Computers & Water Don’t Mix! Back up your work! And put your tea far away from your electronics!

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Okay, this is one of those cautionary tales you often read on the internet…starting with this question:


“If you kicked an entire pint of iced green tea on your computer right now, how much work would you lose?”

MacBook Pro motherboard, which I hope never to see again

I so know better than this!  I’ve worked on computers almost 30 years.  And when I work on other people’s computers, I am meticulously careful to keep liquids and food away from them.  And I religiously backup all work.


But working at home, on my own gear, sometimes I get lazy…  It’s Sunday morning.  I’m super tired, a little sleep-deprived.  I set the laptop on the ground to show Stan a photo on craigslist.  I set down the iced tea, and I suddenly remember something I need from the other room.  Step, kick, tea all over the laptop.


Ay, ay, ay!


I did everything they said you are supposed to do.  The computer was in sleep mode when it happened, so it was powered down.  I removed the power cord and flipped the computer over and shook as much tea out of the keyboard as possible. I dried as much as I could with a towel.  I removed the cover and dried as much tea as I could see inside.  I took a blowdryer and carefully blow-dried for a while, making sure to dry all ports and the connections to the screen.  I left my laptop turned off and open in an inverted “V” with a small fan blowing on it for 3 days.  Since it was just water and tea (no sugar, nothing corrosive), everything I read online said that as long it dried completely, there was a good chance it would come back on and work.


Finally today I turned it back on…hallelujah, it powered right up!  I was beyond relieved.


In the last three days I was working on a deadline, of course.  I had to deliver a show today.  Because I was lazy and didn’t back up my work properly on Friday, I spent half a day on Sunday rebuilding a day of edits.  I actually remember thinking late Friday night, “I should back-up.”  And then I didn’t!   I swear, I think that’s the voice of God when intuition speaks that way.  Why oh why didn’t I listen?  I culled through emails to find copies of scripts I had emailed to clients.  I downloaded reference videos I had uploaded to YouTube.  Fortunately, I was able to reconstruct everything in half a day.  But if I had backed up, I wouldn’t have had to rebuild a thing.


The first thing I did when my computer came back to life was plug in the external firewire drive and run Time Machine to do a complete backup.   Then I made additional backups of my current editing projects.


Thanks to Stanford Chang for loaning me his laptop, with the most current version of Final Cut Pro, so I could finish my show on time today.  It’s a blessing to have two editors in one household!


I think the key is to make backing up simple, so that it can be done more or less automatically, and then it happens, whether I’m tired or sleep deprived or not.


Resolved, I will backup my computer daily.  And I will keep beverages FAR away from my poor computer!

Documentary editor with a heart of gold. Seasoned PBS documentary editor, writer, producer and story consultant, specializing in social issue films with a bent towards changing the world.

One response to “Computers & Water Don’t Mix! Back up your work! And put your tea far away from your electronics!”

  1. I went to an online automated backup system this year. I was just too lackadaisical. Money well spent I’m sure.

    Hope you are well Shirley!

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