Coffee + Laptop? Never again.
January 14, 2008 2:52 AM   Subscribe

Another laptop + spill question. Am I in the clear or have I simply screwed things over now?

Spilled about .. 20 mL worth of coffee (milk, no cream or sugar) onto laptop. Immediately powered down, removed battery. Removed the keys that were spilled upon, wiped off as best I could, then dismantled chassis and hard drive to eyeball whether or not the spill seeped through. The keyboard is dry, the innards looked normal and thankfully dry.

The remainder of the coffee (that went onto the table) has dried in the mean time. Since I have assignments and job applications due later today, I reassembled the computer and turned it on. Cursory browsing of files indicate that my computer is still healthy and hasn't lost anything. But browsing metafilter for similar spill accidents is making me nervous. (This is my only computer access for the next half a day or so, and the only computer with all of my job data)

Could something unforeseen arise from this spill in the future if currently things seem mostly okay? Is my precious computer going to die and eat up everything I've worked on in the past year? Or am I in the clear?

[Currently typing from victim computer]
posted by Phire to Technology (6 answers total)
I've spilled things on my iBook several times, and I still find the effects change, although due to immediate care (turn off, turn upside down, leave to drip dry) I've prevented the whole thing from frying. For example, a while back, months after the last spill, my trackpad and buttons stopped working and I had to buy a mouse. A couple of months later (a few weeks ago) they magically started working again (knock wood). Also, stickiness in my number keys that had come and gone has recently come back again. But it's nothing devastating; just annoying.

However you haven't said how long ago the spill was and how long you left it to dry. I definitely would leave it at least 24 hours before starting to use it again. I'm not basing that on much except common wisdom when I did Google searches after my spills (please don't report me to MeTa), but I imagine heating any remaining liquid would result in condensation which could further damage things. But if you say it all looks dry under the keyboard, and it was only 20mL, then maybe you're alright.
posted by loiseau at 3:07 AM on January 14, 2008

Is my precious computer going to die and eat up everything I've worked on in the past year? Or am I in the clear?

You are never in the clear. You should always back up your data. Because the chances are high that it will happen to you eventually.

I've seen reports here on MetaFilter of keyboards failing due to spills that occurred months earlier. I wouldn't be overly concerned any of the other components, unless the keyboard backplate has lots of holes in it or something.
posted by grouse at 3:08 AM on January 14, 2008

I have twice now spilled fluids on my laptop keyboard (coffee once, water once). Both times, I took it apart, made sure everything was dry, and was using it again within a couple of hours.

The last one was four or five months ago, and there have been no problems. If you've thoroughly checked the interior of the laptop for moisture, then I would (as grouse suggested) make a backup of all of your data immediately and then stop worrying.
posted by dehowell at 6:28 AM on January 14, 2008

Could something unforeseen arise from this spill in the future if currently things seem mostly okay?

It's possible, but if the PC is working ok you should be fine (the short that the liquid made has dried up)

Is my precious computer going to die and eat up everything I've worked on in the past year?

If the dried debris causes another short it'll most likely cause your PC not to power on. Your data should be fine however (except for anything you had not saved before the power down).

Or am I in the clear?

I would work on backing up your work ASAP to a thumbdrive or CD. It could save you a lot of hassle in the event the laptop goes kaput.

In the event the laptop stops working and you don't have a backup: Remove the HD from it and purchase a USB to IDE adapter that can support 2.5" IDE drives. When you get a new laptop you can use the adapter to all your important files. If the laptop is the same model you could instead just swap out the drives without the need for the adapter.
posted by samsara at 6:54 AM on January 14, 2008

Echoing what others have said above:

Backup, backup, backup! If you're not backing up your data to some other media right now, you'll have no one to blame but yourself if something does happen (however unlikely that may be).
posted by JaredSeth at 11:31 AM on January 14, 2008

I wil nth the backup admonishments. Back when I posted a similar question in this thread, I'd spilled water on my laptop just as I was beginning my first year of law school. I had it back up and running the next day, however 8 months later, my HDD crashed the weekend before my final exams - I hadn't backed up and lost everything. Because it was so long after the spill, I doubt the HDD failure (it was a head crash) was caused by it, but who knows? In hindsight, I wish I'd taken a couple of extra days to dry it out just to make sure, and I REALLY wish I'd been smart enough to back stuff up regularly after that.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:13 PM on January 14, 2008

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