December 7, 2008

Saving a Laptop from Your Clumsy Wife

Filed under: Not Tech — Chris @ 4:15 pm

Believe it or not (nobody is more surprised than me), I am writing this from a laptop that was doused with a full cup of coffee two days ago (by my lovely and wonderful wife, against whom I hold no grudge whatsoever, but whom I do most definitely blame). Here are the details of how my computer was rehabilitated, in the hope that they might be of use.

  1. Within one second of The Incident, the power indicator on my flashed red and the computer turned itself off. This seems to have been some self-preserving behavior on the hardware’s part and not a sign of catastrophic electrical failure (?).
  2. As quickly as I could (this wasn’t very quickly as it was early in the morning and I hadn’t had my coffee yet), I disconnected the computer from the AC power and removed the battery.
  3. After some dithering, I dismantled the entire computer, right down to the motherboard, wiping things off with a damp rag as I went. This turned out to be a good idea: there was milky coffee in the pins of my CPU. If that had dried and hardened in place, all would have been lost.
  4. I put the keyboard and plastic pieces through a rinse cycle in the dishwasher. I somewhat more delicately rinsed off parts of the motherboard and the CPU. This may seem a little risky, but clean water is not dangerous to (disconnected) electronics—much less dangerous than milky coffee to be sure. The key is to make sure everything is completely dry before you put it back together and plug it in.
  5. I waited 2 full days for all the components to dry out before I re-assembled the laptop. I also bought a hair dryer blew cool air on each component for a little while before attempting re-assembly. I have no idea if this could be done faster, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Et voila. It works. I haven’t tested all of the external ports (after a similar incident, with less effective disaster relief, H lost the use of the video port on her old iBook. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if I lost my external video, since I have never successfully used it to give a slide presentation), but I am feeling confident. I will update later if anything goes haywire.



  1. And now you have a blow-dryer to amp-up your hairdo!

    Comment by Stephen Litner — December 8, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  2. I returned it for a full refund. My hair is staying lowdown and funky.

    Comment by Chris — December 8, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

  3. so far the only deleterious droppings on my laptop have been tears and my son

    however, my son dropped my old laptop

    it sprang a leak–the screen bled blue–it lingered on–i labored on

    now i have macbook pro

    maybe i will quit using milk in my coffee or take up drinking tea

    Comment by Art Predator — December 17, 2008 @ 12:39 am

  4. Ack! Blue LCD juice might be toxic…

    Comment by Chris — December 17, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

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