How to survive a coffee cup - guide for laptop (and cat) owners


Yesterday my cat spilled a full cup of hot coffee on my 2k$+ laptop. Today, there is no trace of the incident and the laptop is working perfectly again. This is partially thanks to luck, partially to Dell laptop engineering and partially to my instinctive actions within first 10 seconds of the incident. I will recap it here so that if you happen to have a mishap of such kind you would know what to do to save your laptop.

The first thing I did is pick up the laptop (so that extra coffee from the table would not go into the vents at the bottom of the laptop) keeping the corner that was soaked with coffee downwards. With one hand I held the notebook and pressed and held the Power button to turn the laptop off as soon as possible. With the other hand I removed the power cord and tried to remove the battery as well. It took a couple seconds, but when that was done and the laptop was placed on a towel on the floor the time sensitive part was over.

After that was the clean-up. Coffee from the table and floor (so that other things don't get soaked), coffee form the outside of the laptop (with a damp cloth), ... After that I disassembled my laptop down to removing the motherboard and checking it for damage. Where ever I found traces of coffee, I cleaned them up with cotton swabs and spirit (clean water would also work, but would require more drying time). After I cleaned and dried every part off with a fan, I put the laptop back together. It took around 2 hours (more like 4 because I had to ask my girlfriend to pick up a new screwdriver on her way home as I lost mine). Everything was working, except the keyboard.

Bits of coffee got inside the keyboard and were shortening the wires so some lines of buttons were not working and some were activating other keys when pressed. On an advice from a fried, I took out the keyboard and ... washed it. I simply put the keyboard under a stream on running water and made sure that the water got into every possible and impossible opening. After 5 minutes of washing I got the hairdryer and proceeded to dry the keyboard. After an hour I put it in, but it still did not work, so I left it on a heating radiator overnight. After around 18 hours of drying the keyboard started working again. Oh and it was cleaner than it ever was :D

Summary: Do not panic! Get water out of you laptop, get it turned off, disconnect power and remove the battery. If you manage to do all that in 10 seconds or less, you might have a chance of seeing your laptop boot up again.

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Phocean 8 years ago

With laptop like Thinkpads or Vaios, and probably others that I don't know, you wouldn't need to worry about it.

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Name 8 years ago

1. garantijai ir beigas, vnk aizmirsti par to
2. ka?i nogalin?ji?
3. 2k$ nav lapsi nekas daudz
4. k? jau PHOCEAN min?ja - daudziem ražot?jiem jau ir ieb?v?ta aizsardz?ba pret t?diem gad?jumiem.

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aigarius 8 years ago

Yes and no. This Dell XPS M1710 also has some spillage protection on the keyboard area, otherwise there would be much more mess inside. However, nothing can protect you from a direct hit from the side into one of the vents. The laptop got flash-flooded from the side, not fro the top. No amount of protection (considering the ventilation requirements of a modern high-powered laptop with an add-on video card) can totally save you.

On another note, Dell's Accidental Damage Protection insurance could be a godsend in such cases, especially for less computer-savvy people.

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Gunnar Wolf 8 years ago

You already mentioned the "Accidental Damage Protection", still I will insist on it: When I bought my ~US$2000 Dell XPS M1210 (January 2007), I bought the extended three year warranty with this extra damage protection, which also covers dropping the laptop. Have not used it... But given my habits, I am more than happy to pay the premium for it.

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tedl 8 years ago

You probably don't put much, if any, sugar in your coffee. It's the sugar that's the #1 killer of laptops and keyboards.

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Clinton Roy 8 years ago

Yeah, blame the cat ;)

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Peng’s links for Tuesday, 30 December &laquo 8 years ago

[...] Mahinovs: How to survive a coffee up - guide for laptop (and cat) owners. Ok, those of us who share their abode with a feline know it’s not the cat who’s owned, [...]

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Jason 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm always worried my kids are going to dump their juice or something on my laptops. Ugh!

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