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Macbook Pro damaged, need to continue to use hard drive: options?

Posted on 2011-02-23
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Daughter's friend just spilled full glass of Italian soda (which is basically soda water and a relatively small amount of sugary syrup) on a table next to my daughter's Macbook Pro Model: A1286.  Before my daughter had a chance to pick up the Macbook, it was too late: soda had coursed under it (between the bottom of the laptop and the table, and on the left edge of the laptop, where the USB ports are.

The screen immediately went black, and, she says, it's "acting dead".

No liquid got on the upper surface (keyboard)...just underneath, and on the lefthand side.

Are such incidents typically fixable for less than the cost of a refurbished laptop?

Do Macbooks typically recover from such incidents given time to try out (and perhaps 24 hours in a Bheestie Bag, or similar de-humidifier)?   (As to this last bit, I would prefer answers based on real-world experience, rather than rumor or "I heard of a guy once who put his Macbook in the microwave," etc.)

In the interests of getting back up and running quickly, and retaining her data (assuming the hard drive isn't damaged), would there be any issues with removing her hard drive (running Snow Leopard), and inserting it into another Macbook Pro?  Would that Macbook Pro need to be precisely the same configuration as hers, or will the operating system be smart enough to adjust itself to slightly different hardware (different screen say, or different amount of memory or different graphics card)?

Our priorities, in order, are:

#1:  Get her back up and running as fast as possible with her data intact (she has schoolwork that's partially done)
#2:  Be reasonably economical.

What do you think are our best options here?  (Smacking around the friend, while it might be satisfying for a moment, is not a long-term solution.)

Thanks!
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Question by:akahan
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Accepted Solution

by:
hermidae earned 72 total points
ID: 34960055
I had the same problem with a glass of milk over the keyboard. I had to open the laptop and dry everything (including the main board) with paper from the kitchen and then I had to remove the rests of milk with a soft teeth brush. After that, the laptop worked again.

I didn't change the HD to another laptop, but I think that with MAC OS X you won't have the same problems as in Windows, because the drivers should already be in your HD.

If you have any problem changing the disk, you can buy an external case to plug the disk and plug it to the laptop via USB or Firewire.

Good luck.
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Assisted Solution

by:roylong
roylong earned 72 total points
ID: 34960200
You have two options if the laptop is dead:
1) take out the hard drive and insert it into a new one of equivalent or newer age (forward compatibility with macs works but sometimes backwards does not).
2) take out the hard drive and put it in an external drive cage to get your data off - seagate goflex desk has a really cool plug in interface to their adapter for the external disk which will take any SATA disk without messing around with screws and connectors.
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Assisted Solution

by:strung
strung earned 71 total points
ID: 34960797
Your best bet is to put the drive into an external USB case until you get the damaged Mac sorted or replaced. Your daughter can then attach the USB drive to the other MacBook Pro and see if she can boot from the external by holding down the option key to bring up the boot picker.

If it will boot from the external, then she is away to the races with all her e-mail and settings. If it won't boot from the external, she can boot from the internal and still access her files.

If you manage to dry out the damaged Mac, you can then just re-insert the drive into it. If the damaged Mac cannot be fixed, the you can purchase a new or refurbished Mac and transfer all your daughters files and settings to the new Mac from the external drive using Migration Assistant.
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Assisted Solution

by:noxcho
noxcho earned 143 total points
ID: 34960818
Try to dry it with hairdryer. Then turn it on. Does it boot?
If not then your option is to get the drive out of it and get new laptop. Or send it to Apple if it is still in warranty.
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Author Comment

by:akahan
ID: 34961891
noxcho - I think Apple's warranty doesn't cover damage of this sort (nor should it!)  So far as I know, it's limited to failures that occur because of design/manufacturing flaws, not pouring drinks in the machine, right?

everyone else - will be picking up the laptop later today, and assessing the situation; i'll keep you posted...
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Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 34964010
I don't think it has real damage. By Apple warranty I mean repairing it at Apple side. Sure they will do it better way (but still expensive =( )
Let it dry and then enable the machine. Let us know the outcome.
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Assisted Solution

by:gmbaxter
gmbaxter earned 71 total points
ID: 34964042
As it was a sugary spill, don't hold your breath. Sugar plus laptop doesn't go.

I'd open it up, remove the drive and dry it out, and attempt to set the laptop too.

Get an external drive caddy and put the drive in. Use this on another mac to get to her work.
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LVL 26

Author Comment

by:akahan
ID: 34967133
Update:  the nice fellows at the Mac repair place took a look inside, and think they can probably fix it, by cleaning/de-oxidizing/decontaminating its guts.  Which would be the best (and cheapest) overall solution, if it works.  We will know one way or the other on Friday (today being Wednesday).

I think if it were just water, or even diet coke, it probably wouldn't be that bad but, as gmbaxter pointed out, the sugar element gives rise to REALLY quick corrosion.  So if these guys are able to fix it, I'll pay their (very reasonable fixed price: 2 hours labor) bill, AND bake them brownies.

If they are unable to fix it, I think the likely course is to put the hard drive (which looks fine) in a refurbished Macbook Pro.
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Assisted Solution

by:mmoore82
mmoore82 earned 71 total points
ID: 34970657
If you go to put the drive in another system, just make sure your OS is at least the same version that came with that system or later so it will have the proper drivers.

Good luck with the spill cleanup, depending on how bad the spill was, sometimes they can be salvaged with a good cleaning!
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by:akahan
ID: 34971556
OS is Snow Leopard... I assume that the drive will just happily boot up in any Macbook Pro I could buy today, right?
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Expert Comment

by:mmoore82
ID: 34971647
Most likely, but you will want to run Software Update after it boots just to make sure you have the drivers for everything to work properly. :-)
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by:noxcho
noxcho earned 143 total points
ID: 34972755
If the drive is not damaged then yes, it will boot.
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LVL 26

Author Comment

by:akahan
ID: 34975653
Never underestimate the value of a skilled tech.

I got the laptop back already (it's only Thursday), and it works beautifully.  They didn't have to replace anything:  just got rid of the corrosion and liquid using de-oxidizers and similar chemicals.  The ports (USB, etc.) that had looked caked over with oxidization when I took it to them look brand new...it's like I got it steam cleaned or something.

Thanks for the advice, all...and when your Mac gets trashed, let me know, I can recommend the guys who took care of this for me.
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LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 34978209
Glad to hear it turned out so good.
Usually what we consider to be complicated turns out to be simple and unfortunately the simple things turn to be complex.
Take care
Nox
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