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Is A Laptop Immune to Dirt, Dust, and Liquids But Not Power Surges?

Today's laptops are pretty rugged...  They are called "Industrial Strength" in old school parlance.

Ever see a 'Tough' laptop? There are some that are made for extreme environments.

Militaries around the world have some really nice notebooks that can take heat, cold, water, mud, or almost anything that isn't caustic or acid based.

In the late 1960's and early 1970's there was a saying in TV ads that if something was stronger or made to last longer than a normal product it was "Industrial Strength".

Such as a certain type of soap or detergent, or a device such as a drill. This "Industrial Strength" product was stronger, could take more abuse, or would out last the normal run of the mill product. I would say in the old school of thought that these very rugged (and expensive) notebooks are "Industrial Strength"

Cool, no? If you want to see some of them being tested just do a search on YouTube for 'Tough notebooks' some of the videos are from manufactures others are from people with too much money and time on their hands...

A while back I wrote an article about dumping your drink in your desktop/tower computer and what happens when the liquid hits a component when the computer is powered up, not pretty and definitely not cheap!

Notebooks are a little different when it comes to dirt and dust, the case is sealed fairly well and in a normal environment not much will get inside with the exception of the heat sink and fan for the processor, these have to have access to fresh air to cool down the processor. The fan also draws air in to any opening in the case such as around the keyboard, the CD/DVD and a few other places.

For the most part any liquid dumped on a closed laptop will flow off and only the exterior will be affected, some newer computer cases have a 'clear coat' over the plastic and even soda won't stain it.

But if you dump the liquid in the keyboard the keyboard may be ruined. Each key cap has a rubber gourmet around the plunger (this is what brings the key back up, some also have a small spring) that goes through the keyboard base to a connector made out of carbon. When the key is pressed the plunger makes contact with the carbon connector trace, the amount of resistance will tell a processor what key was pressed and you see a letter appear on the screen. Cool, no?

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But if too much liquid is dumped on keyboard it could get past the gourmet and leak down in to the carbon, this will ruin the resistance factor of the carbon, you will have to replace the keyboard.

If the liquid has sugar such as coffee, soda, tea, etc then there is no way to clean out all that sugar; your keys will stick all the time, replace the keyboard.

An additional fact about giving your notebook a drink - If enough liquid gets past the key gourmets in to the carbon under the key plunger then it will also get inside the computer.

You have a chance to limit the damage by powering down the computer as soon as possible, then remove the notebook battery. By doing this you may only have to clean a little liquid out of the inside of the notebook and buy a new keyboard.

Older or abused laptops are more accessible to liquids seeping in to the interior because the case may have cracks, this will allow liquids to enter, if you have a crack in the case you can try to glue the case but in my experience the cases are made from an impact resistant type of plastic and super glue will not work.

If anyone has done a repair that succeeded then tell us what you used, I have two old IBM's that the cases are broken in various places.


Your laptop needs power surge protection as much as a desktop however it really doesn't need a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) like a desktop because it has it's own built-in battery. Now if you use the notebook also as a desktop then the external peripherals (monitor maybe the keyboard and mouse) will need a UPS or just use the notebook video, keyboard, and mouse while the power is out. If you don't have a surge suppressor then unplug the AC cord from the power outlet (socket) and then wait five or ten minutes after the power has been restored before plugging it back in to insure the surges are over. (Who carries a surge suppressor when they travel?)

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You keyboard isn't thirsty, and it doesn't need calcium. Milk and other liquids will ruin a keyaboard!

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Just because those people on You Tube are dunking their laptops in a fish tank don't do it yourself, then again if you can afford to do this ... Smile

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