What to do with a soaked laptop
January 31, 2006 9:37 AM   Subscribe

This morning I awoke to find that my laptop had drowned in a pool of water.

I'm pretty sure it's dead, since I usually keep it on, and it was turned off when I checked it in the morning. I'm letting it dry out for a day but I have little hope.

What do I do now??

It's a 2 year old Powerbook and it's still under the 3 year protection plan. I know they don't cover accidents but if I let it dry out and send it in is there any chance they'll replace it? (One of my friends said he did that at Future Shop and got the whole laptop replaced. I don't want to do this for ethical reasons but I really can't afford a new computer right now so I'm tempted to give it a shot. I don't have much to lose.)

Is it possible that it would be reparable, or that I could salvage and sell any of the parts? Should I start pricing new computers?

Incidentally how this happened is quite a mystery. I last used my computer around 9:00 pm last night, then went out and had a few drinks, then went home and straight to bed without using my computer. In the morning, when I tried to check my e-mail after waking up, I found it was soaking wet. I have no idea who did it. Might have been me in a drunken or sleepwalking state (I certainly have no memory of it), might have been one of my roommates by accident, might have been some random guy who wandered in off the street, poured water on it, then wandered out. There's no sign of spillage - no empty cup lying on its side next to the laptop, for example. No sign of leaky ceiling or window. Weird huh?
posted by PercussivePaul to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by furtive at 9:40 AM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: Nope. no animals in the house.
incidentally I smelled the liquid and I'm pretty sure it's water.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:42 AM on January 31, 2006

When electronics get wet you should remove all the batteries and submerge in distilled water, then let it dry completely by leaving in a warm dry place for a week or so.

If its powered up that's usually a bad thing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:42 AM on January 31, 2006

Before you try and turn it on, you need to dry it out completely. Take out the battery first, then turn it upside down, and gently shake the water out, then put it in a plastic bag with lots and lots of dessicant (I think rice will work, too) and let it dry for several days.
posted by bshort at 9:44 AM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: I should mention that I pushed the power button to try to turn it on before I realized it was wet, so if it wasn't fried before that might have finished the job. In my defence I was groggy from just waking up. :)
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:46 AM on January 31, 2006

My cell phone went through the washing machine, and like an idiot I tried to turn it on several times before talking to my more electronics-savvy friend. He fixed it by taking it apart, and letting everything thoroughly dry out before attempting to turn it back on. It took about a day, and water was evaporating from the display screen for about a week, but it works now as well as it ever did.

I don't know if taking it apart would void the warranty, though.
posted by Anonymous at 10:07 AM on January 31, 2006

I spilled a full cup of black coffee in my powerbook about two years ago, while it was on. I immediately sopped up the coffee, turned it upside down, and let the coffee drain out, and lifted the keyboard and blotted some of the wet spots under there (titanium powrebooks had that option, newer ones don't).

When the coffee spilled into it, i heard a *bzzt* sound and I thought that was it. I was so upset and freaked that I might have lost it, but I let it dry out overnight, prayed and hit the power switch the next morning, it booted up just fine, and has been ok ever since.

I bet if you let it sit for a couple days (the rice idea sounds like a good one) it'll be fine.
posted by splatta at 10:11 AM on January 31, 2006

My son dumped a whole glass of water onto his powered laptop just before Christmas. He followed StickyCarpt's procedure above, allowing the laptop to rest over the heater grate for a week. He put it back together and it was good as new.
posted by LarryC at 10:13 AM on January 31, 2006

If you're lucky, the water spilled on it was impure enough to let the battery drain completely before you tried powering it on again.

If the warranty people will take it back as is, that's their moral problem, not yours. Take it in and see if you can work something out.

If not, get that thing dry right away, even if that means disassembling it. Have a brainy friend (with a torx set) do it for you, if necessary.

Get everything completely dry, and see if the battery will charge. Last night's drama may have ruined it, so you may just want to start with power from the adapter (MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS COMPLETELY DRY BEFORE ANYTHING GETS PLUGGED INTO THE WALL).

But getting the liquid out is priority one. Most things will be ok with drying. The hard drive will not, if the water ever got in. When you disassemble, you may want to find the drive and see if water bubbles from the vent hole when you press the lid gently. If it does, you need a new hard drive.

The optical drive will probably not dry in time, and you'll likely need a new one.

The LCD should be sealed from any external water damage, but there is an upconverting circuit that produces high voltage for the cold cathode that will definitely need to be double-checked for dryness. It's the one inside the display or near where it attaches to the motherboard with a warning sticker of high voltage.

It's going to get dicey. Take it back first. That's your best option.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:21 AM on January 31, 2006

A friend of mine managed to get an entire container of soy milk into her powerbook. Apple still took it and fixed it, under warranty.
posted by duende at 10:49 AM on January 31, 2006

If the warranty people will take it back as is, that's their moral problem, not yours.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:54 AM on January 31, 2006

Another data-point: a friend spilled water on her (way out of warranty) Powerbook. On my advice, she immediately removed the battery and power cord, and ran a blow-drier over it until her arms got tired. Then she let it sit for a couple days.

Now it works as well as it did before.
posted by adamrice at 11:32 AM on January 31, 2006

This happened to a friend of mine in college. He was so drunk, he got up and peed on his laptop in his sleep. (P.S. After drinking *a lot* your urine is almost pure water hence no smell.

I think blow drying it and letting it dry out for a day or two is your best option. Then cross your fingers.

posted by jerryg99 at 12:13 PM on January 31, 2006

A friend's laptop survived kool-aid (twice) by using the dry out method.

Good Luck.
posted by nadawi at 12:35 PM on January 31, 2006

Rinsing it with isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) isn't a bad idea. It will help remove impurities that the water left behind, and it will dry quicker and without residue.
posted by deadfather at 12:50 PM on January 31, 2006

I meant to say isopropyl solution of about 50% isopropyl, 50% distilled water.
posted by deadfather at 12:53 PM on January 31, 2006

In the worst case, Apple will tell you that it will cost X to fix, because it's accidental damage. You can say 'No.' and they won't fix it. Chances are, with it being water, they'll never know, or care.

No one working for Apple will go hungry because you got your laptop repaired during its warranty period. It's not an ethical matter.
posted by armoured-ant at 2:12 PM on January 31, 2006

Let it dry first and foremost. All the suggestions to take it apart are unnecessary. Your laptop has plenty of ventilation. Set it in a warm place to dry with the battery separate. Obviously, you want the 'book to be open so you get keyboard ventilation. If it's just water you won't have to worry about gunk remaining, so no need to "wash" (read, submerge) the 'book. Like others, I have had friends with similar problems. One spilled a glass of wine on hers. Another coffee. These came out apparently unscathed.

I also don't think it's unethical to let it dry out and send it in to Apple. Dry it out and test it first because they will make you pay shipping or something if it works when they get it. I think Apple would rather have you a buyer for life than not replace/repair your machine. I have taken the same policy at a lot of customer service jobs and management seems to like it, fwiw.
posted by jxpx777 at 2:43 PM on January 31, 2006

Fortunately you still have access to a computer. Does this help your ethical delima any?
posted by JamesMessick at 7:24 AM on February 1, 2006

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