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A Guide to Dealing With Water on the Apple MacBook Keyboard

written by: Daniel Kolobaric•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 5/20/2011

Ever had to deal with water damage to your MacBook? Whatever your answer to this question, read on for solutions to the problem and tips on what to do should you ever encounter the situation. From protecting your harddrive to preventing a short-circuit, the solutions are here!

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    Water on the Apple MacBook Keyboard

    It is the nightmare of any MacBook owner: spilling a liquid on it. But what to do when you accidentally DO spill water on an Apple MacBook Keyboard? The most obvious answer here is damage control. Read on to discover the critical next steps towards recovery. Not only should these steps help you in theory but are also are based on first hand experience. And yes, I did manage to get my MacBook working without issues again after spilling water on the keyboard!

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    Water on Your MacBook Keyboard: Time is of the Essence!

    Apple's Macbook Spilling Water When water makes its way to the MacBook Keyboard (or any other liquid for that matter) quick action is of the essence in order to minimize the damage. The following steps are a recommendation of what to do in those first moments:

    1. Make Sure to turn off your MacBook as soon as you can. If possible long-press the on/off button and plug out the power socket. Also take out your battery (in models that allow this).
    2. Take out your MacBook’s hard drive. This is an essential step in the process in that you want to protect your data as well as limit the components that can cause a short-circuit of the electronics within the MacBook. If, like in the case of newer models, the process of removing the hard drive will cause too much tossing around of the MacBook it might not be worth it. This could cause the water to reach places where it can do a lot of harm. In any case, make sure to make frequent backups to avoid data loss.
    3. Position the MacBook, which at this stage should be as bare as possible, in an upside down or sideways position, in a dry place. The best would be above a portable heater. Make sure the environment is not too hot, but warm enough to initiate quick evaporation of the water in the MacBook.

    Essentially, water can only do limited damage, but your MacBook may show worrying signs at first. This does not necessarily mean it is permanently damaged, but it is vital to follow the above steps as soon as possible after the spilling event. In general, Apple built its laptops in such a way that essential parts are reasonably well protected. However, I cannot stress enough that turning off the MacBook is the best short-term measure as it can prevent a lot of further damage.

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    Possible Damage Cases and Solutions

    A water-spilling incident involving the keyboard of your MacBook can have a few consequences. Although one can be more critical than others, in most cases there are solutions for your sorrows:

    • The keyboard may stop functioning or only functions partly. In most cases this would be an isolated incident that should either be resolved with proper drying out of the MacBook or the replacement of the keyboard. Also, USB ports or the Bluetooth module should not be affected, meaning that a good short-term solution could be an external keyboard.
    • The logics board may malfunction. This could be a bigger problem, but it is unlikely that a spilling of water could cause this. A more likely cause is a connector problem, which is also a far easier fix.
    • Your data may be affected. Following the steps mentioned before should solve this problem. It is vital to cut off the power as soon as possible to not let the water affect other parts of your precious MacBook.

    If your MacBook is still within the warranty period there is a good chance that it will be fixed by the Apple’s own support. Although water damages are not covered by standard protection it is often hard to trace. In any case, trying to get it fixed based on a warranty claim may work for you.

    If you are outside of your warranty period and you fear that a fix might be too expensive, you may always consider a fix by yourself. Online web stores like iFixit have a large amount of parts on stock for a variety of models and also provide installation support.

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    Prevention is the Best Protection!

    It goes without saying that the best method to deal with water in your MacBook keyboard is to not spill anything. While this is stating the obvious, many people do not realize that you should always position your drinks at least an arms-length away from your MacBook keyboard.

    In the case with water, there is a high possibility that your MacBook will survive. In most cases it is just a matter of drying it out, after which it will work again. However other liquids such as juices, lemonade, beers, liquors or salt water can do your MacBook a lot more harm. Damage control is always of the essence and if you know how to quickly deal with a situation, it can be properly managed. Lets just hope for your sake it will never happen!

    Note. If you want to share your own water spilling experience or have a question regarding the article, do not hesitate to post in the comments section!

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    References

    • iFixit, http://www.ifixit.com/
    • Macbook, how the remove or install the battery, http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2037
    • How to remove your MacBook's harddrive, http://www.tested.com/how-to-replace-your-macbooks-hard-drive/47-36/
    • Page 1 Screenshot by Alexis, Robert. Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:100_3500.JPG