macbook old keyboard coffee
August 21, 2012 10:21 PM   Subscribe

I spilled coffee on my old (2006 polycarbonate) MacBook. Now the trackpad works, but not the keys. How can I diagnose and fix my laptop keyboard?

Earlier today, I spilled coffee on my MacBook. Immediately, I shut it off, tried to sop up what I could, then turned it over and took off the top case.

At the time of the spill, the keyboard keys did respond.

After that, I checked the logic board (thankfully, nothing got on it). Then, I pulled the keys off of the top case so I could soak up the remaining liquid then wipe it down with alcohol. I put back on as many of the keys as I could (I broke some of the springing braces that go under the keys), then reconnected the top case, and closed it up.

Now, the keyboard keys do not respond. I type and nothing happens. The trackpad, however, does work. I plugged in an external keyboard, and the computer responds to key presses from that.

Before I buy a new top case, I'd like to know conclusively what's going on. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a way to run the Apple Hardware Test without the keyboard. The external keyboard I used is a wireless USB keyboard that is not ready during startup. Will a conventional USB keyboard do the trick?

Any other ideas about what I should be trying or what's going on here?
posted by ignignokt to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
1. check that the keyboard cable isn't damaged
2. unplug it, take it apart if you're feeling confident you won't do any damage, and let it dry a bit longer. I admittedly have mainly dealt with far more severe water exposure for the most part (though you did apparently soak at least the keyboard), but I've always let electronics dry for at least a full day before trying to power them on again
posted by Lady Li at 12:26 AM on August 22, 2012

I'm no cleaning nut, but alcohol wouldn't be my first go-to. I would try spraying with Simple Green, which I'm pretty sure is safe on electronics and a good degreaser besides. Do you take sugar in your coffee? That will make it a little more difficult. If a basic spray doesn't work, perhaps followed by plain water sprayed so as to get into the contacts of each key, take it apart as above (if you can).

If it's worth $150 to spend, that seems to be about the going price for keyboard replacement or liquid cleanup.
posted by rhizome at 12:46 AM on August 22, 2012

Couldn't hurt to call around a few Apple Service Providers, they may have some cosmetically broken, but otherwise functional, top cases.
posted by Packed Lunch at 1:03 AM on August 22, 2012

You should be able to run the hardware test using a wired USB keyboard; I've done it on my mid-07 Macbook.

The keyboard itself is probably the issue, though I would still expect the hardware test to pass. Replacing the top case is fairly easy; IIRC ~ AU$120 from a tame Apple dealer (Apple won't sell parts to unaccredited folks) or ~$40 from eBay or China.

Replacement is pretty straightforward - at least it should be. The 2006 Macbooks have the 2 screws at either side near the front, correct? Just follow the various guides & be gentle.

I've successfully pulled a couple of top cases apart & repaired the keyboard - but they're not really meant to be user-serviceable, & it's finicky. Since you've already buggered some keys by breaking the arms, I'd buy a cheap replacement.

(Which reminds me - time to replace my own! The trackpad's intermittently iffy due to the battery swelling (gotta replace that too!), and now the "G" key is starting to be a bit flaky...)
posted by Pinback at 2:34 AM on August 22, 2012

In the light of day, I realize that, yeah, it probably is entirely the top case's problem and very unlikely to have to do with anything else. (I did just check the cable.)
posted by ignignokt at 8:54 AM on August 22, 2012

OK, I got a used top case from a local Apple Service Provider for $30. (Some that I called said Apple Service Providers aren't allowed to sell parts, some had no problem selling them.) Thanks, everyone! It's back together albeit now odd-looking, and I still have the rest of the workday to use it.
posted by ignignokt at 11:27 AM on August 22, 2012

Not that anyone cares, but Apple does not permit the on-selling of service parts from an authorized service provider. That's probably why you received the mixed response to your enquiries. (they're seriously, serious about this).

The restrictions on ASPs gets a bit grey when dealing with an item that would otherwise end up in landfill/recycling. because it's not a "service" part.
posted by Packed Lunch at 6:29 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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