Repairing a water damaged laptop

I recently bought an HP Pavilion dv6000 laptop, but I hadn't owned the machine for 3 weeks when I spilled some water on it. What's worse, I didn't realize I had spilled the water until many hours later. What's even worse, the laptop had been switched on at the time... disaster! When I tried to run the laptop my worst fears were confirmed: the laptop wasn't working.

I did manage to fix the laptop and in fact am writing this article on it. Here are the steps I followed - hopefully they'll be of use to someone else.

The first thing I did was to unplug the power cable, remove the battery and turn the laptop upside down to empty it of the water. I laid the laptop in an "A" shape over night and let the remaining water dry out. As it still wasn't working the next day I unscrewed a couple of lids on the bottom of the laptop and removed the hard drive. I left the laptop in the same position overnight again, but it still didn't work the next day.

I continued checking for a few days and eventually the laptop fired up, but did not automatically load the operating system. It instead presented a message, something like "Press <F1> to resume, <F10> to Setup". On pressing <F1> the system attempted to boot from the hard drive but without success, and the hard drive was making unhealthy sounds in the process. I rebooted, entered the BIOS setup and ran a diagnostic test on the hard drive, and it reported that it was damaged and should be replaced.

So I bought a new hard drive, installed it and entered the Windows Vista recovery discs that luckily I had created the day I bought laptop. I got the same message about resuming and entering setup; I pressed <F1> and the recovery discs were executed. A message appeared saying "Windows is loading files...". Unfortunately, after the files were loaded the system would just hang. I tried several times and the same thing happened each time.

My next move was to insert my Ubuntu GNU/Linux CD and boot up hoping to run it as a "live" CD, in which I wouldn't have to actually install the OS. I got to the usual prompt for <F1> to resume and the Ubuntu CD kicked in and gave me the options for what to do, so I chose "run or install". Unfortunately, the OS could not be fully loaded - at some point an error occurred and a stack trace was displayed. I tried this a few times too with the exact error differing from time to time. The Ubuntu CD also includes a utility called Memtest86+ that checks your RAM for defects, so I ran that but after a few seconds it would hang, sometimes reporting a couple of errors first.

Still, something told me the RAM was OK - I'd been able to do a certain amount with my system after all. So in desperation I decided to disassemble the keyboard so that I could air the area below it and wipe it clean. I left the keyboard slightly removed, or ajar, over night.

Today I refitted the keyboard and to my surprise the airing & cleaning seems to have done the trick. The <F1> prompt no longer appeared. Memtest86+ ran fully and reported that my RAM was fine. I inserted the Windows recovery discs and the laptop booted automatically from it. I followed the on-screen instructions and at last I had my laptop back in working condition.

I hope this will help someone else in a similar situation. Don't assume the damage is fatal! But above all, try not to spill water on your laptop!! How to take apart HP Pavilion dv6000 laptop is a page that helped me disassemble my laptop, which I recommend reading if you need to disassemble a laptop in the same series.