Last-ditch effort to save a MacBook Pro from liquid damage

I have a MacBook Pro. Correction — had a MacBook Pro. It is still hard to believe I don’t have it. I feel a little lost without a laptop, having had one for nearly the past 10 years.

It feels a little poetic that, not only have I documented the buying of a MacBook Pro, I will also document the saying of goodbye to that MacBook Pro. Poetic in a kind of tragic way.

Let me start from the beginning….of the end. In August, all of a sudden, my laptop just stopped working. The battery, like many Apple laptop batteries, had stopped holding a full charge long ago, but all of a sudden it just drained and the whole laptop went dark and unresponsive. First thing we tried was buying a new battery.


Obviously, that didn’t work out well. After cracking it open, the Genius Bar told us unequivocally that the logic board had liquid damage and there was corrosion. Since it was not covered under warranty (we’d bought it in early 2009) nor Apple Care, Apple repair would have cost $1,300, including the replacement of the logic board and other connectors that were damaged. So I got a referral from a trusted friend to a Mac specialist, who brought it to an Apple repair shop called Dino Computers in Pasadena, who came to the same conclusion — logic board corrosion.

I was still not ready to give up on the laptop. I found a service by the Mac Geniuses that touted a no-risk MacBook Pro liquid repair service — they offered free shipping and a flat $299 fee for what they called was a “proprietary restoration process.” But Trinity and I had misgivings about sending the laptop (which at that point was a very expensive paperweight, but one we were loathe to send to complete strangers) to Texas, plus we were also leery of paying a $299 fee, after the $50 inspection by my friend’s Mac specialist and the $50 we paid to Dino Computers.

Finally, in November or so, after much research, I decided to try and take the laptop apart myself and wash the logic board, following tutorials from Believe me, I didn’t want to do it — I would much rather have a professional do it, but I had to do everything I could to save the laptop, and every other professional I’d consulted told me to just buy a new one. So, I figured, if I was successful — great! I’d saved myself $300 and having to buy a new laptop. If not — no skin off my back, everyone said the laptop was dead anyway.

IMG_1811First, I needed a few tools, just to be able to remove the hard drive and put it in an enclosure. I needed the T6 screwdriver to remove the hard drive, and I bought the screwdriver kit with multiple bits for the Phillips #00 at Fry’s Electronics. If you’re buying a hard drive enclosure for a MacBook Pro, make sure you get a SATA hard drive enclosure, because regular ones won’t fit. Yes, I made that mistake.

Here’s what I did, in gallery mode:

(I do want to note that I was inspired to use tupperware to hold the screws at each step by Eric of MacTechLA. When he came to my office to fix my phone in September, I was probably openly staring as he used a ice tray to hold the screws and various small parts as he replaced my screen. It was very low tech and quite ingenious.)

Long story short, the effort did not work, I’m sorry to report. It’s not to say that attempting this yourself will never work — it could be that the corrosion was on the logic board too long (it did die in August, and I didn’t crack the laptop open till December) and/or the corrosion on the connector was too damaging. I don’t know; I’m no electronics expert. Either way, I was left with 1. a non-working MacBook Pro and 2. a brand new, never used MacBook Pro battery that I could no longer return to the Apple store, even for credit, because I’d bought it in August and finally came to the conclusion that I could no longer use it in December.

On Twitter, my cousin had suggested selling my poor laptop off to — totally sounded like a scam, but they quoted me $189 for my MacBook. I told them I’d be keeping my hard drive, so that took $39 off the quote, leaving me with $150. It took about a week for my laptop to arrive in their facility in New York, but as soon as it did, they sent me $150 via PayPal. I was very happy about getting the money, until I remembered that it meant my laptop was truly dead and buried. Sad face.

There was still the issue of the battery. Initially, I tried to sell it on Craigslist for $80, but some joker beat me to it, selling their brand new MacBook battery for $40! So I had to do the same. I finally got a kid out of the South Bay to come out to my work in Studio City to pick up the battery and give me $40 for it. He hasn’t contacted me since, so the battery is apparently working out for him.

So that’s it. It was an ignominious end to a laptop that saw me through the birth of two boys, my gallbladder surgery and a couple of really great vacations. I hope you will be able to learn from my sad example. Also good to note: I got the full quote from Cash4Macbooks because the laptop’s shell had been protected with a Speck case pretty much the entire time I had it. It’s a good investment for future resale value. (Mine is used, but I’ll sell it to you for $10, if you’re interested.)