Water damage is one of the most common ways laptops get damaged. Even a small amount of water can cause serious issues for a laptop’s internal components. In this article, we’ll examine the leading causes of water damage to laptops and how to prevent it.
Spilling Drinks on a Laptop
One of the most obvious causes of water damage is spilling drinks onto a laptop. Beverages like coffee, soda, tea, or juice can quickly seep into a laptop’s inner workings. Even a minor spill can lead to shorts in the motherboard, corrosion, or failure of key components.
Laptops are especially vulnerable to spills because their keyboards have spaces between the keys that allow liquid to flow inside. A mere thimble-full of a drink is enough to cause catastrophic damage if it reaches the motherboard or other electronics.
Why are laptops so sensitive to spills? The main issue is that most laptops have components packed tightly together in a compact space. The motherboard, processor, RAM, hard drive, and other parts are all clustered beneath the keyboard. Liquid can flow between gaps in the case or keyboard and drip onto sensitive electronics, causing a short circuit.
Once a laptop is exposed to liquid, problems can show up immediately or gradually over time. Short-term effects include the device not powering on, displays flickering, or the keyboard malfunctioning. Longer-term damage can include corrosion of the motherboard, permanent data loss, and complete system failure.
Preventing Spill Damage
The best way to avoid damage from spills is to keep all drinks well away from your laptop. Never place cups, bottles, glasses, or mugs on the same surface as a laptop. Spills can happen in an instant, so it’s best to completely avoid the risk.
If you must have a beverage nearby, keep it on a separate table or surface. Likewise, refrain from eating or snacking while using your laptop to prevent accidental spills.
For additional protection, invest in a waterproof laptop cover or keyboard cover. These protective layers shield your laptop’s most vulnerable areas from moisture penetration.
Using a Laptop in the Rain
Exposing a laptop to rain or extreme humidity can also allow damaging moisture to creep in. Laptops left out in the rain run the risk of water getting into openings and gaps in the casing.
For example, raindrops may enter through the keyboard, the ports, the air vents, or any cracked sections of the case. If enough moisture accumulates internally, it can short circuit the motherboard and other components.
Water from rain can immediately cause a laptop to malfunction or shut down. But over time, the residual moisture can lead to corrosion, damaged circuits, or permanent component failure.
Avoiding Rain Exposure
The easiest way to prevent rainstorm damage is to keep your laptop away from rain altogether. Never leave it outdoors or in a humid area during wet weather.
If you get caught outside and need to protect your laptop from rain, find shelter right away. Get under an awning, inside a building, or in a waterproof vehicle or bag. A water-resistant laptop case or cover can also guard your device from light precipitation.
Furthermore, refrain from using your laptop outdoors when storms are forecasted. Check the weather before heading out and simply leave your device at home if rain is expected.
Using a Laptop Near Bodies of Water
Using a laptop poolside, at the beach, or on a boat can also be risky. All it takes is a rogue splash of water or some sea spray to damage your device.
For instance, placing a laptop too close to the edge of a pool exposes it to splashing. A stray beach ball or enthusiastic swimmer can generate enough water to get inside your laptop. On a boat, ocean spray and mist may collect on your device if left out in the open.
As little as a teaspoon of water in the wrong spot can cause big problems. If your laptop gets frequently splashed at the pool or beach, failure is inevitable.
Keeping Your Laptop Safe Near Water
The safest strategy is to avoid using your laptop around pools of open water altogether. Leave it locked away in a dry place whenever you head to the beach or boat.
If you must use your laptop around water, position it several feet back from any water source. Keep it elevated off wet surfaces and shielded from splashing. Aim fans away from your device so airborne water droplets don’t collect on its surface.
A protective waterproof case can also help safeguard your laptop from minor splashes. Never rely solely on these cases for full water protection, but they do provide an extra layer of safety.
Laptop Falls into Liquid
Many liquid disasters happen when a powered-on laptop is accidentally dropped into a sink, tub, or toilet. Even a brief submersion can be catastrophic if circuits short and voltage flows through components.
Dropping a laptop into a tub full of water, for example, immediately exposes internal parts to moisture. Liquids can rapidly infiltrate the keyboard, ports, and other entry points. Within seconds, the motherboard and other electronics may short circuit and fail.
The longer a laptop stays submerged, the more extensive the damage. A quick dip may only cause temporary failure as circuits dry out. But a prolonged soak likely leads to permanent component damage or total malfunction.
Preventing Drop Damage
Avoid using your laptop in areas where it could slip or easily fall into liquid. Keep your device away from sinks, tubs, hot tubs, pools, and other wet environments.
Additionally, refrain from placing open containers of liquid on the same tables or surfaces as your laptop. Knocking over a glass of water onto your device can spell disaster.
If you must use your laptop near open water sources, keep it at a safe distance or elevate it. Also consider investing in a waterproof laptop case for protection in risky environments.
Laptop Left in the Rain
Many water catastrophes happen when laptops are inadvertently left out in the rain. If you leave your device on a patio table or in a car during storms, rain can collect and penetrate the casing.
Most modern laptops can withstand minor splashes or sprays, but leaving one out in heavy rain is problematic. The longer the exposure, the more moisture seeps in through cracks and openings.
For example, if a laptop is left overnight in a downpour, pools of water may collect in the keyboard or trackpad. Enough liquid can reach electronic components to cause short circuiting and corrosion.
Safeguarding Your Laptop from Rain
Always check the weather forecast and bring your laptop inside well before storms arrive. Leaving it unattended during rains, even for short periods, is risky.
When a storm hits unexpectedly, immediately retrieve your laptop and any accessories from patios, cars, or other outdoor areas.
A waterproof laptop case adds an extra layer of protection if you get caught in surprise showers. But it’s still best to shut down your laptop and move somewhere dry at the first sign of rain.
Faulty Internal Plumbing
Rarely, water damage to laptops happens due to internal plumbing issues. If liquid leaks inside the laptop’s casing, it can create serious problems.
Some potential causes of internal moisture include:
- Defective internal tubing or water channels
- Clogged ventilation ports causing condensation
- Malfunctioning cooling system leaks
- Faulty internal valve seals
- Cracked internal reservoirs
Most modern laptops contain carefully engineered pathways for channeling small amounts of cooling liquid. But manufacturing defects can lead to leaks from these internal plumbing systems.
For example, defective tubing near the CPU may crack and release droplets of coolant. A faulty valve seal could also begin to drip fluid onto internal components.
Any amount of unintended moisture inside a tightly-packed laptop can lead to short circuiting or rust. However, these types of internal leaks are relatively rare unless a device has a defective design or construction.
Avoiding Internal Leaks
As an end user, there is little you can do to prevent internal system leaks. But you can take your laptop to an repair shop at the first sign of moisture inside the casing.
Symptoms of internal leaks may include condensation under the screen, visible moisture inside the case, intermittent system failures, or noises from water sloshing around internally.
If an internal plumbing defect is detected early, replacement of leaky tubing and drying of components may be all that’s needed. But substantial internal moisture can necessitate replacing the motherboard or entire device.
Seeking prompt repair service gives you the best chance of resolving an internal leak before major damage occurs.
Water and laptops are a disastrous combination. Spills, exposure to rain and moisture, and submersion can all lead to permanent device damage and component failure. The best protection is keeping liquids well away from your laptop at all times.
Safe habits like using a protective case, avoiding use around standing water, and storing your laptop away from rain can help prevent many mishaps. But accidents do occur, so try to get help right away if your device does get wet. Rapid action gives you the best chance of saving your laptop from a watery demise.