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I'd love some advice in repairing a water-damaged laptop.

My girlfriend spilled a glass of water on her Sony Vaio and now it doesn't turn all...dead! What steps should I go through to work out where the problem is and which part(s) I'll need to replace?

I can't seem to find out what has happened by just looking at the circuit boards. I'm new to electronics but could buy relevant volt-meters etc. I'm just looking for a decent trouble-shooting guide.

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Was it on when she spilled the water? If so, it's possible she might have shorted something out. – Xanny Oct 27 '10 at 18:41
Related:… – Sathya Oct 27 '10 at 18:44
up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's an uphill battle. Drinking water isn't too bad because it hardly leaves any conductive solid residue, but it's still bad. You need to let all the components dry out. Open the case, use a blow-dryer for a few minutes (not too close, you don't want the air pressure to damage the components), then let everything rest in a warm, dry place (e.g. a shelf above a radiator) for a few days. (Yes, days. Small drops of water tend to remain in inaccessible corners and can take a surprisingly long time to come out.)

The hard disk is especially vulnerable: it's very fragile and has an especially large amount of inaccessible places. If it was in the way of the spill, you'll probably have to write it off. If you need to recover data from it, professionals might be able to do it, but it's very expensive. You have two choices. You can hope that the water only got into the electronics, not into the heads; let it dry, and if it doesn't work then, throw it away. Or you can decide right now you'll pay dearly to get the data, and then keep the disk wet: drying wet hard disk heads is likely to be the final blow that kills them.

See also Water damaged parts, is there any chance of recovery?, My server room has flooded.

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That is great to know about keeping the HD wet. Thanks. I rescued the hard drive before I took the whole thing apart. I reckon it was spilled around the on/off switch at the top of the keyboard but all the chips look fine. In the bin (most of) it goes :( – rstage Oct 27 '10 at 23:42

Did you let it dry thorougly--I mean, for several days--before turning it on? If not you quite probably destroyed it.

If it were mine I would take it apart and look for damage like melted solder or capacitor damage on the various boards. In practice it's a boat anchor now.

You could try taking it apart (PHOTOGRAPH THE CONFIGURATION so you can reassemble it) and flushing all the components with deionized water (available at any drug store quite cheaply), then letting it dry thoroughly and reassembling it. Do NOT get the battery wet.

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The kit is dry as dust now but I thibk it was turned on shortly after the spill. Ive had a look at the motherboard and theres no obvious shorts or charring. Im guessing its time to salvage the RAM and CD drive and move on. I promise it was the girlfriend - i would have owned up if it was me :) – rstage Oct 27 '10 at 23:38

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