deep clean

spilled something on your macbook? don’t wait. that liquid needs to be removed. the longer you wait, the less likely you will have a working computer. this is a story of two paths taken and the results.

initially, liquid damage can knock out a computer. the liquid (and whatever particulate that liquid carries) and electricity will create an electronic path where there should not be one and create a dead short to ground with the emphasis on dead.

most people shut the computer off and wait for it to “dry”. then a few days later, they turn it on again to test it and it will either function normally, function with a few hiccups or not function at all. i usually get a call on the last 2, but the person with the #1 scenario thinks they have dodged a bullet.

on rare occasions, they actually have dodged a bullet, but in most cases, the corrosion begins to set in and kill the computer. may take 6 months, maybe a month or a few weeks, but the computer is still dead, it just doesn’t know it yet.

we recently worked on two macbook computers. both were liquid damaged.

one spill happened recently and was brought in quickly.  customer indicated a large coffee had spilled into the macbook. this will be macbook #1

the other one was brought in over 2 months ago, but only just gave the green light for cleaning.  it had sat there, the owners had bought another computer in the mean time, and had actually moved away. we will call this computer #2.

both computers had corrosion that had set in. we disassembled the computer down to the motherboard and began the deep cleaning process. this involves detailed manual removal using different types of appropriate scrubbing utensils, various solvents, agitation and heat. we actually place the motherboard back into liquids!!  fully submerse it! only these are the right kind of liquids. purified and neutralizing. the intention is to remove not only what we can see, but what has crept into or in between and beneath the various components. some components have connection points so close together and they do not need to touch. the liquid and the contaminants that it leaves behind essentially create a bridge where there should be no bridge. this can weaken and blow/destroy those components.

the spill on computer #1 looked really bad (see the photos below). thickened, sugary streaks of sticky coffee splayed across this expensive apple device. looks kind of scary, but with this view of what we can see, all in all, nothing of concern if we get it off – the sooner the better.

coffee inside macbook

the real concern happens to be on the side that was not readily visible. lots of green corrosion had already started to settle in on various components. this corrosion begins to eat away at what is underneath it. the longer this corrosion stays, the more the component is dissolved. and if electricity is involved (the computer is on, charging or even just having the battery connected) the process is much faster.

green corrosion macbook motherboard

corrosion green

all in all, when the cleaning was done, i was able to save the computer. it works perfectly. and since the offending intrusion has been thoroughly removed by deep cleaning, i fully expect this computer to not have any further issues.

deep cleaned motherboard

computer body cleaned

corrotion cleaned comparisoncleaned SSD

which brings us to computer #2. similar issue. the only difference was that this was allowed to simmer for a couple of months. you can see where the battery was beginning to swell in various places.

battery swelling

and underneath the board, i even found a feather inside. yes, a feather…

this macbook was shedding feathers!

for the corrosive spill to really begin to eat away at the various components. this person had let the corrosion set before bringing it in and only brought it in after they could not get the LCD to show anything. the LCD had went black. the computer would actually turn on, but just not display anything on the screen. so let’s take a close look at where the LCD actually connects to the motherboard – the LVDS connector.

LCD (LVDS) connector before cleaning

whoa!!!  lot’s of interesting stuff all around that connector. and this has been setting for awhile. there are other components that drive the display, but the first and best place to look is right there. so i run this computer through the cleaning process as well and we take another look once we can see what is going on.

LCD (LVDS) connector after cleaning

what we find is that the corrosion has eaten away the metal/solder around the connections. so much so that the connections are no longer soldered together and that the pins are even thinner as the corrosion has continued on deeper and deeper. mind you, we are talking a minuscule amount, but relatively, when you take a look at it under a microscope, the damage is great. we can try to reattach this connector, but will most likely need replacing. not only that, but other areas had gotten some deep corrosion as well, one of which was the SSD drive. the drive that stores the operating system and the personal files.

SSD corrosion

not only that, but we still don’t know if the keyboard or trackpad are affected. we can hook up an external monitor to see beforehand, but this computer is looking at needing a lot of work to get going again if it can even be fixed. sometimes you don’t know till you put in the work and only then find out the disappointing news. i would imagine that the customer would be advised to sell the remains at a very deeply discounted price to a tech that has time to invest into the process of trying to revive this computer at his own risk. for us to continue, we would need to cover our time that we would be investing in the possible fix with no guarantee that it would work. the risk to reward ratio for a customer to pay for these possibilities only to be disappointed is a very bad bet. essentially by not authorizing a repair sooner, they sign the death certificate for this computer for all intents and purposes. any further work would be like trying to raise the dead.