Ready for a revelation? A concept that you’ve never considered before? Well here it is: never ever, ever pour a glass of wine into your Macbook keyboard. Or, more practically put, be extremely careful when there’s a drink of any kind near your laptop. If a spill occurs, and you don’t act quickly enough, you’ll find yourself staring at a massive bill for a new logic board, hard-drive, battery, and anything in between.
Accidents do happen — so plan on it. What’s more important is that you learn exactly what to do when these spills inevitably occur.
Every few weeks, we revisit some of our reader's favorite posts from throughout the history of the site. This tutorial was first published in July, 2010.
Step 1. Don’t Freeze. Unplug!
Ahhhh! The wife (meaning, you) accidentally spilled wine all over your keyboard. From personal experience, I can assure you that, for some odd reason, your first instinct with a massive computer spill is to freeze for five seconds or so, in shock. Don’t do this! Luckily Apple laptops are pretty helpful about automatically shutting down to prevent as many issues as possible before they happen. The more recent laptops even have liquid detection…though I’m certain that Apple is more interested in voiding your warranty than protecting you. For those uninformed, most laptop warranties do not cover spills.
Nonetheless, don’t waste a single second. Quickly unplug the computer, and shut it down.
The walls and carpet may have liquid on them as well, but ignore that. The computer is far more important right now.
Step 2. Flip that Sucka
The next step, which should occur within seconds of beginning Step 1, is to flip the laptop upside down, into an L-shape. Gravity will then force as much liquid to drain out of the keyboard as possible. Make sure that you lay it on a towel so that it can soak up the liquid.
Let gravity do its job. Immediately flip the laptop into an L-shape.
Step 3. Open the Back
Using a tiny screw driver, unscrew the back-side of your laptop. This will, of course, vary, depending upon which model you’re using. I’m sure you can figure it out.
Particularly on Macs, not all of the screws are the same size. Make a note of which screw goes where.
Step 4. Remove the Battery and Hard Drive
Before progressing, ensure your livelihood and touch some metal objects nearby to remove any potential static electricity from your body.
Needless to say, batteries and liquids — especially sugary, acidic liquids — don’t play nice together. Wherever yours is located on your laptop, remove it as quickly as possible. Next, get the hard drive out as well. We don’t want to risk any liquid seeping in, and corrupting your file system!
And now that you know how easy it is to remove a hard drive, don’t ever again pay a person to upgrade your hard drive. It only takes a moment to do yourself. ;)
Step 5. Dry the Insides
With a paper towel of some sort, begin cleaning the insides of your computer. Depending upon how much liquid was spilled, this may either be a quick or lengthy process. For yours truly, it took around ten minutes to clean everything.
Some people prefer to use a hair dryer to clean the insides. This one is up to you; however, I’d encourage you to not do so. Play it safe and use a towel. We don’t want to risk frying the insides.
Step 6. Rubbing Alcohol and Cotton
Next, we need to continue removing as much sugar and acid as possible from the logic board. Otherwise, over time, it can begin to corrode the wiring. Yeah, this isn’t good!
Using rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab, begin dabbing any stained areas — but be gentle. If you have access to the backside of your keyboard, clean that area as well. Unfortunately, on the newer Macbook Pro models, it’s extremely difficult to access this section. With past models, it was quite easy to remove the keyboard entirely, for cleaning purposes. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.
Rubbing alcohol will help dissolve any remaining acid or sugar on the logic board.
Step 7. Leave it Alone
Anxiety is a dangerous thing. Resist the urge to determine whether or not you’ve destroyed your laptop, and keep it off for a minimum of 72-120 hours (3-5 days). This will allow any remaining liquid to dry/evaporate first. Make sure that, while its drying, you keep the battery outside of the computer. This is mostly a precaution.
Keep the computer off for 3-5 days — no questions asked. Do not turn it on during this window.
Step 8. Cross Your Fingers
After 72-120 hours, reconnect the battery, screw everything back in, cross your fingers, say a prayer, and turn on the computer. Particularly if you’re using a newer Macbook Pro (2010+ models), you’ve done everything you can do. With hope, and more often than not, it’ll chime, and start-up like a charm. However, if the battery is dead, or the hard drive is corrupted, you’re next best option is to take it in for official repair. Of course, this will somewhat depend upon how skilled you are, when working under the hood.
About the Author
Jeffrey Way — me…yes, I’m speaking in third person — once committed a Cardinal Sin, and caused a massive wine spill into his Macbook Pro. Had he not followed these exact steps, he’d be forking over another life savings for a new Mac. Luckily, that was not the case.
Thanks for reading. Should the same ever happen to you, I hope this guide will help a bit!