Laptop First Aid
June 27, 2020 3:42 AM   Subscribe

I spilled a bit of coffee on my laptop (an HP Pavilion) this morning. I tried to mop it up, and stupidly kept using for a couple minutes - but the trackpad was not responding to my finger and the cursor kept jumping around, so I stopped. It is now turned off, the battery removed, and it is propped up. Upside down, in front of my air conditioner, where I will leave it for the rest of the day. Anything else I should or could do, or watch for?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
You're probably worrying too much. Touchpads work by detecting changes in capacitance, so they are very sensitive to a bit of moisture. If you do so much as use them with a wet finger, they will start jumping around just as you describe, until wiped completely dry. It doesn't mean that coffee's gotten into the electronics.

If you're really worried that you got a bunch of coffee inside, the other thing to do would be to just take it apart, have a look, and mop up any wet spots. It's not too difficult a process, and you will almost certainly be able to find a step-by-step guide for your model on YouTube somewhere.
posted by automatronic at 4:21 AM on June 27

Let it completely dry. I like to do 24 hours to be safe. When I spilled some water on an apple laptop, I didn't do this and the trackpad and some keys were never quite as responsive until it catastrophically failed a few years later from the water damage. And no, it wasn't a ton of water or anything.
posted by Aranquis at 7:48 AM on June 27

I'm actually typing this comment right now from that laptop, after having given it five hours in front of the AC with the battery out. The trackpad is working just fine.

I'm still going to go easy on it for the rest of the day, but I think it's okay. Whew! Thanks for putting up with my panic...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]

If after a while parts of the keyboard gets "sticky," depending on the model, keys can be gently popped out and you can clean it with a q-tip dipped in isopropanol.

Depending on the keyboard, you can sometimes do this without even popping out the key.

99% iso works better than 70%.
posted by porpoise at 12:15 PM on June 27

If you take the laptop apart you can remove the keyboard and just dunk it in a shallow pan of isopropanol and swish the whole thing around, bang on the keys a bit, drain, let it evaporate/dry and put it back together. Or get a can of CRC QD 11 oz. Contact Cleaner-02130-6 - The Home Depot and just (powered off) spray it around and bash on keys and let it evaporate. YMMV, I haven't ruined anything yet.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:30 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]

Was it black coffee, or was there sugar or cream in it? If it had either added, you might want to go ahead and clean it with alcohol or contact cleaner sooner rather than later.
posted by xedrik at 8:16 PM on June 27

It was café au lait, but it has been working just fine since The Incident. I mopped most of it up as soon as it happened, and most of it was just on the outside; but I think a few drops got inside the trackball system for a while, despite my efforts to clean it up. I did notice while I was futzing around that turning it upside down made it work better momentarily before going loopy again, and I got the advice about "turn it upside down and let gravity do its work" from another tech support site before coming here. That seems to have done the trick, too; I've been using it without incident since I tried turning it on again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on June 29

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