You’ve worked for days on a presentation due tomorrow for your new client. You’re in the final stretch – the last few pages building up to a resounding finale with video clips and audio fanfare – all of this fueled by a late-night glass of milk and some forbidden cookies in your low-carb diet.
Murphy’s Law kicks in in the shape of your five-year-old, Timmy, who manages to spill a good portion of milk directly into your keyboard. You hear a popping noise, the screen goes black and then you’re not quite sure if the scream you hear is yours or Timmy’s.
Now, what do you do? You know it can’t be good for the computer – they don’t normally make evil popping noises and turn themselves off.
First and most important – Don’t Panic.
Second – unplug the computer from its power source. Disconnect it from the power cord and remove the battery. The old adage – Water and Electricity don’t mix – is quite true. The last thing you want is further damage to the computer.
Third – suspend the laptop upside down over a sink and see what liquid you can get to dribble out.
Fourth – if the keyboard is one of those easily removable jobbies, then by all means, please remove it. Many times, the keyboard area is further protected underneath with a rubber or plastic membrane. Clean up what you can.
At this point, your best bet is to call in a professional and explain what happened. They are going to want to what exactly was spilled on the keyboard and approximately how much. Guess. Was it a few teaspoons or a quarter of a cup? What liquid was spilled inside makes a difference. Water by itself is not as bad as milk or juice, both of which are corrosive/acidic, or coffee, tea, soda, etc. Drop the laptop off with your computer tech and let them work their magic.
Know your dates. Is the computer still covered by a warranty? Does your warranty cover accidental damage?
If you decide to take the do-it-yourself route, please make sure you don’t turn the laptop back on until whatever liquid is left inside has a chance to dry/evaporate. This may take 12 hours or more. Be patient. You don’t want to cause further damage.
Many laptops these days have easily removable hard drives. If that’s the case, you can get an external caddy to plug your hard drive in and attach it via a USB cable to another computer. Voila! With any luck, you will have instant access to your data.
Speaking of USB, you must have a USB flash drive. Small enough to fit on your keychain, these little beauties can be your best friend when it comes to backups. I’ve seen them for $10 to $50. Keep an eye on your local sales flyers and you’ll see deals on them every week. They are indispensable for safeguarding your data.
And I know it should go without saying, but be careful of food and drink around your computer. It’s one thing to lose an email to a friend but for those of us who depend on computers for our livelihood, they are a critical component in our daily life.
Bottom line, backup frequently and store your backups away from the computer. Keep the food and drink away. If disaster strikes, follow the steps above and you have a better chance of keeping the damage to a minimum.