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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Click Tips
Rob Freeman
By Rob Freeman
Click tip-ster

Rob Freeman, Click Online's very own Mr Fixit, troubleshoots your PC problems.

Imagine you have just spent hundreds of pounds on a new laptop. It is shiny and beautiful and humming away contentedly.

What do you do with it now? I'll give you one tip to start with - keep it away from hot liquids!

Tony Morrison, from the UK, contacted us saying:

I have spilt coffee on my laptop and it powered off. I have carefully removed the casing, dried out the coffee spill, and replaced the cover. The laptop now refuses to power up. Any ideas?

Tony, the fact that your laptop will not turn on anymore does not fill me with confidence.

Much as I like to advocate self-help, I think this is the time that you turn to your laptop's support line, or your insurance policy.

It is possible that the liquid shorted something out in the laptop pretty soon after the spill.

Remember that the hard disk of your laptop is in a sealed container, so there is a fair chance that your data has survived intact.

If you do send in your laptop for a repair, make sure they do not wipe the disk. Better still, remove it before you send the computer.

When faced with a potentially devastating spill, speed is of the essence.

First of all, if your computer is plugged in, pull the power cable out, and the battery too.

There will undoubtedly be some purists who say you should shut the machine down before you pull the plug. But there is not time.

Get rid of the electricity and turn that laptop upside down so whatever you spilled in there can start to drip out.

One of the key things is to get your computer dry quickly.

Try a gentle but prolonged blow with a hairdryer, but use the coolest setting - you will make the situation worse if you start to melt the components.

Depending on how much you have spilled, the damage could be limited to just the keyboard.

However, coffee leaves a thick sticky residue; if you take sugar it will be even stickier and will very quickly gum all the keys together.

Remember that most computer warranties will not cover you for accidental damage like spilling your coffee, and if you have just unscrewed your cover then you have invalidated the warranty anyway.

But if you are in any doubt, you should seek help from the manufacturer.

As I said, your hard disk is probably alright, but nothing gives peace of mind more than a regular backup routine.

Interestingly, you are far less likely to suffer a total failure if you spill a drink near a desktop computer, because most of the time you have only gummed up your keyboard. Much easier to clean, and a lot cheaper to replace.

There was one exception to this - the otherwise well designed Apple Cube.

Both the CD bay and the main chip parts are mounted vertically, the cooling fins, therefore, were perfectly placed to convey liquid straight into the heart of the computer. I think that is just tempting fate!

Personally I think wireless internet cafés have a lot to answer for, tempting mobile computer users into their warm and odoriferous surroundings, but without so much as a sniff of the hidden danger of coffee meeting laptop in the worst of ways.

Jatinder Mehta, from Ambala, India, wanted to know:

How do I prevent programs like Yahoo Messenger automatically running whenever I start my computer?

This is a setting that is sometimes hidden away in instant message programmes.

In the Yahoo case, you will find it under File > Preferences, and it is in the first option on the screen, with a check box which you can un-tick to prevent the software loading unless you tell it to.

There is somewhere else to check for other programs which you may not want to run as your computer boots.

Go to your Start button, click on Programs, and look for the Startup folder. This will contain shortcuts to the software Windows runs when you power up.

You can right-mouse-click on any of the entries to delete them.

If you have any questions or queries, please visit "Contact us" (link on the top right-hand side of this page) to get in touch.

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.


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