So You Spilled Water on your Laptop…

Yesterday, I was cleaning some junk off my desk and knocked over a just-filled 20oz cup of water directly into my ThinkPad T43. I’m posting this from that same laptop thanks to info I found online and got from a good friend that is familiar with ThinkPads and works for Lenovo.

Here are some tips to consider if find yourself in the same… er… boat:

  • Unplug your laptop, take out the battery.
    Be careful here – this is water+electricity we’re talking about. Notice I didn’t say “turn off your laptop”. If your experience is like mine, that’ll be taken care of for you. My T43 turned off within about 2 seconds of the incident. I found some folks online that advised keeping your laptop as flat as possible when you do this. I didn’t. You probably wouldn’t in the same situation as panic takes over. Basically you should try to make sure water flows OUT.
  • Drain.
    I tipped my laptop forward away from the display and onto some towels on the floor of my office and let it drain while I sopped up the rest of the water from my desk.
  • Field Strip.
    Flip the laptop over and remove the screws that hold it together. On my T43, that meant any screw that was labeled with a number. An aside here: IBM/Lenovo is very thoughtful – the holes are well-labled and there’s a legend showing you the actual scale/size of each screw by it’s number. Once you’ve removed the screws, open the machine up. For my ThinkPad, that meant popping off the plastic bezel and removing the top/keyboard. The ribbon cables that connect the keyboard and trackpad to the motherboard on a T43 are designed to release easily – there aren’t any clips to worry about. Remove everything that looks removable. The internal WiFi, memory, hard drive and optical drive were easy to remove.
  • Dry and Wait.
    The thing that’s going to ruin your chances of coming out of this ordeal with a functioning laptop is plugging the thing back in before it has fully dried. I turned my T43 upside down on top of some towels on the kitchen table in an inverted V, thinking that any remaining moisture would drip away from the display/hinge. I turned the ceiling fan above the kitchen table on full-blast. I left everything alone for about 6 hours. When I checked back, I couldn’t detect any moisture.
  • Cross fingers/toes/legs/arms/eyes and turn it on.
    When my T43 turned back on, it was a little confused. I had to OK my way through a couple of BIOS errors and reset the time. The errors were harmless “hey – things have changed” messages. Nothing too scary.

The only wierdish thing that I’m experiencing now is that my laptop seems to want to display on my connected external monitor on boot. Since I’ve got a boot password, it looks like it has died when it sits there with a blank screen. Type the password blind and hit enter to pass this, then wait a bit for your OS to load. Fn-F7 (switch display modes) doesn’t appear to work until the OS is booting.

And that’s it… My ThinkPad has been functioning normally for about 20 hours since turning it back on. I feel lucky. I love my ThinkPad and am even more impressed with it now. Hope your ordeal goes as well.

Oh yeah… some other water-related info: I’ve washed 2 iPods. “Washed” like all the way through the cycle and figured it out when I heard it bouncing around in the dryer. I got both of these working with an inexpensive battery replacement. Wow.

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