What happens to a water damaged laptop?

Water damage is one of the most common ways laptops get damaged. Even a small amount of water can cause major issues for a laptop. When liquid comes into contact with the internal components of a laptop, it can short circuit the system and cause corrosion over time. Understanding what happens when a laptop gets wet and how to best handle water damage can help you make the right decisions to possibly save your laptop.

What are the immediate effects of water damage on a laptop?

When water first gets inside a laptop, some immediate effects will likely occur right away. Here are some of the common immediate effects of water damage on a laptop:

  • The laptop may shut down suddenly if water reaches the internal components and shorts out the system.
  • You may see odd visual distortions or noises from the speakers if water touches the integrated circuits.
  • The keyboard, trackpad, or buttons may stop responding if water seeps underneath.
  • You may notice smoky or burnt smells if the water causes short circuiting.
  • Cracked or damaged parts. Water can quickly damage fragile electronic parts and loosen glues.

The immediate effects really depend on how much water gets inside and where it reaches. Small drips of water may only cause minimal damage at first, while spilling a full glass of water on a laptop can immediately fry the entire motherboard. Immediate effects are a good indicator of how severe the water damage is.

What happens over time after water damage inside a laptop?

While the immediate effects of water damage are often noticeable right away, the long-term effects take time to manifest:

  • Corrosion: One of the biggest long-term issues is corrosion of the metal components. As the water reacts with metal contacts and copper traces, corrosion begins to develop.
  • Short circuits: Water can create short circuit pathways even if the laptop still powers on initially. These shorts can suddenly crop up later causing shutdowns or strange behavior.
  • Mineral deposits: Minerals in the water can be left behind as the water evaporates, leading to buildup on circuits over time.
  • Degradation: Water can degrade components like the battery and connectors, leading to reduced performance.
  • Growth of mold: Excess moisture from water damage promotes mold growth inside a laptop over time in some cases.

Every component inside a laptop is at risk from long-term water damage. The effects progressively get worse over time and can lead to complete failure later on. Even if a laptop powers on at first, it’s very likely problems will pop up down the road if it got wet.

Which laptop components are most vulnerable to water damage?

Certain parts inside a laptop are especially prone to water damage problems. Here are some of the most vulnerable components:

  • Motherboard: The motherboard is very susceptible to short circuiting and corrosion since it contains many small circuits and metal traces.
  • Processor: The CPU chip contains many close-set contacts that water can bridge together, causing shorts and operational issues.
  • Memory: RAM sticks and memory slots are very vulnerable to corrosion and mineral buildup from water.
  • Hard drive: Water can stop mechanical hard drives from spinning properly and cause electrical shorts in SSDs.
  • Battery: Water can short out battery cells and also degrade metallic electrical contacts.

Components like the keyboard, trackpad, display panel, and integrated circuits are also at high risk from liquid damage. Really no part of a laptop is safe if enough water manages to get inside.

What factors determine the severity of water damage on a laptop?

Several different factors come into play that determine how severe water damage on a laptop ends up being:

  • Amount of water – More water raises the severity and immediate risks. Even small amounts can cause long-term issues though.
  • Water composition – Saltwater and mineral-heavy water corrode more aggressively than pure filtered water.
  • Power state – Powered off laptops see less short circuiting but still endure corrosion.
  • Time to dry – Fast drying right after water exposure minimizes damage but does not eliminate it.
  • Entry points – Damage is worse if water seeps under the keyboard into the interior versus only hitting exterior surfaces.

Evaluating these factors helps determine how much damage the laptop is likely to have sustained. Quickly spilled drinks around the keyboard tend to be less damaging than a powered-on laptop getting fully submerged in a tub, for example.

What are some common myths about water damaged laptops?

There are a lot of misconceptions people have about water damaged laptops. Here are some common myths:

  • Myth: If it still powers on, there’s no damage done.

    Fact: A laptop can power on but have lots of unseen corrosion that will eventually fail.
  • Myth: The rice trick dries out all the water and fixes it.

    Fact: Rice only absorbs some surface moisture, it does not draw water out from inside chips or slots.
  • Myth: Rubbing alcohol displaces water and dries out a wet laptop.

    Fact: Alcohol can dissolve residues but it also causes further damage to many laptop parts.
  • Myth: If it boots up, there’s no water left inside.

    Fact: A laptop can seem to work normally but still have droplets trapped internally.

It’s important to fully understand water damage instead of relying on dubious home remedies and false assumptions. Your laptop needs proper repairs after getting wet, even if it seems fine at first.

What are the steps for handling a water damaged laptop?

If your laptop gets exposed to liquid, follow these steps for the best chance of saving it:

  1. Immediately power off the laptop and unplug it from any power source.
  2. Dry off any exterior water but do not shake it around harshly.
  3. Remove any wet batteries or modules you can access without tools.
  4. Place the laptop upside down at an angle to encourage drainage.
  5. Allow it to dry completely for at least 24-48 hours.
  6. After drying, try to power it on to check functionality.
  7. If it works, backup data immediately and replace parts like the battery.
  8. If it’s not working, take it to a repair shop and explain the water damage for proper inspection.

Avoid powered-on testing, rice tricks, or diy water extractions. Be sure to ask a repair technician to look for hidden corrosion and damage even if it seems fine.

Is it possible to fix a water damaged laptop?

Water damaged laptops can often be repaired, but the extent of the damage determines whether it’s worth fixing or not. Here are some factors that improve the odds of cost-effective repair:

  • Minimal water exposure – Short spills have a better prognosis than submersion.
  • Fast drying – Less corrosion occurs if dried fast.
  • No power during exposure – Short circuit damage is minimized.
  • Newer laptop model – Replacement parts are easier to find.
  • DIY feasible repairs – Battery or keyboard swaps are cheaper fixes.

For older laptops with extensive damage, replacement may be a better option than sinking money into intricate repairs. Newer laptops with minor damage can often be repaired cost-effectively by a skilled technician.

What types of repairs may be needed for a water damaged laptop?

The repairs needed depend on the extent of the water damage. Here are some examples of common repairs for water damaged laptops:

  • Cleaning corrosion from the motherboard
  • Replacing shorted out integrated circuits
  • Removing mineral deposits from components
  • Swapping out damaged memory modules
  • Fixing degraded battery cells
  • Replacing the keyboard or trackpad
  • Repairing damaged ports
  • Fixing display panel issues

The repairs can range from simple cleaning to full motherboard replacement. Technicians will need to open up the laptop and inspect the interior damage. Costs add up quickly if many components need replacement.

How much does it cost to repair a water damaged laptop?

The cost to repair a water damaged laptop can range quite a bit based on the required repairs:

  • Minor cleaning/drying – $50-$150
  • Keyboard replacement – $100-$200
  • Battery replacement – $50-$150
  • Motherboard repairs – $200-$500
  • Full motherboard replacement – $400-$700
  • Completely rebuilding laptop – $500+

Factors like labor rates, laptop model, part availability, and diagnostic fees also impact the final cost. Extensive damage often exceeds the value of an older laptop.

Can I repair a water damaged laptop myself?

It’s possible to do some DIY repairs yourself on a water damaged laptop, but risks are high if you damage components attempting fixes. Some feasible DIY options include:

  • Drying out exterior and openings
  • Removing batteries and modules
  • Cleaning corrosion from accessible areas
  • Replacing external parts like keyboards
  • Checking for obvious loose connectors
  • Swapping hard drives into an enclosure

Any internal repairs involving disassembly carries a lot of risk without proper training and tools. Motherboard-level repairs are very challenging DIY. Seek professional assistance for anything major.

How can I prevent water damage to my laptop?

You can take some simple precautions to minimize the risk of any liquids damaging your laptop:

  • Avoid eating or drinking around your laptop.
  • Carry it in a protective case when moving around.
  • Keep drinks and plants away from it on your desk.
  • Close any drinks before putting them near your laptop.
  • Ensure kids and pets don’t have access to knock over drinks.
  • Consider a waterproof skin or sleeve if you’ll use it outside.
  • Inspect rubber seals around ports and covers to prevent ingress.
  • Always dry your hands before using your laptop.

Be careful around sinks, tubs, pools, and other wet environments. One small slip up could lead to a permanently damaged laptop if liquid gets on the internals.


Water damaged laptops can exhibit immediate failure or slowly declining issues over time as corrosion spreads. Quick action right after a spill to dry a powered-off laptop can sometimes save it, but true water damage requires professional repair. Component replacement and board-level cleaning are often needed, which gets expensive fast. Prevention is far easier than attempting to repair water damage after the fact. Be careful around liquids and act swiftly if an accident happens to give your laptop the best chance of survival with minimal harm.

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