What To Do When You Spill Water On Your MacBook Pro (But It Still Works)

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Few things can give you a sinking feeling like spilling water on your MacBook Pro. While liquid damage accounts for a significant percentage of MacBook Pro repairs, it can still leave you panicking. Knowing how to handle the situation can be the difference between saving your device and losing it for good. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through what to do if you spill water on your MacBook Pro and how to prevent permanent damage.

What to Do When You Spill Water on Your Macbook Pro [Quick Fix]

If you’ve just spilled water on your MacBook Pro, immediately power off the device, unplug it, and remove any connected peripherals. Gently tilt the MacBook Pro to remove excess water, then dry the surface with a soft cloth or paper towel. Open the lid and place it in an inverted V shape to allow any remaining water to drain out.

Remember, this is just a quick response to minimize damage. For a more comprehensive guide on handling water-damaged MacBook Pros, continue reading the rest of the article.

1. Turn Off The MacBook Pro

After you spill water on your MacBook, the first thing you should do is turn it off immediately, even if it appears to be functioning properly. Your biggest risk of permanent damage to the computer is leaving electrical current running through a wet logic board – a recipe for fried circuits.

To turn off your MacBook, locate the power button (usually, in the top right corner of your keyboard), press it, and hold until the system shuts off.

Power Button on you MacBook

Depending on the amount and location of the water, it is possible that the power button will no longer function. In this case, close your Mac’s lid to put it into Sleep mode, the next best thing to turning it off.

2. Unplug The AC Adapter And Installed Peripherals

If your MacBook Pro was plugged into the charger at the time of the accident, unplug the macbook charger first from the wall, then from your Mac if you haven’t done so already. Use rubber gloves when removing the charger from the wall if necessary to prevent conduction.

If the spill is near the AC outlet, take extreme caution when removing the adapter from the wall since there is a risk of electric shock. If the amount of water is excessive, remove the charger from the MacBook first.

Additionally, disconnect and remove anything physically plugged into the MacBook Pro, like adapters, iOS devices, printers, and keyboards.

3. Remove The Mac From The Water Source

After you’ve removed all peripherals and cut down the electric supply to the MacBook, gently lift and remove the Mac from the site of the spill. This will separate it from any spilled liquid that might have pooled on your desk or tablet where the Mac was sitting.

If you dropped the Mac in water like a bathtub, obviously, this is your first step.

While moving the MacBook Pro, take care to leave the laptop in the upright position (with the keyboard parallel to the floor). Resist the urge to tilt, shake, or flip over the Mac to drain excess water.

We will flip over the Mac in step 5, but doing so at this stage could actually introduce more water to the internal components. Just leave the computer upright for now.

4. Towel Dry Visible Moisture

Using a towel or paper towel, absorb any visible moisture pooled on the device. Check the IO ports and crevices between the keyboard keys. Pay special attention to any fan openings, since these holes lead directly to the logic board.

However, be careful not to press the power button while drying the MacBook. Turning on the computer while wet could have fatal consequences. If you accidentally turn on the Mac, press and hold the power button to force shutdown the computer.

5. Turn The MacBook Upside Down

Once all visible external moisture is removed, flip the MacBook upside down to allow any internal fluid to drain out. Lay a dry towel on the edge of a desk, open the laptop to a 90-degree angle, and rest the screen on the towel with the keyboard hanging off the edge.

However, make sure the MacBook Pro is properly balanced so it doesn’t come crashing down to the ground. To achieve proper balance, adjust the angle of the display or place weight on the top case to keep the laptop in place. However, don’t add excessive weight, or you’ll risk cracking the display.

You can also use the tent method, in which you open the laptop’s lid at a 45-degree angle and rest the top edge of the screen and the bottom edge of the MacBook (below the keyboard) on a table. While this method works, there’s a risk that water will make its way into the display, causing streaks or watermarks.

Once your device has drained all water, you can blow cool air on it. You can use a fan to blow cool air toward the MacBook to encourage the dehumidification process.

6. Wait For The Computer To Dry

After cleaning visible water and moisture and draining your MacBook Pro, allow it to rest until dry. When water comes into contact with electrical components, it can create short circuits. These short circuits can cause irreversible damage to your computer’s internal parts. By waiting for the device to dry, you reduce the risk of short circuits occurring when you power it on. Letting your Mac dry completely before turning it on also minimizes the potential for corrosion.

But how long should you wait? The answer depends on various factors, including how much water came in contact with the computer and the humidity levels of your climate, among others. However, the general consensus is 48-72 hours. I’d wait at least two full days unless the spillage were minimal.

7. Turn On The MacBook Pro

After allowing your MacBook Pro to dry for at least 48-72 hours, it’s time to attempt turning it on. Follow these steps to turn on your MacBook Pro:

  1. Flip the MacBook Pro right side up: Gently return the device to its normal position, making sure there is no visible moisture.
  2. Check for remaining moisture: Inspect the device carefully, ensuring there is no residual moisture on the surface or around the ports.
  3. Try turning on the device: Power on your MacBook Pro by pressing the power button.

If the MacBook Pro turns on successfully, you can breathe a sigh of relief, but it’s essential to keep a close eye on its performance.

On the flip side, if your MacBook doesn’t turn on, you can move on to step 10.

8. Back Up Your Data

Once you get logged in to your MacBook, immediately back up any data you don’t already have stored somewhere else. (You’re using Time Machine and iCloud Drive, right?)

Why back up your data, you might ask.

First, just because your MacBook is functioning now, doesn’t mean it will continue working properly. Even if the logic board and other internal components are 100% dry, leftover minerals from the water spill can cause corrosion over time, so your Mac could die in the future.

Second, if you need to take the computer to Apple or another repair center, they likely won’t (or can’t) back up your data for you.

9. Run Hardware Diagnostics

Once you have everything you need backed up, it’s a good idea to run Apple hardware diagnostics on your MacBook. The steps for running an Apple Diagnostics test differ for MacBooks with Intel or Apple Silicon processors. Below, I’ve shared the steps for both.

On Macs With Apple Silicon

  1. Disconnect all peripherals except the keyboard, mouse, Ethernet, display, and power cable.
  2. Power on your Mac and keep holding the power button until the startup options screen with the Options icon appears.
  1. Press the Command + D keys.
Command + D keys

On Intel-Based Mac

  1. Disconnect all external devices except the keyboard, mouse, Ethernet, display, and power cable.
  2. Shut down your Mac from the Apple menu.
Shut down your Mac
  1. Press the power button and immediately press and hold the D key until a list of languages appears.
Power Button and D key
  1. Select a language to start Apple Diagnostics.
Apple Diagnostics
  1. Once the test finishes, a report will display any detected issues. If an error message or reference code appears, make a note of it and reach out to Apple Support or an authorized Apple service provider to obtain further assistance.
Test Report

If all tests pass, you’re in good shape. But future damage is still possible due to corrosion, so it’s better to pursue service options, especially if your MacBook is high-dollar.

10. Submit An AppleCare+ Claim

If you have AppleCare+ coverage on your MacBook, you can file up to two accidental claims per year. At the time of writing, a water spill comes with a $299 deductible plus applicable tax.

If your MacBook Pro is less than a few years old, it’s worth filing a claim, even if everything is working properly. Of course, you could always wait for something to fail and then file the claim. Just make sure your coverage doesn’t lapse before you have a chance to have the computer repaired.

11. Contact An Authorized Repair Center

If your MacBook Pro is not functioning correctly, you don’t have AppleCare+, or you’re unsure about the extent of the water damage, it’s essential to contact an authorized repair center for professional assistance. Besides Apple Stores, Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs) are repair centers with certified technicians trained to diagnose and repair Apple devices, ensuring the best possible outcome for your MacBook Pro.

Since a water spill voids any warranty on the computer outside of AppleCare+, you don’t have to use an AASP. But these service providers specialize in Apple repair, so they still might be your best option.

Remember that repairs may take several days to weeks, depending on the severity of the damage and the availability of replacement parts. By choosing an authorized repair center, you can trust that your MacBook Pro is in capable hands and will be repaired according to Apple’s standards.

What Not To Do When You Spill Water On Your MacBook

Spilling water on your MacBook can be alarming, and your first instinct might be to take immediate action. However, it’s essential to know what not to do to avoid causing further damage. Here are some common mistakes you should avoid:

  1. Don’t keep using your MacBook: Continuing to use your MacBook after a water spill increases the risk of short circuits and permanent damage. Power off the device immediately and unplug it.
  2. Don’t press keys or click the trackpad: Pressing keys or clicking the trackpad can push water further into your MacBook, causing more damage. Leave the input devices untouched after a spill.
  3. Don’t use a hairdryer or heat source: Applying heat from a hairdryer or other heat sources can cause internal components to warp or melt. Instead, let your MacBook air dry in a well-ventilated area.
  4. Don’t attempt to charge your MacBook: Charging a wet MacBook can cause electrical shorts and further damage. Wait until the device is thoroughly dry before attempting to charge it.
  5. Don’t use rice to dry your MacBook: While rice can absorb moisture, it can also leave behind dust and debris inside your MacBook. This method is not recommended for drying out electronic devices.
  6. Don’t rush to turn on your MacBook: Turning your MacBook on too soon after a spill can cause more damage. Wait at least 48-72 hours for the device to dry completely before attempting to power it on.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll have a better chance of minimizing water damage to your MacBook and potentially saving your device.

Assessing The Water Damage On Your Mac: What To Look For

After your MacBook Pro has dried, you’ll need to thoroughly assess the damage. This step is crucial in determining whether the device can be repaired or if professional help is required. Here’s what to look for:

1. Signs Of Water Damage On The Exterior

Examine your MacBook Pro for visible signs of water damage. Check for any discoloration or staining on the casing, keyboard, or trackpad. Inspect for bulging or swelling, which could indicate damage to the battery or other internal components. Look for any warping or deformation of the casing or keyboard, which could be a result of heat or water exposure.

2. Checking The Liquid Contact Indicators (LCIs)

MacBook Pros have built-in Liquid Contact Indicators (LCIs) that change color when exposed to water. To check the LCIs:

  • Locate the LCIs: The location of the LCIs varies depending on your MacBook Pro model. They are usually near the battery or on the logic board.
  • Examine the LCIs: A red or pink LCI indicates water exposure, while a white or silver LCI means there’s no sign of liquid damage.

3. Common Symptoms Of Water Damage In MacBook Pros

Be on the lookout for these common symptoms of water damage:

  • Flickering screens: A flickering or distorted screen can indicate damage to the display or graphics components.
  • Malfunctioning keys: Sticky or unresponsive keys could result from water damage to the keyboard or underlying components.
  • Unresponsive trackpads: Water damage can cause your trackpad to become erratic or unresponsive.

4. Determining If Professional Repair Is Necessary

If you’re unsure about the extent of the damage or feel uncomfortable attempting repairs yourself, it’s best to consult a professional. Consider the following factors:

  • Severity of damage: If your MacBook Pro exhibits multiple signs of water damage, it’s more likely to require professional repair.
  • Functionality: If your device powers on but is experiencing performance issues, a professional diagnosis can help pinpoint the problem.
  • Warranty: Check your MacBook Pro’s warranty status. If it’s still under warranty, you may be eligible for repairs or replacements through Apple.

By carefully assessing the damage to your MacBook Pro, you can make an informed decision about whether to attempt repairs yourself or seek professional help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I spilled something other than water?

Spilling just about anything other than water can have devastating effects on your MacBook Pro, especially if the liquid has sugar (including lactose in dairy drinks) or the drink is hot. You can follow the basic steps to do damage control, but you will probably want to have the internal components cleaned or replaced depending on the severity of the spill.

Can you fix a MacBook with water damage?

You can fix a MacBook with water damage if the spill is minimal, you have experience disassembling laptops, or the MacBook has little value. It is advisable to take quick action after a spill and follow proper drying procedures. However, it’s best to consult an authorized Apple service provider or a reputable third-party repair center to assess the damage and perform the necessary repairs.

Does AppleCare+ cover water damage on a MacBook Pro?

Yes, AppleCare+ cover liquid damage or water damage on a MacBook Pro as it includes coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage. However, each incident is subject to a deductible fee. It’s essential to review your AppleCare+ plan details to understand the extent of the coverage and associated costs.

Is it possible to recover data from a water-damaged MacBook Pro?

It is possible to recover data from a water-damaged MacBook Pro M2 or M1, but the success depends on the extent of the damage. In some cases, a professional data recovery service may be able to retrieve files from the device’s storage, even if the MacBook itself is beyond repair.

Act Quickly When Spills Occur

Accidents happen. When water spills on your MacBook Pro, you must take precautions even if everything seems to be working fine.

Shut down the computer as soon as possible, allow it to dry, and consider a professional cleaning or inspection of the components if you can find a repair service that will do so for a reasonable cost.

Pro tip: never flip and shake your MacBook right after a spill as it can cause more damage than good.

Have you ever spilled water or anything on your MacBook? What steps did you take to resolve the problem?

About Andrew Gilmore
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Based in Norman, Oklahoma, Andrew is an ex-certified Apple technician with over fifteen years of experience in the IT world specializing in macOS and iOS. When he's not writing, he enjoys video games, reading, and really bad movies.

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