IMG_2931 IMG_2932 IMG_2935 photo 2We see them come in pretty regularly to the ‘Spa–Macs that have had an unfortunate accident with a glass of wine, water, coffee, soda, beer, or milk–or sometimes worse (don’t ask).

This may have happened to you. When it happens, it’s devastating. You wish had an “Undo” function to take it back, but alas, the computer has made contact with liquid and now its fate is in the hands of the technology gods.

Roughly 75% or more of the cases we see are either very expensive repairs or a lost cause, depending on the extent of damage, age of the machine, and other factors. Only a small percentage bounce back and amazingly continue to function after a few days.

A lot of times we’ll see major functions return to normal, leaving others disabled. Sometimes you’ll end up with a perfectly functioning computer–except for the display or keyboard, or a few keys or a USB port. In most cases, at least the data is accessible, which is better than having nothing at all.

If you act smartly and have good luck, you could be spared from having to unexpectedly spend a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on a new computer after a liquid catastrophe.

Here is an amazing true success story of one Mac that completely survived a major “spill!”


K.M. in Denver–Her 17” unibody MacBook Pro sat out on a porch, opened, and plugged in–in a rainstorm! The moment she realized it was raining and her computer was still outside, she immediately grabbed it, unplugged it, turned it over to empty out the water, then opened the back and removed the battery. After letting it sit overnight, she brought it in to be evaluated.

I took a close look under a microscope to see the small amounts of corrosion on areas of the logic board. I cleaned all the areas of corrosion I could see with alcohol. Then I cleaned the keyboard. I pulled out the hard drive and successfully made a copy of her data.

Then I waited. I let it dry for 4 days. When I opened it on the third day, there was condensation on the screen that had come up from the keyboard! So I placed a towel on the keyboard and closed the lid so it would absorb the remaining moisture.

On the 4th day, I replaced the battery and the hard drive and turned the computer on. To my delight, I heard a chime! Then an Apple appeared on the screen. I noticed a small whitish splotch on the screen, but it was almost undetectable. The hard drive booted right up. Next, I opened a TextEdit document and typed every key–and EVERY key worked!! Needless to say, this client was extremely fortunate, and was happy to get back a working Mac. This is our number one “hall-of fame”-er!


Not everyone can be this lucky! The best way to avoid liquid damage is to NOT set your drinks right next to your computer. And don’t put a water bottle in your computer bag. Close the lid when you’re done working to keep liquid or other factors from damaging your keyboard (and bring it in if it’s outside!). If a spill does happen to you, unplug and turn off the computer immediately, and DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TURN IT BACK ON! This will only short out delicate components on the logic board or keyboard and increase chances of further damage. Even a small amount of liquid can take days to dry out completely, and it’s not worth the risk of trying to turn on a computer that may still have some liquid remaining inside. You may want to bring it in for evaluation and cleaning, and see about data recovery or other options.

Happy computing, and keep your electronics dry!

–by Amy McKnight

The MacSpa