May 23, 2015 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Husband just dumped a glass of water over the keyboard of his MacBook Air. It immediately shut itself off/ went dead. There is water dripping dripping out of the ports on the right side. What do we do?
posted by SLC Mom to Computers & Internet (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Shit.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:41 PM on May 23, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: unplug it
turn it upside down
DO NOT try turning it back on
posted by wintersweet at 8:42 PM on May 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Get the water off with a cloth as much as possible. Turn it on its edges, upside down, so it looks like a tent (screen and keyboard are facing down). Put it in a plastic garbage bag that's FILLED with rice. Leave it for at least 48 hours.

The Macbook Air I'm typing this on had this exact situation happen and it came back from it.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 8:44 PM on May 23, 2015 [17 favorites]

Best answer:

3: Unplug All Other Cables / Cords
IF POSSIBLE, Disconnect the Battery
Most new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models have internal batteries making this impossible, but if the Mac has a removable battery, take it out immediately.
4: Dry Off All Visible Water
5: Keyboard Spill? Flip it Over
6: Use This Funny Looking Towel & Fan Trick (we did something similar when water got dumped on mine)
7: Wait
Wait at least 96 hours in that funny configuration, if not longer, before even thinking about turning the MacBook back on again to see if it works. It can take a long time for water or liquids to dry out from internal components, don’t rush it.

posted by wintersweet at 8:45 PM on May 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Yes rice, but for lots of water in something as big as a laptop, I'd err on the side of super-duper caution and keep it in the rice for a week. do not even dream of turning it on "just to check" until you are absolutely completely no joke sure that there is no more moisture left in there.

Also, in case it was unclear, drip as much water as possible out before putting it in the rice.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:49 PM on May 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Doing it all.
It was a lot of water though.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:49 PM on May 23, 2015

Best answer: I think how much water it was only affects how long it will take to dry. The water itself won't damage your computer. what damages your computer is having current flow through it while it's wet -- it causes short circuits. But now it's off and no damage can happen while it is off (assuming it is completely and fully off!). So just make absolutely sure it's dry before you turn it back on. Not one molecule of dampness in there when you turn it on. The most important thing you can do is wait.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:00 PM on May 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just a heads up that supposedly instant rice is better than regular rice, although silica gel is best:

After extracting as much water as possible from the device, using large quantities of a drying agent may help accelerate the drying process. If a drying agent is used, silica gel is the best of the options tested, followed by couscous and instant rice. Conventional cat litter, oats, and chia seeds are not recommended because of the dust and debris that they deposit inside of the phone. . . Uncooked white rice is not recommended due to its poor performance as a drying agent.

posted by bluecore at 9:02 PM on May 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I did this to my macbook pro. It came back to life after it completely dried out (that is the #1 most important thing - it is so tempting to see if it's survived after 24 hours but if water is left there is a good chance it will die for realsies). It still is going today but it has a few quirks since its water bath.
posted by Aranquis at 9:02 PM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, I've had two MBPs survive being drenched in water, but in both cases I waited 72 hours to turn them back on, and I backed them up first thing when I turned them on again. So don't despair--there's just no way of knowing yet!

- Changed my practices regarding water near the laptop (I mean, you know, flukes happen--but some things I used to consider safe I don't anymore!)
- Renter's insurance, if you rent (make sure it'd cover this kind of thing--ours would)
- Automatic, wireless backups (I finally got a Time Capsule)
- Keyboard cover (still haven't done this...)
posted by wintersweet at 9:07 PM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What about rice and couc cous particles verging into things? How do you get them out, keep them out?
posted by SLC Mom at 9:10 PM on May 23, 2015

Best answer: As long as you're not like shaking the bag full of rice it shouldn't get into the gaps... much.

In the future, I'd recommend putting the computer on a "stand", and use an external keyboard, which are MUCH MUCH cheaper to replace. :)
posted by kschang at 9:13 PM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you want to try the silica gel, pet stores sell it as a cat litter (example).
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:15 PM on May 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: While you're waiting for the rice to do its thing, find your receipt and figure out what credit card you used to buy it. If it is unsalvageable (which does happen), many cards offer some sort of "Purchase Protection" insurance that will replace it if it was bought recently enough.
posted by toxic at 9:21 PM on May 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I've used silica cat litter to save a phone. If you were to do that put it in something like a pillowcase to keep the dust out and embed in a full bag of cat litter and then wrap the whole thing in a clean trash bag so that the silica can pull out as much moisture just from the computer as possible. Use the crystal litter the non clumping kind.
posted by oneear at 9:39 PM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sunlight also helps. This has happened to me with an MBP and it recovered. Definitely give it a few days.
posted by phaedon at 10:09 PM on May 23, 2015

Best answer: Rice saved my phone. The important thing is to be patient and let it work twice as long as you think it needs to before trying to turn anything back on.
posted by whitewall at 1:08 AM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: You can speed up the drying process with gentle warmth. Put the whole shebang (laptop, drying agent if choice) in the sun, or under an incandescent lamp.

Then cross your fingers!
posted by pharm at 1:39 AM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I dropped my iPhone 6 in water, I did the rice trick for four days. I did get some rice stuck in the lightning port. I thought I picked it free with tweezers (there was also some rice dust stuck around the perimeter of the glass and home button), but ultimately got everything out with a few good blasts of canned air. Pick some up while you're waiting it out.

Also, I did nest the whole thing on a heating pad set on low. Just be very sure that it doesn't overheat.

Good luck and praying to the Apple Gods for you!
posted by dancinglamb at 1:50 AM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: If you're going to wait for it to dry out with some sort of liquid absorbing material, wait like an entire week. Not a day or two. A week, seven days.

I'd also, if this was mine, open it and yank the battery ribbon out the instant i could.

On removable battery devices, i've had a greater than 50% success rate of saving them if i instantly ripped the battery out and it was just water. Sealed-in battery phones and stuff though.. ehhhhhhh.

At this point i just try and disconnect the battery asap.
posted by emptythought at 3:03 AM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: Rice is fine but I would go buy some desiccant in this case - Damp-Rid is great.
posted by mskyle at 4:51 AM on May 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: FWIW, Apple will replace any and all liquid-damaged components for a flat fee of $755 plus tax. (Ask me how I know!) It's not great, but it's cheaper than buying a new laptop if things are actually fried.
posted by asterix at 5:21 AM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Unplug it, rice it, and leave it in rice longer than you think is necessary. I think it's kind of a pain in the ass with a Mac Book Air, but if it was a PC I would tell you to remove the battery, too.

If it makes you feel any less worse, I once destroyed my laptop's motherboard because I spit a gin and tonic out onto the keyboard. (I thought I swallowed a fly and freaked. Yep.) So, at least he didn't do that super embarrassing thing, and at least it was water as opposed to sticky alcohol, tonic water and lime. The fact that it was only water will increase your laptop's chances of survival.
posted by nightrecordings at 6:10 AM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: don't bother with rice, just do the towel and fan thing as linked above
posted by thelonius at 7:03 AM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: For phones, I've wrapped them in filter paper before putting them in the rice. That allows the moisture out but keeps rice out of the plug-y areas. I'm not sure you can find coffe filters big enough for a laptop, but maybe a sheet of cheesecloth?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:19 AM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: My anecdote: Hinode jasmine rice completely resurrected a 3DS that took a dip in the toilet while powered on and was mad glitching immediately afterwards.
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: Two weeks in rice got a few months extra usage out of my phone ("where'd I leave my phone? why's the washing machine glowing? oh..."), but ultimately I'm guessing there was some water left in there that was acting as an electrolyte, and something corroded.

So if you do get it running, first step should be data backup.
posted by Leon at 9:36 AM on May 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In my experience with this happening with three (THREE!) separate laptops. You should prepare yourself for a future with a non-functional keyboard. In fact, I am currently typing this comment on my "laptop" which is now permanently tethered to my desk with an external keyboard and monitor due to an identical mishap.
posted by 256 at 3:36 PM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: Just let it dry out as long as possible, as everyone above has already said. Then let it dry out a bit longer.

Then plug it back in, wait for the start-up chime, hold your breath ...

And IMMEDIATELY after that, start making a full disk backup with something like Carbon Copy Cloner or (my favorite) SuperDuper! so that you have your ducks in a row for when the laptop fails.

Here's the sad result from many anecdotes: laptops often come back fine after a water spill, as long as you give them enough time to really dry out. But they very often have limited lifespans after they come back. It might be three days or a week or a month, but there's a good chance that things will go badly in the near future.

Of course, some people are really lucky and things go right back to normal, and I really hope that's the case with you. But if I were you, I'd make backup plans as well.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:29 AM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: So, just in case this is reassuring, even if the laptop doesn't survive, your data is most likely fine. You'll be able to remove the hard drive from the unit and hook it up to another machine to get your files. It's very unlikely the drive was damaged. posted by odinsdream

Just as a clarification, the OP said it was a Macbook Air. Depending on which year it was manufactured, the Macbook Air has recently (2013ish) moved to a non-standard (i.e. not 2.5") solid state drive PCI-E blade that looks like this. Although your data most like will be able to be salvageable, hooking it up to another machine won't be easy, and as far as a I know there are no PCI-E --> USB adapters for the Apple specific (possibly proprietary) pin configurations. In this case, AppleCare would probably be best.
posted by bluecore at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2015

Let us know how it turns out!
posted by lock sock and barrel at 12:28 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: and as far as a I know there are no PCI-E --> USB adapters for the Apple specific (possibly proprietary) pin configurations. In this case, AppleCare would probably be best.

This was true for a while, but there's plenty out there. They can expensive though.(there's probably a cheaper one, but i didn't see it).

You can always pull a me. Which is to say buy one, take it out of the package VERY CAREFULLY and leave all the film and such on it, recover your data, then return it.
posted by emptythought at 12:46 AM on May 27, 2015

Response by poster: So, that was Saturday, eight days ago.
Here's what happened. Hubs set it open on it side with a slow fan on it. He rotated it a few times to encourage water to drain out of any pockets.
Tonight, he powered it on and it's working perfectly. (Backed up already.)

I never would have thought it. Can't even begin to wipe the grin off my face.
Thank you all for the ideas and the encouragement!
posted by SLC Mom at 7:14 PM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Sadly, another update. Although the laptop came back, the battery or the charging system did not. It shuts off dead the instant it is unplugged. It will be going into the shop for diagnostics and repair. Still, all in all, a much better outcome than I had hoped for.
Thanks again Metafilter..
posted by SLC Mom at 7:02 AM on June 3, 2015

Response by poster: Last update. Initial estimate was $280 to fix/replace the battery or charging system. But when it came back from the shop (Monday-Thursday turn around time) there was no bill because it was "still under warranty".

"It was under warranty for water damage? Really?"
"I wasn't going to argue with them," replies the husband.

So good.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:17 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

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