While it’s true that technology and water make poor bedfellows, having a cup of water or other drink knocked accidentally onto your precious laptop isn’t necessarily as fatal as it might first seem. Here’s what to do if you drench your PC.

Don’t panic!

Keeping a cool head is important, as there are some things that need to be done quickly to maximise the chance of saving your laptop.

Remove any kind of power and turn off the laptop

In an ideal world your laptop would have been turned off when you managed to spill water on it. Unfortunately that's almost never the case, and the essential first step is to turn it off (if it's miraculously still on) and if it's plugged into a charger, disconnect it immediately.

You’ll also need to power the device down as fast as you can, as you don’t want liquids mixing with the electrical circuits when they still have charge.

Pressing and holding the power button until you see the machine turn off is the quickest way to do this. Should your laptop have a removable battery, take it out so that there’s no way it can’t draw any power. You’ll also want to remove any other cables or devices that are attached to the laptop.

Dry out the laptop completely

The next stage is where you dry out the device. Use a cloth or paper towels to soak up any obvious water on the outside of the device, then try slowly turning it onto different sides and holding it there to drain any water that’s made its way inside.

Even when all of the drips have been expelled, it’s still likely that moisture is covering various parts of the motherboard and other components. If you turn the machine on while it’s in this state, then there’s a very good chance that the water will cause a short-circuit and fry the board or damage other delicate items such as the processor. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to wait until the laptop has had time to dry out.

Try a bag of rice

If you don't have a dehumidifier (a bag of dessicant) handy, then one popular way to help this process along is to take a large bag of uncooked rice and place the device inside. The rice will help to draw out the moisture and absorb it, making it safe to try turning the laptop back on again. This is not a fast process though, so we recommend leaving the device in the sealed bag for a good couple of days. 

Whip out the hair dryer

Another way to try making the water dissipate it to use a hair dryer. On a cool setting, hold the nozzle close to the keyboard and move it slowly around to try and blow out any water and also dry components at the same time.

Repeat this on the rear of the laptop too, making sure to stand the device upside down in a tent shape with the bottom edge of the keyboard and the top edge of the display as the feet. This allows liquid to drain out while you use the hair dryer to encourage the water to move.  

If you have a drying room or airing cupboard you can leave the laptop in there for a few hours to try and evaporate any remaining moisture, but you don’t want the device sitting in very hot environments for too long as this can also have an adverse effect on its components.

When you reach the point where you can’t see any signs of water leaking out of the laptop when put in different positions, and you’ve had it powered down for at the very least a few hours (we recommend at least overnight), it’s time for the moment of truth.

Press and hold the power button and pray that things will be ok. If the laptop boots successfully, try running a variety of programs to test that it still functions normally. Press and use all of the hardware buttons and ports too, just to ensure that there has been no localised damage. If everything works, well done! You’ve saved your laptop.

What to do if the laptop doesn’t work

Should the worst have happened, and your PC is unresponsive or shows signs of serious damage, then there isn’t a lot that can be done to fix things. Most modern laptops don’t have many serviceable parts, so accidents like this can be terminal.

You could try contacting a professional PC repair service to see if they can help, although we’d advise you get a quote for the finished job before going ahead with any attempt to repair the machine.

Before heading to the shops with a heavy heart, you should also check your home insurance to see if this kind of accident is covered by your policy. If your bad day continues, then at least you can take solace in the fact that you’ll find a range of excellent new PCs in our roundup of the best laptops currently available. Silver lining and all that.