A Disaster of Convenience!

I have a honeymoon, of sorts, with the new things I buy. Whether a cell phone, camera or computer, my new toys see only the best of me ““for a while. My good behavior lasts anywhere from, say, 30 minutes to 30 months.

When I get a new car, for example, I won’t place my daily hot Cafe Mocha on the roof even if I do need both hands to fumble through pockets for my keys. The risk of driving away only to spill my forgotten drink all over the paint is too great ““for a while.

Parking under trees is also a no-no because tree sap and bird “souvenirs” on the paint are positively taboo ““for a while.

I’ll go as far as to put my A/C on “RECIRC” rather than roll down the windows so the new car smell won’t get diluted too quickly. Sure, I catch a little bit of a buzz because it gets fumy, but I stick with it ““for a while. It’s worth it; the honeymoon’s not over yet.

And then something bad happens. The honeymoon ends and my car experiences a cruel change in my priorities. Convenience begins to seduce me. I mean no harm to my car but sure enough, over time, my desire for convenience overcomes my care for the car. Suddenly the best parking spot under the tree and right by the coffee shop door is irresistible. Parking under the big tree is still risky but keeps the car cooler for me. The birds might not bomb it -I rationalize. Eventually I begin to take such gambles, choosing convenience over care. Soon, I do the unthinkable: Returning from the coffee shop, I place my hot drink on the roof while I circle the car, inspecting it for “tree damage.” The honeymoon is surely over.

I see the same honeymoon cycle happen when my clients buy a new laptop computer. During the first weeks of use, they go to extremes to keep it like new -zipping it snugly in its padded carrying case after each use. The end of their honeymoon is too often marked by a phone call I hate to get: “Geoff, I uh, spilled ____ all over my laptop’s keyboard. What should I do?”

Liquid spilling onto a laptop is one of the few computer disasters that are both predictable and preventable. A spill becomes predictable the day you think you can “just be careful” with that drink you’ve placed beside the laptop and preventable by resisting the urge to take that risk.

In severe cases damage from spills can completely “short out” the circuitry inside the laptop, rendering it useless. In more merciful cases the spill victim may only notice that cerrrtain keyss may sssstarrt to ssstick or the mouse pointer will occasionally jump around the screen wildly.

In some situations, simply allowing the liquid to evaporate inside the laptop may fix the problem. I once rescued a clientÂ’s laptop after a spill of nail polish remover. It was fully functional after a day of drying (the alcohol dried quickly with no residue left under the keys). In cases of soda, wine or coffee (w/cream & sugar) the stickiness of the liquid can cause an irreparable problem under the keys that may require replacement of the keyboard or the laptopÂ’s main circuit board.

If your laptop takes a spill, unplug it, then quickly flip the laptop keys-down to allow any excess liquid to drain directly back out through the keys. Don’t touch it for 24 hours (yes, a whole day). Go to any computer or hardware store and get a can of compressed air with the tiny straw attachment (about $3). After the full day to dry, lift the laptop up so keys are still facing down. Using the straw, gently but thoroughly blow air under each key of the keyboard then test it. You may need to repeat this procedure over several days. If you are fortunate, you’ll get functionality back from your laptop. It could take anywhere from the one day to several weeks for it to recover ““if recovery is possible.

Of course, the best way to handle a laptop spill is to prevent it. Never let the honeymoon die. If you care about your laptop or the data on it, donÂ’t place open drinks near it. And never open it under a tree.

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