Spilled a large glass of coke on desktop, but it's working fine?
February 21, 2021 6:47 PM   Subscribe

So yesterday, I did the unthinkable. I accidentally knocked over a large full glass full of beer mixed with Coke (don't question it) that spilled on/near my computer. It had a lid on it, but the lid came off after it hit the ground I presume. The desktop has a mesh top where the air comes out, meaning it has small holes that give access to the inside.

I panicked, immediately unplugged my computer, opened it up, and used a towel to dry any wet areas. The wet area was mostly the fan, which kinda sorta helps block everything else to a degree. It wasn't all that wet, but it was wet. The motherboard, the memory, all of that, was barely wet at all.

I put it back together and at first the computer didn't turn on, but then it did, but with a weird sound from the fan, and it shut off halfway through Windows starting up. I again took a towel to make sure things were dry.

I tried again, and it started up, no problem. That was yesterday. It still starts up no problem, with a lot of USB peripherals plugged in and showing up on my TV with the HDMI cable. It's not hot at the back where the exhaust fan is, and the fan itself sounds just as quiet as it always did. The computer has been on for almost 12 hours without any sort of problem.

Did I get lucky, or is there something I should fear about down the line?

I should say that there were some issues... at first, the mouse wouldn't work. So I had a spare one that I started using. But then after some hours it said that there was a USB power surge associated with the mouse. I thought it might be associated with the USB port itself, but all my other USB peripherals worked through that port. And this morning, the first mouse that wasn't working, is now working absolutely fine.
posted by ggp88 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Best answer: I'd definitely expect to replace the fan at some point. You should probably check over the motherboard/RAM/etc and clean any spots that did get wet with isopropyl alcohol, so that any residue is cleaned up.

Definitely keep a backup of any important data in at least one other physically separate location; this is good advice generally, but is especially important now. I imagine you got lucky, but I wouldn't rule out issues down the road, so keeping good backups is probably your best preventative action right now.
posted by Aleyn at 7:52 PM on February 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am no expert, I have one anecdotal experience, and it is significantly different than yours because mine involved spilling a drink on a laptop (sounds like yours is a desktop unit?). But in my case, I had similar funky responses initially and then everything seemed fine-ish for a week or two, but it subsequently died a quick and ignominious death.

Not sure how useful this is, but definitely back up what you need just in case.
posted by exutima at 7:54 PM on February 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Yeah when I can afford to, I'll replace the fan. And yes, it's a desktop... my first ever self-built desktop that I put together almost exactly a year ago. It cost about ~$2.4K and all the parts were new and very highly rated. I don't know if that makes any difference. I'm using it right now to type this.
posted by ggp88 at 8:03 PM on February 21, 2021

To be clear, aside from the backups and any needed cleaning, I'd mostly just let things be until they fail. Everything fails eventually no matter how good the components are, and while this may have moved the timeline up on some of the components, there's nothing saying that the thing couldn't have catastrophically failed tomorrow even if you hadn't spilled anything on it.
posted by Aleyn at 8:20 PM on February 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've put it through the ringer today... I've used Photoshop, played a bit of Red Dead Redemption 2 at max settings, and have used Steam VR to connect my Occulus Quest Go to my desktop via USB. The fan is quiet and the desktop is cool, not at all warm.
posted by ggp88 at 8:22 PM on February 21, 2021

Response by poster: Everything fails eventually of course. But how do I piece out which components failed and which didn't? Kinda a newb question but I'm completely brand new to the computer building tech world. I just followed some great guides to make this in the first place. Unless every single component was drenched, it seems a little overkill to order all new parts to replace everything. And as of now, this is a hypothetical question, as everything seems to be working fine.
posted by ggp88 at 8:29 PM on February 21, 2021

Best answer: Quickly unplugging the computer was the right thing to do. I second cleaning any spilled areas with isopropyl alcohol (use 90% or higher.) Helpful article from iFixit. Isopropyl alcohol was harder to find in the beginning of the pandemic but hopefully your area is restocked.

I’m overly cautious but personally I would stop using it until I cleaned off the spilled areas with 90% isopropyl alcohol.
posted by mundo at 8:52 PM on February 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks. I'm in Austin Texas, so because of the ice storm, isopropyl alcohol isn't available... I checked. But when I get ahold of some I'll use it.
posted by ggp88 at 8:57 PM on February 21, 2021

I drink beer in my coffee so I am intrigued about the coke and beer thing. What is the approximate ratio of the two? 50-50? Depends on the time of day?

Oh, I also recently built a desktop PC with no prior experience. If it were me, I would unplug and remove as many components as I could easily remove and clean them with the 90% alcohol being pushed above. If the fan is powered off the motherboard I would clean that connection carefully. If it is plugged into the power unit, I would still clean it, but as soon as I was able, I would replace that fan.
posted by AugustWest at 10:58 PM on February 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

For whatever it's worth, I had a cat vomit into a computer that had a mesh portal on top of it (no fan behind the mesh). I didn't discover the vomit until much later, when it was already old and dried. I made no effort to clean it. The computer worked fine for years afterwards, until I replaced it with a new one.
posted by akk2014 at 7:37 AM on February 22, 2021

I just want to add another vote for "sometimes it's fine"? Obviously I can't promise you anything! But I spilled some pop on my laptop almost three years ago, cleaned it up, and here I am today, answering this question on that same computer. So you know! It's not always doomed.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2021

I spilled a very small amount of wine in a laptop keyboard, mopped it up and it was fine for months. And then it wasn't. I took it in for service and the techs said the acid/sugar had very very slowly eaten through the wiring on multiple components. It was an expensive fix.

Definitely take some cleaner to all the affected parts as soon as you can. Rubbing alcohol sounds like a good idea to me.
posted by katieinshoes at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2021

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