Why does my MacBook stop working after a water spill?

Spilling water or any other liquid on your MacBook can cause serious damage and make it stop working. When liquid gets inside the computer, it can cause short circuits, corrosion, and other issues with the internal components. In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why water damage stops a MacBook from working and what you can do after a spill.

How Does Water Damage a MacBook?

Water is very conductive, which means it can carry electricity. When water gets inside your MacBook and touches the internal components, it can cause shorts and bridging between circuits and components that are not meant to connect. This disrupts the flow of electricity and data within the computer.

Some of the specific ways water can damage a MacBook include:

  • Short circuiting the logic board – The logic board contains critical components like the processor and memory. If water gets on the logic board, it can short circuit and fry these delicate components.
  • Corroding metallic components – Many internal components are made of metals like copper and aluminum. When these get wet, corrosion can start quickly and degrade connections.
  • Interfering with connectors – Water can build up in connectors for things like the trackpad, keyboard, and ports. This can prevent electrical signals from transferring properly.
  • Damaging electronic coating – Many PCBs have a protective conformal coating. Water can make this coating peel or become conductive, leading to shorts.

Even a small amount of water can bridge gaps and create shorts between circuits it was never meant to touch. This leads to unpredictable operation and failures.

What MacBook Components are Damaged by Water?

There are several critical MacBook components that can be damaged by water exposure:

  • Logic Board – The logic board houses components like the CPU, RAM, and controllers. If it gets wet, shorts can permanently damage these parts.
  • SSD – The solid state drive stores all your data and programs. Water can corrode connectors and make data recovery impossible.
  • Trackpad – Water can seep under the trackpad and cause the cursor to act erratically or not move at all.
  • Keyboard – A spilled liquid that seeps into a MacBook keyboard can short individual keys or prevent key presses from registering.
  • Speakers – Speakers have small electromagnets that can be damaged by water exposure and stop working.
  • Battery – While rare, water could short the battery, causing it to stop working or even explode or catch fire.

Water damage is often not limited to one component. If liquid seeps deep inside a MacBook, it can cause issues with several parts at once. This is why it often requires professional repair after water damage.

How to Diagnose Water Damage on a MacBook

If your MacBook gets exposed to liquid, there are some signs you can look for to determine if water caused damage:

  • Computer not turning on at all, even when plugged into power
  • Display not turning on, but computer appears to power on
  • Keys not working or certain keys not registering
  • Trackpad gestures and clicking not functioning
  • External ports like USB not recognizing devices
  • Distorted or buzzing sound from speakers
  • Sizzling, burning smell, or smoke coming from inside
  • Unusual behavior like repeated crashing or freezing

The presence of any of these issues right after a water spill likely indicates water damage is the cause. The more severe the issue, the more extensive the damage is likely to be.

First Steps After Water Gets on Your MacBook

If your MacBook gets water spilled on it, it’s important you take quick action to help mitigate damage:

  1. Immediately unplug the power cable and any connected devices.
  2. Power down the computer if possible.
  3. Dry the exterior of the computer with a towel. Try to soak up any visible liquid.
  4. Do not try turning it on. Attempting to power it up could short circuit components.
  5. If you have silica gel packs, place them around the computer to help absorb moisture.
  6. Let the MacBook dry completely for at least 24-48 hours.
  7. After drying, try turning it on to assess the damage.
  8. If it does not power on or has apparent damage, take it to a repair shop.

Quickly cutting power and drying out the computer prevents further damage. Be patient and do not try to turn it on until you are confident all liquid has evaporated. This gives you the best chance of saving it.

Is it Possible to Fix a Water Damaged MacBook?

It is sometimes possible to fix a water damaged MacBook, but the prognosis depends on the extent of the damage:

  • Minor damage – If a small amount of water spilled and was quickly dried, it may have only affected certain components like the keyboard or trackpad. These can often be repaired.
  • Moderate damage – Larger spills that affected more components may require replacing parts like the logic board or SSD. This is a more involved repair.
  • Severe damage – If a ton of water got inside and sat for a while, many components could be irreparably damaged. Full restoration may not be cost effective.

Liquid spills that were quickly powered off and dried have the best chance of being fixed. But if water sat inside for a long time, the prognosis gets worse. It depends on how many parts need replacement.

Common Repairs Needed

Some of the most common repairs needed after water damage include:

  • Cleaning corrosion from connectors
  • Replacing specific damaged components
  • Removing residual liquid/moisture
  • Fixing damaged pins in connectors
  • Replacing the logic board
  • Replacing the SSD or hard drive

The cost of fixing a water damaged MacBook varies widely based on what repairs are needed, but often runs $200 to $1000+. It may not make sense to repair an older model if the logic board and storage need replacing.

Data Recovery after Water Damage

If important files and documents were stored on the damaged MacBook, you may want to attempt to recover the data, even if the computer itself is beyond repair.

There are a few data recovery techniques that specialists can attempt:

  • Connecting the storage drive to another computer
  • Using advanced recovery software to scan and extract data
  • Repairing the drive to a functional state temporarily
  • Microsoldering work on connectors and chips

If the SSD or hard drive was not physically damaged, there is a good chance of recovering data. But if water corroded the storage chips and platters, data may be unrecoverable.

Preventing Data Loss

To avoid potential data loss after a spill, it’s crucial to have backups via Time Machine, iCloud, or an external drive. You should also consider investing in a waterproof case if you take your MacBook in environments where spills are likely.

Having contingency plans in place for data recovery is wise in case the worst happens after water damage.

Can AppleCare Cover Water Damage?

Standard AppleCare and AppleCare+ plans do not cover liquid damage to MacBooks or other Apple computers. The warranty excludes “damage caused by accident, abuse, misuse, liquid contact, fire, earthquake or other external cause.”

You can purchase additional coverage like AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss which provides some protection in case of damage. But in general, AppleCare will not cover repairs for water or spill damage on MacBooks.

Should I Repair or Replace a Water Damaged MacBook?

If your MacBook is damaged beyond economical repair after a spill, you may face the decision of whether to repair or replace it. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Age of the MacBook – Repair costs may exceed the value of very old models.
  • Cost of components – Logic board or SSD replacement can be pricey on newer models.
  • Data needs – Repair may be worth it for data recovery on critical files.
  • Your budget – Does the repair cost significantly less than buying a new or used replacement MacBook?

Very extensive water damage often leads people to replace instead of paying for major component-level repairs. But the decision depends on your specific situation.

Tips to Prevent Water Damage on a MacBook

Here are some useful tips to help prevent liquid damage to your MacBook in the first place:

  • Do not eat or drink around your computer.
  • Keep liquids away from your workspace.
  • Close lid when walking around with an open drink.
  • Shut down before moving laptop from room to room.
  • Do not use laptop around sinks, tubs, pools, etc.
  • Invest in a waterproof case or sleeve if needed.
  • Keep it away from humidifiers and other wet environments.
  • Immediately dry hands before using keyboard.
  • Avoid placing on precarious surfaces where it could be knocked over.

Making a habit of these precautions will help you avoid the headache of a MacBook damaged by liquid. Be especially careful in homes with children and pets that could spill on electronics.


Spilling water or liquids into a MacBook can permanently damage critical components like the logic board and SSD. Immediately cutting power and thoroughly drying out the computer offers the best chance of being able to repair it after water damage.

You may have to replace certain parts or even the entire computer if the water exposure was significant. But in some cases it is possible to successfully repair a MacBook after a spill, restoring its functionality.

Following precautions like keeping drinks away from your laptop and investing in a waterproof case can help prevent costly liquid damage. But if the worst happens, don’t lose hope. In many cases, water-damaged MacBooks can be fixed with the right repairs from an experienced technician.