New 15.4" MBP. Water intrusion. Keyboard dead. Advice?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Dobershekel, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. Dobershekel macrumors newbie

    Nov 27, 2009
    Hey everyone -

    Got a new 15.4" MBP, 2.53Ghz. Latest unibody model AFAIK.

    This is the deal:

    Wanted to clean greasy fingerprints off the keys. Got a damp paper towel with a little dish soap and went to town on the keyboard and touchpad. Bad idea.

    Keyboard very quickly started to malfunction - keys stopped working or became flaky, or would activate other keys (i.e. pressing P would cause p and a semicolon to print on screen). About 1/2 hour later, keyboard totally died. Not even the caps-lock light comes on anymore. Inverted my MBP for several hours to see if any water might escape (though it was very little water to begin with!) - didn't help the situation.

    Touchpad is fine. Everything else is fine. System boots and reboots without issue. I am able to attach an external USB keyboard to keep going. Only thing that I can tell is dead is the keyboard. The backlight under the keyboard still works.

    Based on the knowledge and experience of everyone here, what do you think I am looking at in terms of repairs?

    Does this sound like I fried some chip on the motherboard (implying a costly replacement of the entire motherboard)? Or will I be able to get away with just replacing the physical keyboard itself? If it is just the keyboard, would I be able to swap *just* the keyboard and not the entire upper body (can you buy the individual keyboard like that?)?

    Want to emphasize that this was not an actual spill of a drink - just a wet paper towel! I definitely learned my lesson here, so please help advise me on the best course of action here.


    EDIT -

    It is also my understanding that the internal keyboard is presented to the system as a USB device. I just loaded the System Profiler and it still indicates that I still have the "Apple Internal Keyboard / Trackpad" attached to my system (despite keyboard being non-functional).

    That leads me to ask, despite being dried out (the best I can tell, anyway), what exactly is damaged? Are there actual electronics in the keyboard?

    Is the trackpad and keyboard part of the same USB device? If the trackpad still works, does this likely rule out the idea that I fried the internal USB port? is the backlight (which also works fine) controlled through that same USB interface?
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    If you have water in the system, the best advice is to remove the electricity from system. Unplug it and remove the battery. Let it dry out for a few days and see if that resolves the problem.

    Next time don't "go to town" on it. A damp cloth is all that you need.
  3. Dobershekel thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 27, 2009
    Hindsight is 20/20, I've learned my lesson from this disaster obviously. Will be getting a keyboard protector after this has been resolved. I definitely don't need to be reminded now :(

    MBP has been inverted and powered off (can't remove battery on this machine without a torx driver, I believe, which I do not possess) all day, situation hasn't changed.

    Though I will say that a wet paper towel is how I've cleaned up every other laptop and keyboard I've owned without any such issues. Its not like I'm new to computers or laptops :)

    However much water made it inside was very little as the paper towel was not dripping wet - it was wet enough to dampen the keys, though obviously enough moisture made it inside to cause a problem.

    I've talked to a couple of Mac using buddies and they were quite shocked that this would happen, though they don't own unibody MBP's, so I think its something unique to the design on this machine to make it highly sensitive (i.e. not enough room to buffer any moisture away from the electronics).

    Also would like to mention that Apple specifically says to use a damp cloth to clean the MBP, though obviously the working definition of "damp" is subjective.

    Anyway, I'm going to be taking the MBP to the Genius Bar on Monday. Will be honest but will also point out that I essentially followed instructions (with, again, the subjective nature of "damp cloth" at play here). I will be praying that its *just* the keyboard (which means top cover replacement at worst) and if I'm lucky, they'll replace it.

    Does anyone here really believe that there is any damage to the motherboard based on the symptoms of a non-functioning keyboard but otherwise fully-functional MBP (including the keyboard backlight and trackpad)? What I'm trying to find out is if there are any keyboard-specific circuits/chips on the motherboard that could have been damaged, or if the keyboard really is just a self-contained device, electronics/chips and all, that is replaceable.

    (Secondary question - how sensitive are the water immersion sensors, and are there any located near enough the top cover right by the keyboard that a little bit of moisture might have tripped them? This may help my case when I go to Apple Monday.)
  4. l.a.rossmann macrumors 65816


    May 15, 2009
    It's hard to offer advice when you're trying to commit fraud.

    You are likely going to have to remove the entire top case since the keyboard is stuck in it, and put it in a chemical bath to get rid of all the junk that is now in there, dishsoap is poison for electronics. This costs more on the unibody than the older macbooks. In the old macbooks the keyboard can be had for $15-$20, and for the white/black ones the entire top case can be had for that price.

    Here, it's a much more elongated process since you have to take the entire machine out of the case. It's not about removing the keyboard from the case, it's about removing the computer from the case, which is a whole new pain in the ass.
  5. Dobershekel thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 27, 2009
    Uhh, I'm not trying to commit fraud (please note in my post where I said I would be honest about this), but thanks for the advice.

    I have absolutely no intention of lying to Apple. I will tell them what happened but make my case and put myself at their mercy. If I have to pay for a repair, so be it! If Apple feels generous, which I hope they do, then I will be forever gracious.

    Again, I have absolutely no intention of saying "geez, this stopped working and I don't know why, must be defective!". No, I have personal responsibility. I just want my MBP's keyboard to work again, preferably with the least amount of money spent as possible, but not to the point where I'm going to lie. If you feel that Apple granting a warranty repair to me under honest pretenses is a bad thing, please feel free to call them and protest.

    The question about the water immersion sensors is perfectly legitimate - if there are sensors right around the perimeter of the keyboard, then there is a chance I could have tripped one or more of them. The sensitivity and location of these could possibly help or hinder my case, i.e. will they feel that the cloth was too wet to grant me any pity or whatever. Has nothing to do with me trying to cover up what happened.
  6. Dan73 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 30, 2009
    One tiny drop of water in the wrong place can kill the whole laptop. :(

    Uhm, bury your laptop in rice? But I have a bad feeling that it won't help even now

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