The black screen of death, sometimes abbreviated as BSoD or BSOD, refers to when a computer abruptly stops working and displays a black screen. This is usually accompanied by a cryptic error message containing hexadecimal codes. The black screen indicates the computer has suffered a critical system failure and must be restarted.
While the exact causes can vary, a few common culprits behind BSODs are faulty hardware, buggy device drivers, malware, failing hard drives, overheating, and corrupted system files. However, some wonder if spilling water or liquid on a computer could also lead to the dreaded black screen. Let’s take a closer look at whether water can cause the black screen of death.
What Happens When Water Is Spilled on a Computer?
Liquid spills are a common hazard for electronics like laptops and desktop computers. With their many cracks and openings, it’s easy for small amounts of liquid to seep down into the internal components. Water, coffee, soda, juice – any type of liquid can damage computer hardware if enough gets inside.
When water or another liquid comes into contact with the computer’s electronic components, a few different problems can occur:
One of the biggest dangers is liquid causing short circuits on the computer’s internal printed circuit boards (PCBs). The motherboard and other PCBs have many exposed conductive traces very close together. If water bridges the gaps between adjacent traces, it can create shorts and improper current flows. These shorts can immediately shut down components or gradually corrode connection points over time.
Exposing metal electronic components to moisture causes oxidation and corrosion relatively quickly. Even small amounts of water can start corroding the metal contacts and leads in chips, processors, RAM, and other components. Corrosion degrades connections and can permanently damage parts over time.
Water can interfere with proper functioning even without shorting or corroding components right away. The water itself can get in the way of electrical contacts, connections, and signals. Drops of water cause interference by making components act erratically or inconsistently.
If enough water reaches the computer’s hard drive or solid state drive, it can ruin the drive and make data inaccessible. Water exposure can cause the drive heads to fail, warp the drive platters, or simply prevent the computer from properly accessing and reading the data.
After the water dries, it can leave behind mineral deposits and residue. This sticky residue can hold onto dust and debris, and continue interfering with sensitive electronics and signals down the line.
Can Water Cause a Black Screen of Death?
With all the havoc water can wreak on computer components and operation, it’s no surprise that liquid spills are a potential cause of the black screen of death. Here are a few ways water damage can lead to a BSOD on your computer:
Immediate Short Circuit
If enough water strikes just the right spots, it can immediately short critical system components. Shorting the motherboard, CPU, RAM, or other vital parts can instantly crash the operating system and cause a black screen.
Gradual Component Failure
Short circuits don’t necessarily happen right away. But water causing corrosion or inconsistent contacts can gradually worsen over hours or days of use. Eventually, a malfunctioning component like corroded RAM or a damaged chip can crash the system with a BSOD.
Hard Drive Failure
One of the most common causes of the black screen is the hard drive failing. And since water can easily damage hard drives and make data unreadable, liquid damage to the drive can definitely cause a black screen.
The BIOS chip stores important system configuration settings and code the computer needs to start up. If water leaks onto the motherboard and corrupts the BIOS, critical low-level functions could fail and lead to black screen issues.
Stuck in Sleep Mode
Liquid may not damage anything severely at first. But moisture interfering with electrical contacts could confuse the system and cause it to get stuck cycling in and out of sleep mode with a black screen.
How to Recover from a Black Screen Caused by Water
If your computer encounters the black screen of death after getting exposed to liquid, all hope may not be lost. Here are some tips for recovering data and functionality after water causes BSOD:
Immediately Power Off and Disconnect
As soon as you notice water has been spilled on a computer, quickly power it off and disconnect it from any power source. This can help prevent further damage from occurring while powered on.
Open the Case and Dry Components
Carefully open up the computer case to access the inside. Use a hair dryer on a low, warm setting to dry out any exposed components. Be sure to keep the fan moving to prevent overheating any one spot.
Remove the Hard Drive
Take the hard drive out and detach it from the computer. Use rubber seals to prevent air getting inside the hard drive housing. Carefully dry the drive with towels. The goal is to dry it enough without damaging internal platters.
Remove the CMOS Battery
The CMOS battery powers the BIOS chip. Removing it for 15-30 minutes will help clear any corrupted BIOS settings caused by water exposure.
Clean with Isopropyl Alcohol
Use 90% isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs to gently clean accessible components. This will displace any remaining water and dissolve mineral deposits or residue. Be sure to let all alcohol fully dry before powering back on.
Reseat Components and Cables
Remove and reinsert hardware components like RAM and expansion cards. Double check all cable connections too. This ensures good contacts and avoids any false loose connections.
Try an External Monitor
Connect the computer to an external display via HDMI, DisplayPort, etc. Sometimes liquid affects the integrated laptop display before other components. An external monitor can help pinpoint the issue.
Test Components Individually
If possible, try testing components like the RAM, GPU, HDD separately in another system. This can confirm which parts failed due to water exposure. Replace damaged parts.
Attempt Data Recovery
For hard drives that fail to boot, try professional data recovery services. Removing disks from damaged machines and using specialized tools can sometimes salvage data.
Best Practices to Prevent Water Damage
While a spilled drink can sometimes be unavoidable, there are a few precautions you can take to avoid liquid damage in the first place:
– Keep drinks away from your computer and use bottles or cups with lids.
– Never eat or drink directly over your keyboard.
– Close drinks and cap bottles when not actively drinking to prevent accidental spilling.
– Keep your work area free of clutter to avoid knocking over containers.
– Install an aquarium screen protector to help keep minor spills from reaching the keyboard.
– Disable drinks around laptops to prevent spills when mobile.
– Carry laptops in a protective case and store in waterproof bags.
– Shut down and unplug devices if there is risk of major water exposure.
– Keep computers on elevated surfaces in basements or other flood prone areas.
– Utilize silicone covers for keyboards when in very wet environments.
Water and electronics don’t mix well, so liquid spills pose a legitimate risk for causing the black screen of death on computers. Water can immediately short circuit components or gradually cause corrosion over time. This physical damage can crash the operating system, corrupt the BIOS, fail the hard drive, and lead to the dreaded BSOD. Being mindful to prevent liquid exposure and properly drying affected devices can help recover from water-related BSODs. With proper precautions, you can enjoy your drink without having to worry about damaging your computer.