Lessons learned from a beverage spill on a MacBook Pro

My cat, adorable little creature that he is, got a little too much “me me me pet me” one day and knocked over an almost full adult beverage. The beverage was naturally right in the middle of a triangle with my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro at each point. Everything got a little damp. Not too wet to stop working, or so I thought, as everything continued to function just fine.
But I got to work the next day and noticed that the MagSafe light on my 2011 MacBook Pro wasn’t working. The laptop would get power through the MagSafe port, but would not charge the battery even after trying several adapters. I’d had problems with that port before, and I figured it had finally died on me. Later that day, I had a few OS X crashes and decided to re-run setup. This generated an error message that the SSD disk was damaged and could not be repaired. Clearly the liquid had done more damage than I thought.
I uttered a few words that can’t be printed here.


The perpetrator of the crime

Dropbox and iCloud to the rescue

When I got home that night, I replaced the failed SSD drive with another drive and reinstalled OS X. At this point, I was resigned that a visit to the Apple Store was in my future, so I also got my old 2009 MacBook Pro ready to fill in.
I’ve never been particularly good about personal backups, but I do store a lot of important documents in the cloud. While not as good as a backup that allows me to go back through document versions, it’s good enough for when the drive fails. My Dropbox and iCloud data immediately synced back to my laptop. Using a hard drive enclosure I borrowed from a friend, I as also able to get the few things I wasn’t able to restore, like my iPhoto library. I was also able to repartition that drive, so the problem was something software related; not physical damage.
While I thought I had checked off the box to automatically put iPhoto images into iCloud, I apparently hadn’t: only a few items showed up in my PhotoStream. However, I don’t consider my iPhoto library very critical, so if it was lost I would not have been upset.
Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 7.52.02 AM

The Apple Store visit

I scheduled a visit to the Apple Store in Natick, Mass., for both my iPad and MacBook (the iPad needed a warranty repair to fix a flaky home button that I’d been putting off). After a few tests they concluded that the MagSafe board was bad, and that since the part was only $10.23, they’d waive the labor.
Clearly I’d dodged a major bullet. Two days later they called to say that while they fixed the problem, they found water damage (I was shocked, SHOCKED to learn that) and the camera was busted. If I wanted to repair that, it would require a display replacement. I’ve never fully trusted that the camera can’t be turned on without my knowledge, so this was a blessing in disguise.
After tax, my beer spill cost me $11.83. That I was truly shocked at.

What I learned

Aside from learning I need to keep my cat and my beverage far apart, the exercise provided some valuable reminders.
I need to be a little better about backups. I had a Time Capsule that gave me nothing but problems until it finally died, so I don’t want to try another one again. In the short term, I’m going to grab an external 2TB drive and set up a Time Machine while I re-explore using something like CrashPlan. I’m also going to go back to a Pro account for Dropbox so I can store more than 2GB of data. At the same time, I’m also going to set up a Hazel rule to duplicate truly critical files between two cloud services. I’m also making sure all my iPhoto imports go to iCloud as well.
Apple Care Plus has also proven its worth to me. While my MacBook would not have been covered by AppleCare due to the liquid damage, my iPad and iPhone would have been. I already had the extra coverage on my iPad, and needed it since it was out of the normal warranty period. However, the fact that AppleCare Plus also covers “I’m a clumsy idiot” moments for an extra fee, it’s worth it.
The big lesson —  surprise — is that I got very lucky. This problem could have been a lot, lot worse. Last month I wrote about how 2014 was going to be the year of the iPad for me, and I thought the days of using my iPad as my sole mobile computer were imminent. Until I could afford to get an iMac, at the worse case I was going to just keep my MacBook plugged in and use my iPad when out and about.
Given almost all my mobile needs can be met with the iPad, the iMac is my desktop computer of the future. So, I’ll be focus more over the next few months about rounding out my mobile needs on the iPad.