Repair a liquid damaged laptop.
Sooner or later, we all end up liquid-damaging our beloved gadgets. It’s a very common type of accident and a lot of electronic equipment ends up in the bin because of it.
However don’t despair! If you follow the proper procedure you just might save your precious gadget.
The general rule of thumb for any electronic device that gets wet, is to immediately remove the battery and any power cord. This is essential so that nothing gets short-circuit as the liquid intrudes further inside the components and PCB.
In the case of a laptop, usually the first thing that gets splashed is the keyboard. Directly underneath the keyboard lies the CPU and motherboard. We certainly don’t want any liquid in there. So after you instantly remove the battery and power cord, use your ninja techniques and uncanny reflexes to flip the laptop upside-down, and let gravity do it’s thing. This will drain most of the water out and most likely will save your motherboard from taking a bath. Bonus points if you put a towel underneath it to draw-out the liquid and prevent puddles.
You should leave the laptop upside-down for a couple of days for the liquid to dissipate. You must resist the urge to blow-dry it as the blow-dryer will most likely damage the components even more.
Now, in order to make sure that there isn’t any moisture or residues left inside, you will have to disassemble it.
In my case, the damaged laptop (Dell Latitude D610) had coffee spilled on it. To make things worse it had sugar and milk in it which makes it ever more difficult to clean.
The owner of the laptop was about to throw it away but gave it to me as a last resort.
All signs of liquid have been dried-up externally, but the laptop wouldn’t power-up no matter what. This means that something still short-circuits in there.
I had to dissect it to take a look inside.
Normally in order to reveal the motherboard of a laptop you have to remove the faceplate, the monitor, the keyboard and some times even the bottom cover.
In this case, the Dell Latitude D160 is the easiest laptop I have ever disassembled.
All you have to do is remove the faceplate and then the keyboard. That’s it.
A close inspection of the motherboard didn’t reveal much coffee. I was half expecting to see a tall latte in there.
However there were evidence and residues on the monitor ribbon and near the PSU and power switch.
(Supersize to appreciate the details)
Now on to the cleaning part. The best way to clean PCBs and electronics in general, is by alcohol. It dissolves gunk, it doesn’t harm the components, and when it dissipates, it doesn’t leave any residues.
I splashed a fair amount of it in the trouble areas, and brushed the area carefully with a toothbrush.
Finally I blew some canned air on it to speed-up the evaporation of the excess alcohol.
A lesson that I learned from passed experiences is to test the equipment before you put it back together. Save yourself the frustration of disassembling it again when you find-out it still doesn’t work.
In this case the laptop worked right away and so it was returned to its owner. Major success.
In the same fashion 2 cell phones and 2 digital cameras survived a full submersion in fresh river water. So don’t give up. Act quickly and you might save your gadgets.