Literal "debugging" issues.
May 22, 2006 8:47 AM   Subscribe

How can cockroaches be evicted from the innards of a laptop?

A friend of mine lives in a building with a bit of a cockroach problem. This wasn't a big issue until this morning when a couple of baby cockroaches popped out from between the keys of her Powerbook to say "hello". Does anybody have any suggestions how cockroaches can be evicted from and persuaded to stay out of this machine? This previous AskMeFi didn't really help.
posted by nowonmai to Computers & Internet (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I hear cockroaches don't live above the fifth floor. So, move maybe?

(ick ick ick spittttt ick ick ick)
posted by notsnot at 9:02 AM on May 22, 2006

Are you kidding? That's a great thread. Especially the post near the end about the mutants.

(Aren't those things damn-near unkillable? Don't have them here, thankfully. I might try sealing the laptop in an airtight bag with a live trap).
posted by Leon at 9:08 AM on May 22, 2006

This gives me shudders. Here's some choices:

1) Vacuum. You can start by running a vacuum over the laptop keyboard.
2) Poison. Put laptop in bathroom, set off bug bomb, close door.
3) Disassembly. Open laptop, remove anything that isn't laptop.
4) Heat. Place laptop in oven, turn temp to 200, keep oven door cracked open. You should be able to reach a temp that is uncomfortable for the bugs without damaging the laptop. They might come boiling out of the laptop when it gets too warm for them.
5) Cold. Place laptop in ziploc bag, place in freezer. Come back tomorrow.

For both those last two, you want to let the device come back totally to room temperature before you try to turn it on again.

My long-term advice is: move. Nothing is worth living in a building with bugs. Roaches will eat all of your books, especially - they love eating the bindings of books, laying eggs inside the pages, and so on.
posted by jellicle at 9:18 AM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Shouldn't the laptop naturally run hot enough to make them mightily uncomfortable?
posted by kickingtheground at 9:23 AM on May 22, 2006

Umm...silly question, but does your friend have Apple Care?

I'm afraid that even if you find a USB roach motel, they'll just come back. The little dears are mobile, after all.
posted by QIbHom at 9:25 AM on May 22, 2006

Put it in the bathtub, put some food on the other side of the bathtub, turn off the lights and wait. Walk back into the bathroom quickly without turning on the lights and pick up the notebook, then drown the roaches.
posted by 517 at 9:28 AM on May 22, 2006

Your options are somewhat wider than in that linked thread, since you don't need to worry about eating stuff off of the object in question, and it's quite a bit smaller. If I was in your place, I'd put the laptop in a plastic garbage bag, fumigate it literally with some kind of gaseous bug spray, and seal it up for a week or two. Then let it air out for a similar amount of time.

But all the same, I'm glad I'm not in your place.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:28 AM on May 22, 2006

I think 517 has the right idea. I'm betting the roaches are hiding out in the laptop because it's nice and warm. Make sure the food on the other end of the bathtub is old and work a heat source in there if you can manage it. When you put the laptop in the bathtub, leave it off long enough to get cold.
posted by Anonymous at 9:33 AM on May 22, 2006

Also: This is gross and awesome.
posted by Anonymous at 9:33 AM on May 22, 2006

How about sprinkling it with boric acid, and putting it into a plastic bag?
posted by QIbHom at 9:43 AM on May 22, 2006

ya need to open it up and clean it out. You can kill all the bugs, but their detritus will still be inside, and it'll probably eventually damage your machine. (it'll also attract more bugs)

plus, if you clean it out, you can use it again right away.
posted by lester at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2006

Cockroaches lay eggs. You can't get rid of them with bait.

The freezer has worked for me with suitcases, but do check to make sure a computer can be frozen.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 9:49 AM on May 22, 2006

Cockroaches are naturally attracted to the electrical charges put out by electronics. I don't know much about electricity or laptops, so I don't know if a laptop is electrically live when off, but know that it and any other electrical device are attractive to cockroaches.
posted by agregoli at 10:03 AM on May 22, 2006

I had baby roaches in my cordless phone base. I took it apart, cleaned out an egg case and a bunch of cockroach detritus (old carapace husks, droppings, etc.) and reassembled it.

The next step was to cover all the holes with sticky tape so they would get trapped if they tried to return - can't do that with a laptop obviously, but you do need to remove them manually to get them out.

I'd go with a computer repair place that accepts Apple systems if it's out of warranty, it's probably better to pay to have someone else do it just to be sure that it will be done correctly and safely.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:52 AM on May 22, 2006

How about taking the keys off (if they come off) and shoot a boatload of canned air in there? Maybe do this outside. Blow them out of there -- and you won't harm the computer in the process.

If you want to then vacuum the keyboard, be sure you empty the vacuum well or the roaches will just set up shop in your vacuum.

And yes, you should move. :)
posted by bim at 10:57 AM on May 22, 2006

I'd call Apple, personally.
posted by k8t at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2006

Once I found out that I had roaches living in a microwave, which leads me to believe that they can let things get pretty hot, and also withstand microwaves.

First I threw it away.

Then I moved.
posted by elr at 11:04 AM on May 22, 2006

Call Apple. And maybe consult with an exterminator, too?

One time I had a big spider crawl out of a desktop keyboard. It was one of those translucent booger-colored ones. I wanted to cry.

Also, this thread makes me itch.
posted by anjamu at 12:17 PM on May 22, 2006

You need to move. They'll just get back in. I know options aren't as open for people in different places, but fortheloveofallthatissupposedlyholy I will never live in an abode with roaches.
posted by cellphone at 2:31 PM on May 22, 2006

I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep tonight.
posted by empath at 2:31 PM on May 22, 2006

first off, yeech!

Cockroaches need water at least once every 24 hours, so killing the current batch should be easy, just put the bag in a ziplock for 48 hours, and you're done. You will still have to clean out the roach garbage inside the laptop though, which will involve (careful) opening of the case.

For all the vacuum suggesters, be *extremely* careful, as static electricity is generated when using a vacuum cleaner. You can zap the electronics in the laptop, reducing it's value to an expensive paperweight. Canned air may be a better option.

blargh. Cockroaches. yuck.
posted by defcom1 at 3:37 PM on May 22, 2006

I hear cockroaches don't live above the fifth floor. So, move maybe?

This is not true. I live on the 15th floor of an apartment building, and I've had a bout with roaches.
posted by orange swan at 3:37 PM on May 22, 2006

Tell them the new MacBook Pro is out.
posted by kookoobirdz at 4:19 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I suggest that you put it in a sealed container with a hunk of dry ice (not touching the computer)

wait a few hours for the CO2 and reduced temperature to kill the little buggers (pun intended)
posted by Megafly at 5:14 PM on May 22, 2006

Cockroaches can survive microwaves (microwaved one for 30 minutes); they can also survive decapitation for awhile as well. Boric acid is good if you have an infestation due to causing the roach to be unable to absorb water and they bring it back to their nest but it takes time and is dangerous to other live beings. Boric acid poisoned roaches sort of leave an unpleasant goo that will not do well for your machine.

My recommendation is get a new machine or have a professional do the DEEP cleaning and move the hell out of the building. Cockroaches lay eggs EVERYWHERE and unless you plan to do the boric acid and get the neighbors around you to do the same and do some serious health pre-cautions while waiting it out otherwise, they will re-infest your area.

You haven't really experienced living until you have had a cockroach in your ear, laying eggs.
posted by jadepearl at 5:15 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


jadepearl, you have just given me the willies in the worst way.

nowonmai, my sympathies are with you; when I had a situation like this, I had to move. After only two months in the roach-infested building. But it was worth it to get away from the creatures.
posted by litlnemo at 5:26 PM on May 22, 2006

So, with all these brave and reasonable people getting the willies over the mention of cockroaches, I'm wondering: Just what is it about these creatures that creeps us out so much? Compared to a lot of insects, they are mostly harmless. Personally, I can let spiders crawl on me, snakes don't bother me, other bugs don't faze me in the least--even roachlike critters like crickets and beetles.

(the big ones)
posted by iconjack at 6:08 PM on May 22, 2006

What bugs me about them is that they'll get on you (or in bed with you). Spiders and beetles tend to run away.
posted by chef_boyardee at 6:50 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input!

Boric acid kills cockroaches because it is abrasive and makes their joints leaky; I don't think it should go anywhere near the insides of a computer!
The rent in that building is heavily subsidized by our employer - given that we're in NYC that's a big incentive to brave the cockroaches. Me? I couldn't be paid to live there.
Cold, or cold + CO2, treatment seems like it should kill the bastards, but I'm worried that they'll die inside the machine with consequences for the ventilation.
These Apple machines are hard to open, and both the owner and I are too scared to do that. Oven? Scary! I wonder whether if we left the machine compressing video or something overnight it might get hot enough to drive them out?

It seems most likely that I will have an amusing anecdote from the Apple 'Genius' Bar to relate in the next few days. After which, I have suggested that the machine be kept on a roach-proofed table. Anyone care to recommend a poison or repellant that could be used to fortify table legs without spreading powder everywhere? I guess sticky traps would work but, like, ew.
posted by nowonmai at 7:04 PM on May 22, 2006

Freezing may damage the laptop, esp. the screen. 200 degree heat may also damage it.

A big clear ziplock bag and an external mouse and keyboard will let you back up data without touching a bug. Then bug killing fog in the bag for as long as the directions say. Then get it totally cleaned out.

Or sell it on ebay.
posted by theora55 at 7:11 PM on May 22, 2006

Since they're already interested in tech, perhaps you could apprentice them out...
posted by cenoxo at 7:16 PM on May 22, 2006

I have nothing constructive to add, having never dealt with roaches. other than that between this and the roach-in-the-microwave LCD thread, I've now snorked water onto my desktop. twice. and I've got the itches and squicks.

mefi rules.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:57 PM on May 22, 2006

I'd get it cleaned by a pro, but for the love of all that's holy, please tell them. Take it in to them in a sealed plastic bag, and let them know.
Nothing like opening a computer and having live roaches run across the bench, now you've contaminated them, too.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:18 AM on May 23, 2006

Since the question has already been answered...

Metafiter: "Also: This is gross and awesome."
posted by softlord at 6:02 AM on May 25, 2006

1) They're big.
2) They're ugly.
3) They're resiliant.
4) They won't go away, even if you stop leaving food out.
5) They will be here long after we're gone.

You forgot...

6) They move freakishly fast.
posted by orange swan at 6:37 PM on July 3, 2006

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