably won't even replace the drive under warranty.

Have you tried booting it from a software install CD, or a linux CD? If you can boot from the CD drive or a USB drive try shifting the machine. If there is a connector problem with the drive, it should produce an error, but not power down the machine since it's not running from the drive. That will help ID the problem.
posted by Science! at 11:11 AM on December 12, 2008

omnigut, i see you're in NYC.

Go to the Harlem Apple Store. The number is on the yelp site and you can see all the reviews. This guy David is awesome and better than reasonably priced. No price gouging like other places.
posted by alice ayres at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2008

when I lifted it it turned off again!

You're probably looking at a new motherboard.
posted by oaf at 11:57 AM on December 12, 2008

I'm guessing you'll need a new keyboard/top case assembly. If it were my computer and it was out of warranty I would take off the top case (integral with the keyboard) and wash it out thoroughly with water and maybe alcohol, being extra thorough around the non-functioning keys, and let it dry for a few days. If that didn't fix it I'd buy a new assembly off ebay (search for macbook keyboard top case).

If that's not something you are willing and able to do you're going to have to pay someone.
posted by 6550 at 12:01 PM on December 12, 2008

Disclaimer: I don't know what the major differences are in construction between my old iBook and your MacBook.

I spilled coffee on my iBook. A few of my keys stopped working. Eventually, the battery stopped charging and the computer needed to be positioned perfectly so it would stay on (and if you jostled it, it turned itself off). And for some reason the clock stopped working and thought it was 1940 or something along those lines. This happened in the time span of a couple of days.

Apparently I fried the logic board. The computer still works, kind of (if I dug it out of the closet, I could probably get it to turn on eventually), but I bought a MacBook that day to replace it.
posted by giraffe at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2008

Best answer: First of all, I have to say that knowingly getting Apple to repair a MacBook that is damaged because of your negligence is borderline fraud. Some would even classify it as fraud, but I won't go that far. There is a reason that Apple has warranties, extended warranties, and why they refuse to fix computers that are damaged due to to accidental damage. Liquid spillage is incredibly common. I've seen it many hundreds of times. Apple shouldn't have to pay for a mistakes made by their customers.

Secondly--as others have said already--this is probably a logic board replacement. It's possible that replacing the keyboard and top case alone may fix it (I've seen this work a few times after liquid spillage), but it's usually the main logic board that's shorted out and needs replacement. This is an expensive repair, as you've found out already. The keyboard with top case part costs about $75 plus labor. A logic board exchange price is approximately $600 plus labor. This is not a "loose hard drive" as some are hypothesizing. The symptoms don't match the problem. It's either a shorted circuit in the top case/keyboard, or a shorted logic board. The repair process on this at Flextronics or an Apple Store would be to first replace the keyboard and top case and see if it fixes the problem. If not, then the logic board would be replaced.

Thirdly, there exists several 3rd-party insurance programs to cover damage such as liquid spillage, accidental droppage and screen breakage, loss, theft, etc. Safeware is one I've used successfully in the past and it's not outrageous (about $300 per machine; less if you insure many at a time). Check out their rates if you're interested. Some people have had success getting computer equipment replaced under their credit card protection rules (if laptop was purchased with said credit card, of course). Others have used renter's insurance or home owner's insurance. Only you can determine whether these are possible courses of action for you.

Fourthly, I'm in NYC area also. I can recommend to you some non-Apple store places to get this repaired. I can even--depending on circumstances--repair this for you. If you're interested, send me an MeMail and we can talk offline.

Good luck to you. Liquid spillage the bane of my existence as a computer repair technician. It's not allowed anywhere near my computer equipment.
posted by at 12:19 PM on December 12, 2008

2nd everything mrberrett just said.

mark his answer best and move on.
posted by ShawnString at 12:54 PM on December 12, 2008

Response by poster: Great, thanks Mr Barrett, and everyone for your help. Mefi is better than He Man.
posted by omnigut at 2:51 PM on December 12, 2008

Is this a new unibody MacBook? If so, there are Liquid Submersion Indicators that will prevent any kind of warranty claim.
posted by jedicus at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2008

« Older Intervention!   |   Am I still paranoid if they're really out to get... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.