If you accidentally spill water or another liquid on your MacBook, you may be wondering if it can still work afterwards. The short answer is maybe, but it depends on a few key factors.
What to do right after a liquid spill on MacBook
First things first, if you just spilled a liquid on your MacBook, you’ll want to take action right away to give yourself the best chance of saving it:
- Immediately unplug all cables and turn off the MacBook. You don’t want to risk short circuiting it while there’s liquid inside.
- Quickly flip over the MacBook and shake it gently to drain out as much liquid as possible through any openings or vents.
- If possible, stand the MacBook on its side and let it air dry for at least 24-48 hours before attempting to turn it on again. This gives time for any residual moisture to evaporate.
- Don’t try turning the MacBook on until you’re sure all liquid has had time to dry. Attempting to power up a wet laptop can cause short circuiting and permanent damage.
Liquid spill damage depends on the type of liquid
The type of liquid spilled makes a big difference in how much it can potentially damage your MacBook internals:
- Water – Water can cause short-circuiting damage but is less likely to leave behind sticky residue. If you act quick to dry out the laptop, water damage may be reversible.
- Sugary drinks – Soda, juice, coffee and other sugary beverages can short circuit components and leave behind sticky residue that can permanently gum up moving parts.
- Alcohol – Alcohol can more easily penetrate below the keyboard into the electronics and can permanently damage electronic circuits.
Where the liquid spilled matters
Where on your MacBook the liquid ended up will determine which components got doused and therefore how severely it’s damaged:
- The keyboard – Liquid spilled here can seep beneath keys and reach the motherboard causing shorts, but the keyboard is replaceable.
- Vents on the bottom case – Liquid getting into internal components can cause corrosion but may not impact functionality right away.
- Near ports on the sides – External ports can corrode but are simple to replace. The main logic board may be protected.
- Inside the screen – A damaged screen is expensive to replace. Liquid inside can kill pixels, leaving dark spots.
Signs your MacBook survived liquid damage
If you’ve dried out your MacBook for at least 48 hours after a spill and are ready to test it, here are some signs it may have survived relatively unscathed:
- It powers up and boots to the login screen as normal.
- The trackpad and keyboard buttons are responsive.
- You don’t observe any visual glitches or discoloration on the screen.
- It’s able to run on battery power without immediately shutting down.
- It can maintain a steady WiFi and Bluetooth connection.
- Ports like USB-A, Thunderbolt, and the headphone jack seem to function.
- The built-in speakers and microphone work properly.
If your MacBook exhibits all or most of these signs, there’s a good chance it survived without serious liquid damage.
Problems that indicate liquid damage
On the other hand, here are some issues that tend to indicate your MacBook did sustain more serious water or liquid damage:
- You hear popping or buzzing noises from inside the laptop.
- It automatically shuts down quickly after booting up.
- There’s visible corrosion around ports or vents.
- The screen flickers, shows artifacts, or has dead pixels.
- The keyboard or individual keys become unresponsive.
- You get unexpected repeated crashes or kernel panics.
- It won’t start up at all, even after drying out for over 48 hours.
These types of issues likely mean liquid reached and damaged internal components. Attempting DIY repairs probably won’t restore proper functionality.
When to take your MacBook to the Apple Store
If your MacBook isn’t functioning normally after drying out from a spill for at least 2 days, it’s best to take it to an Apple store or authorized service provider. An Apple Genius can help determine if specialized repair or replacement of parts is feasible for your situation.
Be upfront that your device got wet when you bring it in for service—they’ll need to take precautions against corrosion or shorts. The technicians can open it up in a way you can’t safely do yourself to inspect the internal damage.
Depending on what components were affected, the solutions could range from:
- Cleaning corrosion from the logic board and removing any residue.
- Reseating internal cables that may have come loose.
- Replacing the keyboard or trackpad if liquid seeped beneath.
- Swapping out the battery if it won’t hold a charge.
- Surgical component-level repair of shorted-out ports or connectors.
For more serious liquid damage that corroded integrated circuits, full replacement of the logic board or other main components may be necessary. The Genius Bar can let you know if that’s the case after diagnosing.
Cost of repairing liquid damage on a MacBook
The cost to repair liquid damage on a MacBook can vary widely based on what parts need to be replaced. Here are some typical costs if you don’t have AppleCare+:
|Logic board repair||$500+|
|Full logic board replacement||$1000+|
Liquid damage is not covered by Apple’s standard 1-year limited warranty. So unless you purchased AppleCare+ coverage, you’ll pay out of pocket.
Should you repair or replace after water damage?
Given the high cost of repairs through Apple for significant liquid damage, you may be faced with a dilemma: Should I pay to fix my current MacBook, or put that money towards a brand new model?
Here are a few factors to help decide if you should repair or replace:
- If the repair costs exceed around 60% of the value of a new MacBook, replacement may be more cost effective.
- How old is your current MacBook? Repair is less worth it for an older model nearing the end of its useful life.
- Do you need your laptop back urgently for work or school? Repair may be faster than replacing.
- Will you enjoy having the latest MacBook model and OS? If so, replacement may give you more long-term satisfaction.
Precautions to take after water damage repair
If you do get your MacBook repaired after liquid damage, keep these precautions in mind for the future:
- Closely monitor battery performance – it may have reduced capacity or begin swelling sooner.
- Check for signs of corrosion around ports and vents over time.
- Consider using a silicone keyboard cover to block future spills.
- Keep drinks well away from your work area when using the laptop.
- Back up your data frequently in case liquid causes failure down the road.
How to protect your MacBook from liquid spills
To avoid costly MacBook liquid damage in the first place, keep these prevention tips in mind:
- Don’t eat or drink over or next to your laptop.
- Keep drinks in sealable bottles/mugs with lids when using your MacBook.
- Close your MacBook whenever you walk away from your workstation.
- Shut down and store your MacBook away from your workspace after use.
- Consider a waterproof case or cover if you frequently use your laptop on the go.
- Don’t use your laptop outdoors during rain or snow.
- Keep your MacBook out of bathrooms or other areas where it could get splashed.
Liquid damage doesn’t necessarily mean a death sentence for your MacBook. If you act quickly after a spill to dry it out, there’s a decent chance it can be revived after a couple days. But if you do notice ongoing problems after the fact, take it to Apple right away for proper diagnosis and repair to limit further damage. And be diligent about prevention by keeping drinks away from your laptop to avoid a heartbreaking mishap in the first place.