If any of you guys follow me on social media you will be aware that a few weeks back we had a disaster in our household. I brought a cup of tea to my wife while she was working in bed, and as I handed it to her I dripped a few drops on her Apple Macbook pro. We quickly dried it off and thought no more of it. It worked all morning & she closed the Macbook when we went out for lunch.
On our return the Macbook refused to startup. On pressing the power button it would make the startup chime, the grey apple screen would appear with the apple logo and then with a click of the hard drive the machine would shut down. This happened every time we tried to boot the laptop. The liquid had done damage. I inspected the Macbook where the drops had landed, mainly around the top right of the keyboard & the power button. I couldn’t see any signs of moisture at all. I suspected a fried logic board but refused to give up on the machine & testing.
I decided to lay it keyboard down on a towel and let it dry out for 12 hours. This did nothing. I then tried sitting the laptop in the sunlight to dry even further. Again nothing. I even pondered a huge bag or rice, but it seemed overkill for a few drops of tea. I thought long & hard how a few drops of liquid could have made it past the keyboard & backlight & down to the logic board. It was almost impossible due to the low amount of drips on the keyboard. At this point I decided that it must be a faulty keyboard or power button. As the laptop would boot a little surely the logic board must be OK.
I then tried booting the laptop holding the command key. It booted without issue, but as soon as I released the key it would shutdown. The shutdown was exactly the same as when you force shutdown the Macbook by holding the power button for 4 seconds. Eureka! It must be a short in the power button circuit. Probably due to the sugar content in the tea or corrosion caused by the moisture.
Next I opened up the Macbook, pulling out the radio board, battery, Superdrive and other bits getting in the way. I revealed the power button and noticed that the power button is part of the keyboard assembly and runs on a ribbon to the rest of the keyboard circuitry. As the keyboard was fried I decided to take a knife and slice off the ribbon for the power button. Surely if the short was in the button itself this would isolate it & allow the machine to boot. It didn’t. No big deal, the keyboard was thought to be faulty anyway so next I decided to disconnect the keyboard ribbon cable from the logic board, isolating the keyboard. As soon as I did this & reassembled the Macbook booted & worked perfectly. Due to the fact that I had disconnected the power button I had to start the Macbook up by shorting the power pads on the logic board. I did this with a screwdriver. I then replaced the bottom cover and had a fully working Macbook, without a keyboard & power button.
The power button wasn’t an issue as the Macbook always uses sleep as opposed to a cold shutdown. I plugged in an external keyboard and the Macbook was once again functional. What a result. We had gone from a destroyed Macbook to one with an obviously faulty internal keyboard. I enquired locally with Mac repair specialists who quoted between £200-£300 to replace the keyboard. Ridiculous prices, so I headed over to eBay and ordered a brand new official apple Macbook pro keyboard & brand new backlight for £24 delivered. The keyboard arrived next day and I set to work dismantling the Macbook. It’s a complicated laptop to dismantle, but only because of the sheer number of steps & screws involved. The keyboard assembly alone is held in by about 80 tiny little screws.
To disassemble you need to remove the bottom cover, followed by the battery. I then removed the hard drive mount, the superdrive & radio board, followed by the logic board fan, ribbon cables & logic board. There are model specific tear-downs over on ifixit so check those out for your model.
Removing the old keyboard & fitting the new one is time-consuming & fiddly, but not overly difficult. The hardest & most scary part for me was refitting the ribbon cable for the keyboard. It’s hard to get it seated properly, so I used a bit of sticky tape on the ribbon to create a tab, allowing me to pull the cable home in the bracket without kinking or bending it. Reassembly is the opposite of disassembly. When disassembling I’d advise that you keep components & their screws together so you know which screw belongs to which part. For the logic board screws I laid them out on a piece of card board in the same pattern as they came out of the logic board (see above picture), that way I could quickly see which hole to put them back into.
Once reassembled the MacBook worked perfectly. It had a brand new keyboard & backlight, which was all new & matte finished (the old one had gone shiny). This fix is well worth it if you think you have water damaged your MacBook, at least try disconnecting the keyboard to rule it out. If it boots, you can work with an external keyboard until you get around to replacing it. The Apple Macbook in question is 4 years old but perfectly good & used heavily, so this fix was a lifesaver. What’s more I managed to save a perfectly good bit of tech & a load of money in the process.