Coffee In The Keyboard: Tips For Recovery
Anyone forced to sit at the computer during the brutal heat of summer will be tempted now and again to keep a cold beverage on hand. Yet iced coffee or cola can be deadly for a keyboard. One careless motion and the drink may spill right into the equipment. In most cases, the computer peripheral is a goner. Crumbs represent less of a problem: they're easy to remove from the keyboard.
The first thing to do if liquid spills into a keyboard is to stay calm. "Before anything else, shut down the computer," advises Andreas Helmiss, editor at the Munich-based magazine PC-Welt. Once the computer is off, unplug the keyboard and turn it upside down over a cloth. Do not attempt to open it up.
"The inside has a paper-thin circuit path laid on a printed circuit board. If these circuit paths are still intact, they would be destroyed by a cloth."
Ralf Diekmann from TUEV Rheinland, a German standards organization, warns against drying the keyboard with a hair dryer. Nor should it be put on a heater. "The best thing is to leave the keyboard lying there until it is dry. If the spill was just water, than that may well succeed."
Andreas Helmiss does not see the odds as good for this kind of rescue mission: "In most cases, if water gets in there then the keyboard is broken." For those determined souls who refuse to give up, he recommends cleaning the mechanical parts only: "To clean a keyboard on your own, you should use a soft cloth and distilled water."
While water should generally be banned from the desk, there are a few more proactive ways to help protect a keyboard. "Firms like Cherry offer plastic overlays for keyboards," Helmiss says. The foils are put over the keyboard and are almost unnoticeable when typing.
There are also waterproof keyboards available for purchase. Genius, a German company, offers a keyboard that claims to be able to prevent the penetration of liquids into the interior of the device.
"A membrane has been laid between the key area and the electronics. The penetrating liquids are thus kept away from the sensitive electronics and conducted away through small discharge outlets in the bottom of the keyboard," says Sven Weiss from Genius.
It's significantly easier to remove dust or crumbs from the keyboard. "If you want to clean the keyboard, it's enough to vacuum it out at the lowest power setting," Helmiss advises. The keyboard can also be turned over and shaken out, says Sven Weiss. A moist cloth should be used to clean the surface. "Under no circumstances should you use an aggressive cleaner, as it can damage the writing on the keys."
The situation is more serious and expensive if fluids manage to make their way into a laptop keyboard. "Laptops involve a great deal of technology installed in the smallest space possible. If fluids get loose in there, it can cause a short circuit. This can mean the end for one or more components," Helmiss says.
If this kind of accident happens, shut the laptop off immediately. This means pulling out the plug and removing the battery. The device should then be allowed to dry. If a sticky fluid has gotten into the laptop, take the machine to a repair shop.
"Do not under any circumstances try to do it yourself," Helmiss warns. The devices are constructed very complexly.
At the repair shop, the keyboard itself is usually exchanged.
"A keyboard consists of so many individual parts that it isn't economically feasible to clean each one of them individually," the expert says.
Helmiss recommends against plastic overlays, though. "Efficient cooling is required for small devices like laptops." The protective sheets can cause heat to build up in the device. That could lead to a quick breakdown for the laptop.
Users working in moist environments should consider the purchase of special laptops. "There are now devices with special encapsulation against fluids," explains Ralf Diekmann from TUEV Rheinland. These devices are well suited for use on construction sites or industrial facilities.
"The machines offer very good water proofing from day one." www.playfuls.com