Spill Damage Recovery – Desktop Gaming Computer

Spill Damage Recovery – Desktop Gaming Computer

SPILL DAMAGE MITIGATION

I recently completed a work order to repair and detail a gaming rig that had a glass of milk spilled into it through the top fan grates. You can imagine the extent of the damage: flaky white stains covering every single component inside the oversized tower, a faint smell of dairy and more than a few 'burned' spots on the circuity indicating an electrical short. The client was able to cut power to the computer before it shorted out on its own, which was a huge indicator that recovery would be successful.

pc pro computer build motherboard
Sparkling new and fully functional

INSPECTION

Upon initial investigation, extensive contamination was discovered across all major components. Some of the RAM sticks had solidified milk on the contacts while the corresponding ports had blocked pins. All three hard drives had splash stains, the worst of which was alarmingly found on the fragile mechanical drive. The Wi-Fi wireless network card had evaporated milk coating both surfaces, the processor was spared by the liquid cooling system, which unfortunately meant that milk had cooked into the tiny, tiny blades of a miniature radiator. The graphics card was assumed dead on arrival due to the several burnt spots on its exterior - it had taken the brunt of the spill. Last but not least, the motherboard was exposed in many places; for example, not all of the eSATA ports were functional upon inspection.

spill damage on ram memory computer
Note the hardened milk around the corners and on the contact edge of the RAM stick

TROUBLESHOOTING

I attempted to boot the computer after removing the GPU and plugging an HDMI cable into the onboard graphics card. The desktop powered on and I was blinded by bright green LEDs, but I saw nothing on my monitor. A red diagnostic LED was lit on the corner of the motherboard: "DRAM". I started removing the RAM sticks one by one until I could get past this specific problem. After removing two sticks, a new diagnostic LED was lit: "Boot Device". Time to test the hard drives, I thought. I removed all three drives from the tower and tested them in a hard drive dock connected to another computer. Luckily, all three hard drives worked like a charm. This meant either the cables or the ports were bad, so I replaced the SATA cables with temporary replacements, tried plugging hard drives into each port and saw limited success. Cleaning the rest of the ports with rubbing alcohol made all of the hard drives as well as the disc drive work once again.

spill damage hard drive sata port cables
Hard drive SATA ports were shorted out by spilled liquid

Out of curiosity, I tried cleaning the graphics card. Half an hour later, once all the crusty, powdery stains were finally gone, I installed it back into the computer and successfully got the display running, which was a relief that probably saved the client hundreds of dollars. Knowing now that there was a great chance of recovering everything, I went about my craft and painstakingly swabbed dried milk from all exposed electrical contacts, brushed it out of tiny spaces with an antistatic brush, wiped out every square inch of the massive computer case, completely disassembled the machine, posed for pictures (enjoy the gallery), reassembled the machine and began testing.

liquid damage diagnostics
Running some diagnostics after reassembling the computer

QUALITY CONTROL

Miraculously, the machine booted on the first try. Navigating through the BIOS indicated that all of the major devices were fully functional. The amount of RAM was reported correctly, all hard drives were detected and identified and the mouse and keyboard worked properly. Letting it run for a while, I noted that the temperature of the CPU remained stable. Finally, I booted into the operating system to go online and run some benchmark and stress tests for good measure. Once everything was in order, I scheduled time to return the computer to the customer.

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Call me to solve your computer problems today - Don't wait until something fails!

Time Spent: 3 hours
Money Saved: At least $400 for a GPU replacement, potentially more.

 

GALLERY

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