At the start of December, my Macbook Pro had a serious accident. It must be my karma paying me back for whatever I did wrong in 2019 or I just had incredibly bad luck. Else I cannot explain how it could happen.
Long story short my Macbook Pro was spilled with orange juice and due to severe damage done on the display and motherboard, I could not hustle for half a month. That is why there is little progress done in December.
How my Macbook Pro got drenched by juice
You might think, that it is my fault, that I was not careful while drinking the juice, but it is not how it happened. I am always careful when it comes to liquids manipulation. Especially in combination with a 2400 EUR laptop.
It all started during my trip from Vienna back to Prague. I booked a business class train ticket that includes a free bottle of juice. Usually, I drink the whole bottle and throw it off.
Lesson 1 – Never carry Macbook with water bottle
But this time, I was so exhausted after a long business trip I drink half of it and put the bottle to my backpack, which is used to carry my Macbook.
Then I totally forgot about the juice. A few days later on my way home, I felt a blow. Almost like if someone throws a rock or a snowball at my back. I also heard a silenced explosion from behind.
Lesson 2 – Juice bottles explodes, a lot
I stopped and turn over, thinking that I was hit with a snowball. But I realized there is no snow outside. Totally confused I went on.
After a few meters, something in my head whispered to me to touch the backpack. To see if it’s not wet.
Of course, it was. I immediately put the Macbook out, but it was too late. The right corner with the touch ID button already had a proper juice bath and the juice was dripping off like a waterfall.
Apparently, the juice bottle exploded from the gas created by a juice fermentation. Who would think of that?
Lesson 3 – Never turn spilled Macbook on
I went home, cleaned up MacBook, dried it off and turned it on, praying that my data is not lost. Luckily I could log in after the third try and managed to backup my codebase to the cloud before it died again.
Relieved that made it I started to google about spilled Macbooks and I realized that I made a mistake. And that I should immediately go to the Apple service.
According to the internet:
- Never turn Macbook on. The electricity can shortcut the motherboard and damage it to the point of no return.
- Don’t wait any longer and bring Macbook to the authorized service, so they can examine the damaged parts and do de-oxidation of the spilled electronics.
- Wait and pray, that repair costs won’t be more expensive than 50% of the new Macbook price.
- Oh and don’t try to dry it yourselves by putting it into a bag of rice. Allegedly, it can worsen the situation
Lesson 4 – Always ask for the repair costs before signing
So I went to the closest unauthorized Apple service and signed for a 500 USD bill. Macbooks are so tightly built machines, that any repair means replacing the whole chassis, display or motherboard. Each costing a fortune.
That is why Apple geniuses don’t repair Macbooks so to speak, but they give you a brand new model.
After the initial examination, I concluded that USB-C ports don’t work at all and Touch ID is dead. Display had large strains from liquid, but I can get used to it. The keyboard and battery survived so there is no need to replace chassis.
So I told the service to not replace the display and only fix the motherboard. Then I waited for two weeks.
Lesson 5 – Don’t tie your yourself up to Apple ecosystem
Without Macbook as a development machine, I felt a big void. I could not do my usual routines, likes writing and developing due to being locked to the Apple apps ecosystem or because setting up the same development environment on windows would take me probably the same time.
I was totally unable to do anything for a week. But then I got fed up and started to write again. And as I was forced to use Windows desktop again after a year and a half, I reminded myself, how Macs make you magically more creative.
An un-satisfied happy ending
Finally, after two weeks, a repair engineer called with good news, that my motherboard won’t have to be replaced. That he will only repair a USB-C circuit and leave dead Touch ID and display alone, for the total cost of 200 USD.
I swiftly paid and never looked back.
What if scenarios FAQ
Below are a few what-if scenarios that can happen when a liquid is spilled to a Macbook. Hopefully, none of them happen to you. I just mentioned for further troubleshooting.
MacBook Pro won’t turn on
If you did the same mistake as me and turned a spilled Macbook on before getting it deoxidated and it won’t turn on, there is nothing you can do by yourself.
How do you know, that MacBook didn’t turn on? The whole thing is totally dead. Display won’t lit, the keyboard won’t react and you don’t hear any fan noise.
In the best-case scenario, the power button was damaged and the service will fix it by replacing the component with a new one.
In the worst-case scenario, liquid damaged the whole motherboard, which needs to be replaced to get it up and running. Unfortunately, you might lose the data in the process.
In both cases, going to Apple service is the first step. The rest will depend on the thorough examination of damaged parts after tearing the MacBook apart.
MacBook Pro till works
So you turned Macbook on and it still works. Don’t celebrate yet. Turning it on actually means nothing.
There might be a mini drop somewhere on the motherboard waiting to be spilled over some critical circuit after machine heats up. You never know.
In all cases, don’t bet on your luck and immediately bring the MacBook to an authorized Apple service.
Nothing really happened
As mentioned above. The illusion of having a lucky day is tempting, but it is better to be safe now than sorry later.
The corrosion is the main issue here. Liquid might not affect important parts now, but as time goes and components are oxidated.
And as we remember from Chemistry class, metals on the motherboard act as catalysts for the oxidation reactions, which destroy any circuits layers, that stand in its way.
The best course of action is getting Macbook deoxidated, which does not cost much. For about less than 100 USD, you will get a 3-month warranty, which is usually enough for any defects to appear.
Battery not charging
When the battery is not charging, which was my case, it can only mean two things.
One, the USB-C ports or motherboard components responsible for charging batteries are not functioning. Two battery is dead.
The first scenario is easy to fix and will cost you about 200 USD including deoxidation.
The second scenario is a tough one. The battery is an integral part of a top case together with the keyboard. Fixing battery means replacing the whole top case and as you might guess, it ain’t cheap.
Battery is beeping
Batteries usually don’t beep, period. What might sound like beeping, is actually a sign, that something is wrong on the motherboard and it might not come from the battery.
Components like RAM memory beeps to signal the error because there is no other way to tell what’s wrong. Another case I experienced was a wrongly integrated PSU unit.
Other components do make sounds when something is seriously wrong with them, physically. Take for example a melted capacitor, that coincidentally vibrates with a frequency belonging to the audible spectrum.
If batteries make sound similarly like this, it might be even dangerous to be in a close distance. As mentioned before, I would let Apple experts handle the case ASAP.
Display is not working
How do you tell that the display is not working? If you have a MacBook with a touch bar and the touch bar turns on, the keyboard is lit, but the display is off, then you can tell how.
In that case, the display might be fine, but the interface connecting the display and the motherboard might be damaged. Also, a graphics unit or any other parts responsible for graphic output might be damaged as well.
A motherboard replacement is the solution and will be much cheaper than a display replacement.
Usually, when liquid gets into the display, it causes white visible spots. MacBook display is a very complex multilayered piece of technology and the white spots are a result of a liquid drop straining those layers and exposing backlight panel in the bottom.
The only way to get rid of the strains is to replace the display, which is one of the most expensive MacBook components of all time. Seeing an unofficial repair price list of a year older MacBook from 2017, I got horrified when I saw the replacement costs close to 700 USD.
Of course, many people swear, that they managed to get rid of the strains by themselves, but there is no guarantee it will work. The most frequent method is to put the MacBook into a V-shape, so the bottom of the display is pointing upward. And turn on some power demanding software on so the display gets heated.
Then theoretically the heat should cause the liquid drops inside the panel to evaporate naturally. To be honest, I tried the method for two days and didn’t see any results.
Fan is constantly running
When the fan is constantly running, it points to the issue with a malfunctioning power management system. MacBook is a well-optimized machine and consumes very little energy when idle.
In my case, after spilling the juice and damaging the motherboard, fans ran at the highest speed all the time, consuming battery like a hog. The good news is, power management controllers are replaceable and won’t cost a fortune.
The moment I diagnosed the issue, I knew I have only an hour and a half max to backup the whole hard disk before my battery dies. After that point, I won’t be able to recharge it again. The power management unit and USB-C ports unit are directly integrated into one component. And if one failed, the others probably had the same fate as well.
There is no sound
Speakers are built into the top case, together with keyboard and batteries. If anything is wrong with them, it means the replacement of the whole top case part.
Even though my MacBook was drenching in juice, speakers survived without any issues.
Water spilled on Macbook’s keyboard or touchpad
If spilled means poured over a few drops and quickly dried with a towel then nothing serious might have happened.
Topcase is tightly assembled to the unibody aluminum frame and liquid would have to soak deep beneath the keyboard mechanism. The chance for a drop to make any damage is low.
A Macbook spilled with coffee, tea, beer, soda, milk or another drink
The type of liquid matters a lot. Be it a clean drinkable water, the potential damage caused by oxidation is lower than if it was anything else.
The most dangerous types of liquid have a high concentration of aggressive minerals, sugar, and acids, that speed up the oxidation process, such as soda, coffee or mineral water.
Minerals increase the conductivity and the chance of causing short-circuit increases dramatically.
The repair cost of spilled Macbook
Repair costs can vary greatly and it is impossible to give a general estimate. I would just follow a rule of thumb, that you should never accept the cost of the whole repair beforehand, only the cost of the initial examination. Which hovers around 25-100 USD depending on the service company.
Then based on the results and the true estimates of the actual repair, decide if it is worth the hassle or not. If the cost exceeds 25% of the new MacBook’s price, it is worth considering the option to buy a new one and sell the spilled one for parts. There is a whole industry making a profit from buying damaged MacBooks, repairing it and reselling it with a high-profit margin.
Because my repair cost was at 8% of the price of the new one, due to accepting a strained display and non-functioning touch-id, I took the risk and agreed on the repair. The after repair warranty only lasts 3 months and who knows what might go wrong in the future.
How to fix spilled Macbook
There might be a DIY way to fix a spilled MacBook. You will need an Apple-certified toolkit, deoxidation repair set and a lot of luck.
Every time a new model enters the market, someone does a MacBook teardown. That means they rip MacBook apart to see what is inside and they will do a commented guide on this process.
You can follow the same process to take out the motherboard. Once done, use the deoxidation set to carefully clean up spilled parts. And let it dry for a few days.
Then put everything together again. Boot MacBook on and see if it works.
In case it won’t, and nothing went wrong during the cleaning process, order spare parts on Alibaba and replace any damaged component.
Universal spilled Macbook damage fix
If you don’t feel like fiddling with MacBook by yourself, the only universal fix is to not fix and to send it in to an authorized Apple service. It’s cheaper, comes with a warranty, save you precious time and on some occasions, you might even get a temporary MacBook to play with.
Can spilled Macbook be dried with a hairdryer?
Yes, it is possible, but it is not the most effective idea. A hot air might dry out the surface, but it won’t find its way to the internal parts, that are affected the most.
By the time it dries completely from natural evaporation, you would already know from an authorized service, what is the root cause and what are the action steps needed to get it fixed.
How to recover files from spilled Macbook
The best possible way is to have a time machine back up. It is then a matter of loading an old back up file using an Apple Migration assistant.
What if you did the same mistake as me and forgot about back-uping to the time machine? The next best bet is to have a complete copy of the hard drive on another external HDD or in the cloud.
In my case, I had about 80% of the important files backed up to the cloud using various file hosting providers such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
Unfortunately, the rest would be lost if my motherboard would have to be replaced. Why? Because on the modern MacBooks, hard drive is soldered to the motherboard and it cannot be moved to the new one.
On top of that Apple cleverly removed the connector, that allowed Apple engineers to migrate data from a dead MacBook just by plugging in a data cable.
The goal is clear, greedy Apple wants you to pay for iCloud and they do it by removing any method, that helps you to do back up the other way.
How to protect Macbook from water
Just follow common sense and don’t allow any liquid to be near MacBook. It is that simple.
But of course, common sense comes short, when you face a piece of bad luck. For that reason, the only way to protect the MacBook from water is to have it sealed in a waterproof case all the time.
Unfortunately, waterproof cases are hard to get. MacBook is such a beautiful price of hardware no one really wants to hide it inside a briefcase.
Macbook spill-proof protection cases
Even though most protective laptop cases touts being water-resistant or spill-resistant, it won’t protect the MacBook from being drowned in the water for longer than a few seconds.
But if you are sure no catastrophic event is going to happen, check out the best spill-resistant MacBook case on the Amazon below.
Macbook water-proof protection cases
Nothing protects MacBook better than military-grade waterproof cases, that can survive a serious bath in an ocean. Checkout ultimate waterproof cases on Amazon below.