When we discuss the typical working environment, it usually consists out of a chair, desk, computer/laptop and of course some sort of beverage like morning coffee, apple juice or just water. No matter how careful you are - accidents do happen. Spilling the liquid on a desktop computer usually has no repercussions for the computer, besides the walk to IT department and getting a new keyboard. But with the recent move towards laptops, any occasional spillage on the keyboard can be fatal for the computer and cause you a lot of grief, especially if you don't have a backup of your important data.
Here are some tips for what to do if that happens:
- First action is to shut down the laptop as soon as possible using an on/off button (pressing the button for 5 seconds will immediately shut down the computer)
- If you are fast enough you can try to save all your working documents, but don't worry about the current documents - if the computer dies, you're in for much longer downtime.
- Remove the laptop from the electric grid immediately after the forced shut down
- Turn it over to pull out the battery. It is best to keep it open so when you turn it, the liquid spilled on the keyboard will not drop on display.
- Skilful users should take out the hard drive from the laptop and try to save data on it on a second computer - devices such as Thermaltake's BlackX A are really good to have.
When there is no sign of liquid on the laptop, turn it sideways and make sure that there are no leaks. The next step is wiping up the laptop with a cotton cloth, or cloth with microfiber if any moisture was left behind.
After that you should take a hair dryer (lowest blowing speed, at least 30cm-12" distance from laptop) and try to dry up the laptop. You need to be very careful with this step, since the heat can damage the display and other components. You can try to turn the computer on after an hour or so, but it is best to wait a couple of hours [best would be to leave it alone for one day] to completely dry off. If the spilled liquid contained sugar, there is high probability that the keyboard won't work. In that case the best thing you should do is to send your computer to service for professional cleaning or/and repair.
One of the alternative methods of cleaning a laptop is to use distilled (or even better de-ionized) water for cleaning but consider that a last resort, or when the repair of laptop is more expensive than buying a new one.
Editor's Note: This advice was given to us by the head of a computer assembly department at a leading computer assembler/manufacturer in Central and Eastern Europe.