In what way exactly did I cripple my laptop?
February 28, 2007 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Did I kill (injure, actually) my motherboard? My video card? Something else?

So I, uh, spilled a very small amount of diet coke (~1TbS) on the keyboard of my Dell Latitude D600 laptop when someone knocked into my chair. I spilled it in the region of the F5, F6, F7 and 5, 6, 7 number keys. I immediately turned my computer off and removed the battery, set it open to dry for 24 hours.

Since then, the display has been *periodically* whacked. My computer will display and work normally anywhere from 5min to several hours at a time, but then all I can see are flashing colored lights or scrolling patterns of some kind. It doesn't work again until I've let it sit a good several hours.

I tried hooking up to an external monitor when it was displaying said rave lights, but the lights showed up there, too--so I know it's not my display.

I have two questions: 1) any idea what it is I've actually damaged? And 2) is it worth taking it in to get fixed (the computer is about a year our of warranty, so no luck there)? I've wanted to get a new comp for a while, but now is not the time for me financially. Sucks to be without a computer the majority of every day....

Thanks in advance for your learned advice!
posted by scarylarry to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
It doesn't work again until I've let it sit a good several hours.

That it works again after resting suggests it might be overheating.
posted by juv3nal at 12:22 PM on February 28, 2007

Response by poster: Juv3nal, do you have and ideas as to why it would be overheating only after I went all exxon valdez on it with the soda? And what would it take to fix it?
posted by scarylarry at 12:32 PM on February 28, 2007

Video card, like juv said, is overheating. It's unclear if the actual computer is going haywire as well. Like, if you played music and the screen went gobbled....would the music still play?

You've got 3 options if it's the vid card, as I see it:

1. Replace the card. The card itself probably costs under $100, but would most likely need to be installed by the manufacturer. Shipping + component + labor might cost you $200-300 and several weeks.

2. Get a USB VGA adapter so you can use it as a desktop computer for what that's worth to you.

3. Get a new laptop. The review I googled to see the vid card model wasn't very glowing, so you could do much better.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:41 PM on February 28, 2007

Juv3nal, do you have and ideas as to why it would be overheating only after I went all exxon valdez on it with the soda? And what would it take to fix it?

What Burhanistan said. I don't know what kind of residue dried diet soda leaves or the best way to remove it, but it's a likely culprit.
posted by juv3nal at 12:42 PM on February 28, 2007

If it were my laptop I'd take it apart to try and clean it out. I've had mine apart before. It's a pain, though, getting them apart and back together.

Some water, maybe distilled or deionized, and a toothbrush might help clean up any really gunky spots. Be sure it's not plugged in and doesn't have the battery if you're going to deliberately get it wet. After cleaning up let everything dry thoroughly, a day or two, before reassembling.

If the problems persist after that something electronic is damaged, but it's tough to troubleshoot intermittent problems. Unfortunately, most consumer grade electronics aren't worth repairing. They are complex, hard to troubleshoot, and any fix typically involves replacing major and expensive components which, in your case, would be the motherboard.
posted by 6550 at 12:49 PM on February 28, 2007

Should've previewed. It didn't occur to me that the video might be a separate card in your laptop. If that's the problem and you can replace it yourself it might be worth doing. But if not you've blown $100 on a videocard you don't need.
posted by 6550 at 12:51 PM on February 28, 2007

Instead of water I would use isopropyl alcohol and a q-tip.
posted by muddgirl at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2007

what muddgirl and burhanistan have said is a very good idea. soda residue is a nasty thing to leave in there. one option is to take the laptop to a computer repair store (places like compusa do repairs, but they can't fix everything.) to open it for you (if you're not comfortable doing it) and cleaning it out as best as possible. i'd say that should be done no matter what.

but another thing you should consider, and this is too often forgotten by users of all shapes and sizes, is the possibility that the soda fried a fan somewhere, and the heat is no longer being drawn out of your laptop. this would cause the overheating, and also reliquify the soda residue, allowing it to move around and short more circuits. when things start overheating, i consider it good policy to always check the fans. sometimes they break, and they're not that hard (for the most part) to replace.
posted by shmegegge at 4:35 PM on February 28, 2007

Diet Coke contains no sugar, but it's still got phosphoric acid in it, which makes it both conductive and corrosive. It's a nasty nasty thing to leave inside a machine. Take that sucker apart, wash the affected parts out with de-ionized water, and warm-air dry them before reassembly. If you're not confident about doing this, take it to a repair shop.

Never, never, never leave anything except de-ionized water or isopropyl alcohol to dry out in the guts of anything electronic.
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 PM on February 28, 2007

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