How to Revive a Computer or Device with Water Damage [Ask the Writers]

Having lived through it, I don’t know if there’s anything worse then having a computer or device gets water damage. There’s a panic that goes through you as soon as that flash rain storm hits by surprise, your phone slips out of your hands and into the toilet, or that cup of coffee spills on your desk when your computer is laying right next to it.

After the resulting panic, shouting, and cursing, then it comes time to make a decision on what to do. We all know electronic devices are not meant to get wet. But not everyone knows what to do once that inevitable finally happens. Our writers were asked to share their personal stories of water damage and also asked them what they have done or will do in the case of water damage.

I have more experience with water damage than I care to even think about. I’ve lost a couple of phones and a MacBook to water damage. My son has lost countless phones. When my son lost one of his first phones in a bowl of cereal, we had heard that packing it in a bag of rice would be its saving grace. It helped … some. I have also read that silica gel packets will do an even better job than rice.

My iPhone 3GS got knocked into the sink once when I was washing my hands. It wasn’t totally enveloped in water, but definitely met with more water than it should have. I packed it in rice overnight, and it worked the next morning, but it kept indiscriminately restarting every few minutes. A month later the replacement fell out of my purse and into the toilet when I was washing my hands in a public restroom. It was cashed. I knew it immediately. No amount of rice was going to save it.


I recently lost a MacBook as well. The faucet on my kitchen sink is broken, and there was just a hose hanging there. I turned it on, and the water pressure snaked the hose right out of my hands, spraying all over my kitchen. My daughter was sitting behind me on the MacBook. I held it upside down for a good fifteen to twenty minutes with water dripping out of it. Again, I didn’t even try to save it. It was done for, and I knew it.

Emmanuel also lost an iPhone 3GS to water damage. However, with most of his gadgets, including the iPhone, he says the rice trick usually works. With his iPhone 5, he’s taking extra precautions. He put extra money into buying a Lifeproof case. He suggests anyone who can’t afford that should just get as good of a case as they can afford. “It doesn’t have to be waterproof, but any case at least can help when your phone (or other gadget) goes for a swim.”

Trevor got caught in the rain at soccer practice once, leaving his Blackberry to be a victim. He left it in front of a fan for a few hours to get most of the moisture out, then had it in a bag of rice for about a day. It worked, although imperfectly. Perhaps because of this experience, he tries to back up everything regularly so that a wet phone is “more of an inconvenience than a disaster.” He’s also had a few stressful moments with Windows computers, but with the backups and a little time, all were fixable.


Ruji also had a Blackberry. She dropped it in the sink while doing the dishes once, and also had it get soaked in the rainy Portland weather. She always removed the battery, and let it sit in rice for a few days. After a day it would boot, but act buggy unless it sat for at least two days. She also had a MacBook Pro she would take into the bathroom with her. The humidity got to the trackpad disabling the clicking. She found a workaround in the system settings, but booting from a CD didn’t work then. Her ThinkPad’s keyboard is spill-proof, and she now always buys silicon keyboard covers as well.

Miguel has some very practical advice for when your favorite device receives water damage. He suggests turning it off, removing the batteries, then taking it in for service as soon as possible. He suggests that it “might not have reached the main PCB, so service personnel might be able to air it out. You can alternatively air out the PCB yourself by disassembling the device and leaving it to dry.” He warns that under no circumstances should a blow dryer ever be used to speed up the drying process, as it might stress some of the components. He suggests wiping it off with a microfiber cloth.


Damien, aka the voice of reason, perhaps has the best advice of all. “Surprisingly, I have never had a water accident with any electronic device, maybe because I am careful enough not to bring them to the toilet or bathroom.” That certainly needs to be addressed. Most of the water-damaged computers and devices here tempted fate in the bathroom or kitchen, and if not that, they were out in the rain. That should serve as great warnings for us.

On our advice, it’s best not to take your expensive toys into the bathroom with you or near the kitchen sink. If water hits, take out the battery if you can (Apple makes it hard to reach some of their batteries), and either pack it in rice of silica gel, or take it immediately in for service. Do note that most devices have water sensors, making it hard to convince those at the service desk that your device never saw a drop of liquid.

Now it’s your turn to tell us how you revive your water damaged computer/device.

Image credit: Cell by BigStockPhoto