Home Guides How Tos How to Fix a Water-Damaged Macbook

How to Fix a Water-Damaged Macbook

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Coffee spilled on keyboard, close up shot. Damaged computer that needs reparation. Data safety and laptop insurance concept.

Water-damaged MacBook

Water can destroy electronics quickly, but if you act fast, your Mac laptop, be it a MacBook, MacBook Air, or Macbook Pro, may be salvageable. Whatever you do, don’t open it, don’t plug it back in, and don’t boot it up. It’s electronic, so it’s the last thing you want to do when it’s wet.

You spilled water on a MacBook Air/Pro and it turned off almost instantly. What to do now? Follow the instructions of this guide to minimize the liquid damage and increase the survival chance of your water damaged MacBook.

The Bad News

The bad news is if a lot of water spilled on the MacBook, you should expect more than a messed up keyboard because the damage would spread to the battery, connectors, and circuit boards, costing you in the long run.

If it’s just a little water that spilled on the keyboard and the water went straight for the keys only, you’re out of danger. The keyboard on your MacBook has an air-tight mechanism that ordinarily encases debris and water. So there’s a chance you may have dodged a bullet. However, you may expect to get a keyboard replacement, or top case replacement service for your MacBook.

The Good News

The good news, however, is that there are crucial steps you can take to resolve the problem before it gets worse or you lose your device altogether.

What follows is a guide on what to do and what not to do immediately after water spills on your MacBook.

What to do right now

Switch OFF the water-damaged MacBook immediately.

This is the first thing you must do if you spilled water on your Macbook Air or Pro. Hold down the power button for at least five seconds until the power is off and then release the button. Do not touch the button again; otherwise, you may accidentally turn it on again. Forget about any unsaved documents, the sooner you cut off the power, the safer your MacBook will be as well as your priceless data in it.

If the water-damaged MacBook cannot be turned off by holding the power button, it means the MacBook keyboard has already stopped functioning. The keyboard cannot send the software-level “Force Shutdown” command to the MacBook logic board. Don’t panic, you still have other methods to shut down the Mac laptop.

Quickly use tissues to absorb the liquid that you can see on the surface of the MacBook keyboard, touchpad and screen, then close the lid straight away. By doing so you effectively activate the hardware-level sleep sensor. When the logic board detects the sleep sensor signal, it will cut off the power to the CPU, screen, SSD drive and most of supporting circuits.

The MacBook then enters into shallow sleep mode. In the shallow sleep mode, the memory chips are still receiving power. This design enables the laptop to be wakeup fast in normal use. Keep the lid closed for a while the MacBook will automatically enter into deep sleep mode. In deep sleep mode, the logic board cuts off the power to the memory chips. Your CPU, screen, SSD drive and RAM are all at safe hand now. Never open the lid to wake up (power-up) the laptop again.

Don’t panic. Unplug the charger if it’s still connected to the water-damaged MacBook.

Remove the battery and unplug any peripherals connected If you can remove the battery, do so. Disconnect any dongles or peripherals like mouse, printer, iPod, camera, or scanner from the laptop.

Unplugging the charger alone will NOT cut off the power to the CPU and other important components. The internal battery is still powering the Mac laptop at full speed if you did not shut down the laptop by holding the power button. By unplugging the charger, you turn off the charging circuit of the logic board. Even though water damage to the charging circuit is nearly 100% repairable, the circuit’s higher voltage ( 14.5V for MacBook Air, 20V for MacBook Pro Retina ) is still a great threat. So unplug the charger now. If you can come up to this point, you have turned off 99% of the MacBook logic board circuits. The only remaining “ON” circuit is the “standby” circuit and it is much less destructive in a liquid damaged Mac laptop.

Prevent water from dripping into the vent holes

If you can prevent water from reaching the vent holes, you minimise the damage.

Research shows that in about 80% of MacBook liquid damage cases, water had reached to the logic board from the vent holes. This is why blocking the water from the vent holes is first priority. Water also can enter from the gaps of the touchpad, USB ports, charging port, Thunderbolt port and HDMI port. Since these gaps are very small, the water entered is limited.

Drain the MacBook while waiting for professional MacBook water damage repair.

There are two methods of draining a water damage MacBook.

First Method

The first method is to flip your MacBook into a tent position to drain. This allows gravity to pull the water back toward the keyboard, away from the delicate parts inside, and out of the laptop.

If your Mac laptop is a pre-2018 MacBook Air or a Pre-2013 MacBook Pro with a non-retina screen, this method will work for you. This method is easy and effective on those older MacBook models as the screens are watertight.

However, if you have a MacBook with retina screen, don’t use the “tent” method. In order to make the new retina screens thinner, lighter and maximise the viewable section, Apple got rid of the bulky aluminium frame and protective glass. The new retina screens are NOT water-resistant. If you put this type of screen in “tent” position, you may help to distribute the water from the bottom edge to the optical (reflective) film inside the screen. The affected screen may still be functional, but the watermarks on the background heavily affect the image quality.

Second Method

The second method we discuss below can be used for all type of MacBook screens. It will guaranty the water not getting into inside the screen.

Open MacBook lid at an angle of 90 degrees. Place it on the edge of a benchtop with the MacBook screen facing down to the bench and keyboard section hanging over the edge as shown in the photo below. Since the screen lays flat on the table, the water will not move into inside the screen and will be dried up quicker. Protect the screen by putting a kitchen paper towel under the MacBook screen panel and prevent the MacBook from falling over the benchtop.

All mac laptops follow this design layout: the logic board is under the keyboard and the battery is under the touchpad. The gravity will pull the remaining water from the keyboard towards the touchpad section, and finally off the MacBook case. Any water that has already got into the logic board will also be pulled into a less vulnerable section. With the bottom cover removed, the water damage MacBook should be dried after 24 hours.

Warning!!!

If you spilled water on MacBook Air 2018 or MacBook Pro 2016 onwards models, do not open the lid. Once you open the lid, the MacBook will automatically power up again unless you have already disconnected the battery from the logic board. This “automatically powering up” is the new feature of the latest MacBook design. Follow the same procedure to shut down the laptop if you accidentally open it. Disconnecting the internal battery from these new MacBook models is a bit complicated and is beyond the ability of a non-technical person.

Leave it off for 48 straight hours. Do not be tempted to turn it back on before this time lapses. This lessens the impact of water damage because there’s no current within that’s being transferred from component to component. Turn the machine over, and let it rest on a pillow, while still off, for the water to get pulled out completely.

You can now go to a specialist who will assess your laptop for any damages on your logic board. If your warranty is still applicable, take advantage of it at this point.

A good repair shop will use ultrasonic cleaning machines or powerful solvents to clean the components thoroughly.

What not to do

Do not turn it back on. As noted earlier, when water and electrical currents within your MacBook meet, they can be destructive. Keep the laptop off until it’s dry.

Do not shake the water damaged MacBook, particularly if the water is already in the hinge section. Doing this will only spread the water around and force the water into dedicate components such as the BGA balls of the CPU or the backlight film of the screen.

Forget the hair dryer or using urban legend of uncooked rice methods

The little devil on your shoulder may be whispering to you to get a hair dryer or use the uncooked rice method to hasten the drying process. Don’t do it!

This will only cause static problems so let it air-dry for forty-eight hours in a warm, dry area.

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How to safeguard your MacBook in the future

We recommend investing in a waterproof laptop skin with ventilation holes for both halves of the case, a clear plastic or silicone keyboard cover, and a waterproof screen protector.

You’ll probably want to keep that bottle or glass of water further away next time.

Spilled water on a MacBook Air or Pro is a very common Mac disaster. If you found this guide helpful, why don’t you share it on social media with your friends and colleagues? They may need it one day.

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