Although the unique marriage of coffee and a laptop seem to be an inseparable pair (been to Starbucks on Beach Road recently?), there is some risk involved. Accidents certainly happen, and the results of a liquid meeting with the insides of a notebook can be ugly!
If you are one of the lucky few to have a liquid resistant notebook (for example the Panasonic Tough Book CF-18), then please disregard the rest of this article (The Panasonic CF18 notebook can handle it, but yours probably can't!). However if you are one of the other 99.9% of laptop owners and have a machine that doesn't get along with liquids very well, we have some steps that you can take to save your investment when an accident happens.
Don't plan to bury your notebook just yet...
1. Assess the situation before taking action. Is the notebook hooked up to AC power or running on battery? If the machine is running on battery power and is NOT connected to an AC outlet, your first line of defense in to swiftly shut the machine down. Be sure the device is not sitting in a puddle and the power switch area is dry. The quickest method to shut down is to hold the power button until the device powers off. Next remove the battery and place it off to the side. If the laptop is connected to an AC outlet, try to separate yourself from any contact with the liquid. Make sure you're not touching any metal with your body (place your opposite hand in a pocket and check to see what you're standing or sitting on) and then quickly yank the plug from the AC outlet. Then follow the instructions above to remove the battery, etc.
2. Now that you are out of immediate danger to yourself, you have the opportunity to care for the notebook. Remove all USB components, PCMCIA cards or any other external device. Be sure to carefully wipe off the notebook and all components carefully and place them out for the drying process.
3. Time to play the waiting game. Surely you are anxious to see that your notebook is still functional and your data intact. Here is the good news; providing you did not here any "buzzing", see smoke, notice an immediate malfunction or notice any obvious problems prior to shutting down, the machine is most likely in good shape. At this point you MUST allow at least 24-48 hours to be absolutely sure the device has indeed dried out completely. Make sure to leave the laptop open so air can circulate. If you have a cooling rack, commonly used for cooling baked goods, it might even be helpful to place the notebook on that to make sure air is circulating as well as possible.
4. After waiting for your notebook to dry properly, try powering up with the battery first. If the battery is dead, replace it in the unit and charge it for awhile. For your "first power up", you will be best off performing this on battery power. Does all appear well? Congratulations and Amen to that! Notice anything funny? Immediately shut down the machine and bring it in to our office for us to take a more in-depth look at the problem.
One simple thing to remember is that data travels between all components in your computer via an electrical current. Once any liquid - even a minute amount comes in contact with any of these components while the unit is powered on, you are sure to fry something inside of that case! Luckily most accidents involving spills are only a minor setback provided proper steps to power down and dry your device are taken. However, I did have one client whose cat urinated on his laptop, and of urine is a very good conductor of electricity, and some major damage resulted! However, hopefully this advice will come in handy in case the unexpected occurs.
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