Water damage is one of the most common ways computers get broken. If a laptop or desktop gets wet, it can cause major issues like electrical shorts, corrosion, and permanent component damage. But with the right steps, there’s a good chance you can revive a water-logged computer and get it working again.
What causes water damage in computers?
There are a few main ways computers typically get exposed to water:
- Spilling liquids directly on a laptop
- Small amounts of liquid seeping into a laptop over time
- Exposing a computer to rain or humidity
- Submerging a computer in water partially or fully
Any of these situations can cause moisture to get inside the computer and come into contact with electronic components and circuitry. A little bit of water can cause oxidation and corrosion over time. But if enough water shorts out the electronics, it can immediately fry components and render the computer unusable.
How does water damage electronics?
Water itself doesn’t damage electronics directly. The real problems come from:
- Short circuits – Water can bridge connections between components and circuit board traces, creating shorts. This instantly disrupts power flow in unpredictable ways.
- Corrosion – With electrical current and oxygen present, water promotes corrosion reactions. This degrades metallic traces, pins, and component leads over time.
- Mineral deposits – Minerals in tap water get left behind as water evaporates. These deposits can interfere with connections and lead to malfunctions.
Additionally, residue left behind after water dries can gum up moving parts like fans and drives. In severe cases, water can physically wash away protective coatings on circuit boards exposing them to even more damage.
Can rice help dry out and fix wet electronics?
Placing wet electronics in rice is a popular idea for absorbing moisture. However, rice has limited effectiveness for a few reasons:
- Rice absorbs very slowly and incompletely. Electronics have many tight spaces that rice grains can’t penetrate.
- Rice particles left behind may get stuck and interfere with operations.
- Rice does nothing to displace water trapped under ICs and other components.
- Rice does not prevent corrosion from starting as electronics remain wet.
Rice won’t make things worse, but it’s often ineffective. For best results, use purpose-made desiccant pouches or packs designed to thoroughly dry out electronics.
How to dry out and fix a wet computer
Here are the basic steps to give you the best chance of reviving a water damaged computer:
- Remove power and battery immediately – This is crucial to prevent short circuit damage as soon as leakage is discovered.
- Drain excess liquid – Carefully shake out and wipe down to remove any standing moisture on the outside.
- Disassemble if possible – The more you can take apart, the better you can dry each component. Consult repair guides for your specific model.
- Dry with desiccant packs – Bury the computer’s parts in desiccant pouches. Silica gel and other agents will absorb moisture out of tight spaces and circuitry.
- Use isopropyl alcohol – For corrosion removal, clean accessible contacts and traces with 90% or higher isopropyl alcohol using cotton swabs.
- Let dry for 3-5 days minimum – Allow sufficient time for moisture in inaccessible areas to completely evaporate before reassembly.
- Check for and clean corrosion – Inspect components once dry and scrub away any visible oxidation or mineral buildup.
- Reassemble and test – Once completely dry, put everything back together and try turning it on. Components damaged beyond repair will make themselves known.
With quick action, thorough drying, cleaning, and patience you stand a good chance of bringing a water damaged computer back from the brink. Just be aware that liquid spills do sometimes permanently destroy parts that cannot be repaired.
What computer parts are most vulnerable to water damage?
These components are most prone to water related failure:
- Motherboard – Critical failure point when traces corrode, short circuit, or lose conductive coating.
- HDD/SSD – Internal moisture can catastrophically damage platters and electronics.
- Power supply – High voltage shorts can permanently fuse components.
- Keyboard – Extremely fragile traces and switches.
- Display – LG panels susceptible to leaking edge seals. LED backlights fail when soaked.
- Ports – Corrosion in small port connectors can cut connectivity.
- Fans – Bearings and windings are not water resistant.
Batteries, processors, RAM and expansion cards are somewhat more water resistant. But any component can fail if exposed to moisture over time.
Best practices to prevent computer water damage
It’s much easier to prevent a problem than try to fix it. Follow these pro tips to shield your computer from leaks:
- Never eat or drink over or next to your computer.
- Keep computers away from sink splash zones in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Don’t use laptops outside when rain is possible.
- Allow wet bags and umbrellas to fully dry before bringing near computers.
- Make sure water-cooled gaming rigs are expertly assembled with no loose fittings.
- Never stack beverage containers on desks or tables holding computers.
- Keep computers on elevated stands or surfaces in basements at risk for minor flooding.
- Position laptops to avoid lid-closed condensation fromadjacent water glasses.
Be vigilant about liquids around any running computer system. One small spill or leak can result in an expensive repair bill or total loss of precious data if damage is severe.
Can spilled liquid type affect computer damage?
All liquids can potentially damage computers if enough gets inside. However some spill risks are worth noting:
|Coffee, tea, juice
|Soda, energy drinks
Water, coffee, and tea are some of the worst offenders because:\
- They are frequently consumed around computers increasing risk.
- They rapidly penetrate small openings due to low viscosity.
- They commonly cause immediate shorts, beyond just corrosion over time.
Soda and energy drinks have slightly lower short circuit risk, but higher corrosion potential from acids and sugars. Alcohols evaporate quickly limiting duration of electrical contact. Lotions and dairy products can congeal and leave residue but typically don’t permeate tightly on their own. Nonetheless, spills of any kind should be addressed ASAP.
Do liquid spills always break computers immediately?
Not necessarily. There are a few scenarios where liquid damage may not be instantly catastrophic:
- Powered off – No active current flow prevents temporary shorts. However corrosion can still occur over hours-days powered off.
- Low permeability case – Some water resistant designs prevent liquid penetrating to components.
- Small spill surface – Partial coverage versus immersed, providing temporary protection.
- Quick wipe down – Fast reaction can stop liquid reaching interior before major damage.
However, you can’t rely on these factors to prevent issues. Over time moisture infiltrates tiny spaces leading to reliability problems or sudden failure down the road. Assume computer exposure to any liquid requires thorough inspection and cleaning.
What should you do if you spill liquid on a computer?
Immediate reaction is key to limit the extent of damage:
- Remove AC power cord and battery.
- Gently wipe exterior clean with absorbent cloth.
- Shake out computer and tap out moisture from openings.
- Leave off minimum 24 hours in dry location.
- Follow full water damage repair steps before turning back on.
Don’t turn on, recharge, or attempt to use a liquid spilled computer until you complete thorough internal cleaning and drying. Prematurely powering back on risks short circuit damage.
Is it safe to turn on a computer that got wet?
It’s never completely safe to apply power before properly addressing a water spill for the following reasons:
- Residual moisture creates short risk, especially at high voltages.
- Leak paths allow short circuits around voltage protection measures.
- Corrosion may progressively cut traces over time.
- Damage to components can release magic smoke.
If there is any doubt about internal wetness, let the system thoroughly air dry for at least 72 hours before re-energizing. Try to remove / disconnect as many wet components as practical beforehand.
Can you fix a computer with water damage yourself?
It’s often possible to successfully repair wet laptops and desktops yourself if you:
- Follow correct handling steps from the moment of liquid exposure.
- Have the right tools and supplies – screwdrivers, isopropyl alcohol, etc.
- Are comfortable disassembling your particular computer model.
- Can identify damaged components via inspection and testing.
- Source replacement parts for unsalvageable parts.
- Take precautions to avoid ESD and reassembly issues.
With patience and care, you can likely do the work yourself at lower cost. However, consider professional help if you don’t have the knowledge, experience, time or temperament.
How much does official liquid damage repair cost?
Expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $1000+ for professional water damage repair from computer manufacturers and service depots. Cost varies based on factors like:
|Minor – No component replacement
|Moderate – Some soldered parts replaced
|Major – Entire mb or critical parts replaced
Liquid damage assessment, troubleshooting, and repairs take time requiring extensive labor costs. And OEM replacement components themselves can be expensive.
Is leaked liquid damage covered by warranty?
Don’t expect most manufacturer warranties to cover liquid spills automatically. Many consider it user damage outside factory defect scope. Exceptions where it may pay to check coverage:
- Active AppleCare Protection Plan
- Premium extended third party warranties
- Credit card purchase protection
- Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance
Read policies closely for exclusions. Even covered plans may charge a service fee or deductible. Weigh this against doing DIY repairs.
Can liquid damage be fixed affordably by independent repair shops?
In many cases, independent repair pros can address water damaged computers for significantly less than the manufacturer, potentially as low as $100-200. Savings come from:
- Lower hourly labor rates
- Experience streamlining common repairs
- Access to wholesale or aftermarket parts
- More selective replacement only of faulty parts
Look for respected specialists with experience tackling water damage and soldering repairs. Avoid places that just swap entire logic boards.
What tools help fix water damaged electronics?
These affordable tools and supplies can help greatly in resuscitating wet gadgets:
|Isopropyl alcohol > 90%
|Low-temp heat gun
|Drying hidden areas
|Good soldering iron
Also invest in quality ESD tools, precision screwdrivers, tweezers, cleaning brushes, and magnifying lenses for electronics repair.
Can spilled liquids cause permanent damage?
Unfortunately, severe water exposure can indeed cause irreversible damage:
- Corroded traces can detach completely from circuit boards.
- Mineral deposits block tiny SMD component gaps.
- Shorts fry fragile controller chip internals.
- Oxidation eats through solder points until connections are totally gone.
Once traces and silicon circuits sustain physical degradation to this extent, the components must be fully replaced. This highlights the importance of immediate shutdown and fast drying whenever spills occur.
Liquid spills are one of the top threats to computer lifespan and reliability. But in many cases, quick action combined with thorough drying techniques enables damaged systems to make full recoveries. Know what to do if your laptop or desktop suffers a spill, and don’t give up hope. With some persistence and TLC, you stand an excellent chance of resuscitating wet electronics from the brink!