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Captured at www.thetrip.com/ completetraveler/article/0,1355,1-1-4_2109,00.html

Protecting Your Computer From Spills

by Warren Epstein

June 14, 1999

The man in seat 22-C was tapping away on his laptop, working a spread sheet at 30,000 feet, when disaster struck. He reached for his Bloody Mary, missed, and spilled the drink all over his keyboard.The flight attendant rushed to help, but by the time she pulled out the napkins, it was too late.

The computer was terminal.

What's the worst thing you can spill on your computer? According to Mike Graham, president of the International Corrosion Council, the most evil substance known to circuit boards is Coke. "It's very acidic, very low pH, so it'll eat through just about everything." He's using Coke in the generic sense, though. Pepsi, he admits, is just as bad.

What about rum and Coke? That's bad, too, but not as bad as pure cola. "Alcohol will dissolve aluminum a little bit, but I'd think just a soft drink would be worse," he said.

Fruit drinks are almost as bad as Coke, Graham said, because most fruits are also acidic. Screwdriver? Forget-about-it. Bloody Mary? Don't go there.

Even water, the least corrosive of drinks, can do major damage to a circuit board. "Usually, when a spill occurs, at some point it drips down onto the main motherboard and instantaneously fries it and a costly repair is needed asap," service techs say. "Warranties do not cover this."

The solution, of course, is not spilling in the first place.

OK, let's say you don't listen. You're a wild man (or woman) living on the edge. You did the deed. What now?

You must take action quickly (especially if it's Coke) to minimize the damage. If you're plugged into something, remove your a/c adapter cord. Then take out the reserve power battery. Grab those napkins offered by the flight attendant and sop things up as best you can.

Turn off the computer and don't turn it back on no matter how curious you are to see if you've lost all the work you just did. This could cause much more damage to the circuits.

Call a qualified technician, and ask for an evaluation. Get at least three estimates. And be sure to be upfront about your stupidity and tell them what you spilled and where. The sooner this is done the faster a tech can find an antidote that will minimize the damage.

Some people go for the old let-it-dry-out-and-everything-will-be-fine method. This can actually work just fine--if you're very, very lucky. More likely, you'll just encourage more corrosion and mold growth.

Caught in the Net welcomes interesting flotsam culled by its readers. Send E-mail to netfishing@chicagoreader.com. There's a T-shirt in it for you if we print it.

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