We’ve all been there. You’re working on that project that needs to be done by morning. Four cups of coffee deep, trying to stay awake, and then it happens: the coffee cup falls over and its contents run all over your computer. What do you do?Well, that is exactly what we will be addressing today. Taking immediate, appropriate steps can help protect your data and possibly allow you to save your machine.
Immediate Action Is Vital
Any time you spill on or even near your computer, turn it off immediately. The worst thing that can happen is liquid falling onto an electrical component while it has power running through it; this can cause a power surge, which will almost certainly prove fatal to your device and your data. Powering off the device will help eliminate the chance of this happening immediately and, with proper planning, can help avoid it altogether. Remove the battery (if possible), unplug any peripheral devices, like a jump drive, mouse, or speakers, and disconnect the unit from its charger or power source.
Triage: Taking the Right Next Steps
After turning off the computer, grab something to start cleaning up the mess. If the spill is water, a dry, lint-free paper towel or cloth is best. This will be safe on the machine and will be able to absorb any excess liquid. If your device is a laptop, open the screen and turn the laptop upside down on the towel in a tented “V” shape. Some laptops have spill-proof keyboards, with a removable keyboard enclosure to trap liquids—if this is the case, congratulations! If not, however, inverting the unit can still help keep any liquid that has made its way inside the laptop away from the circuit boards and hopefully limit the damage to replacing your keyboard. If it a desktop, take the side panel off and clean any visible spill damage carefully by patting it with some paper towels.
Crying Over Spilled Milk (Versus Water)
The contents of your coffee mug matter. If the spilled liquid contains sugar (like milk, coffee, pop, or tea), it can do much more significant damage than plain water. You will want to take the computer to a professional right away for a more elaborate clean up. Sugar and thicker liquids can quickly corrode electronic components causing permanent and irreparable damage, so make sure to take it to a pro for cleaning within a few hours or a day at most. The photo to the right shows what sugar can do to the interior components of your machine!
Don’t “DIY” Your Cleanup: Call a Pro
Tricks that can work for small handheld devices, like smartphones and tablets, aren’t as effective on laptops and larger devices. For instance, putting your laptop computer into a bag of rice to absorb moisture generally does not work; the rice can take days to absorb all the liquid and can become lodged into the various ports on the computer. Even if you think you've cleaned out all of the liquid, moisture that has seeped into areas you can't see can cause permanent damage and corrosion (see the picture below).
Give It Time
After the computer has had time to dry (at least 24 hours, but 48 to be s, or has been professionally cleaned, you can chance turning it on. DON'T try to speed the process by using a hair dryer or other heat source—you can cause irreparable damage to your machine. If all has gone well, everything will be functioning fine, although for most laptops the keyboard will need to be replaced as it is the first point of contact for most spills. With quick response and proper care, disaster can be averted and the computer saved.
Your laptop or desktop computer can often survive and recover from spills—so long as you take appropriate action immediately and get the machine to a professional as soon as possible. Dymin’s experienced technicians will help you evaluate your situation and professionally clean your machine. In the unfortunate situation where your machine may not be repairable, our data recovery professionals will assess the damage and help you recover as much of your data as possible. It's also a good idea to have a data backup plan in place in the unfortunate event that you experience this or any other kind of hardware failure—talk to us about developing an appropriate data backup strategy, disaster recovery and business continuity plan for your company.