Laptops hate drinks, any kind of them. Some may tolerate a small sip of vodka or scotch on the rocks, but that’s about all. Any other kind of drink – coffee, tea, wine, pop or any soft drink will kill them almost instantly.
I’ve been dealing with laptops for quite a long time but have seen just a couple of mainstream laptops that are spill-resistant. This is one of the biggest design flaws of all laptops. How hard is it for the manufacturers to put a plastic or metal tray under the keyboard that will prevent any liquids from entering the laptop? It doesn’t even have to be completely waterproof, just spill-resistant. Well, it’s not hard at all and very inexpensive to implement, but… Nobody does it.
Another “thing” is the keyboard. Many years ago some laptop keyboards had a plastic membrane under the keys, covering the actual contacts and preventing any dust, debris or liquids from damaging the keyboard. Unfortunately all newer laptops come with pretty much the same keyboards that have absolutely no protection from liquids. Just a few drops will usually kill a keyboard and it will have to be replaced.
What to do if you spill something on your laptop? Act quickly! Unplug the power cord and any other cords, turn the laptop upside down and remove the battery. Don’t try to shut down the laptop, that takes time… The damage you may do to the operating system by removing the battery while the laptop is running is insignificant compared to the damage the liquid will do to your laptop when it penetrates to the motherboard.
After removing the battery, keep the laptop upside down for a while, allowing the liquid to drain as much as possible. Don’t even think about turning it back on to see if it still works! It has to dry completely first. That takes at least 48 hours. After the liquid has drained, remove the hard drive, usually held in place by one or two screws, the CD/DVD if possible, and all small covers on the back that are held by screws (there is at least one, covering your RAM expansion slot, and possibly another covering the Wi-Fi card).
The next step is removing the keyboard. That is usually not very hard but unless you can get a service manual describing exactly how to do it on your laptop (the procedure varies for different models and brands), I would suggest letting a technician do it. It is important to remove the keyboard because it is most likely damaged and will need to be replaced and because that will expose the area where most of the spillage occurred, allowing it to dry.
The important thing to remember is not to turn the laptop back on before it is completely dry. However trying to speed up the process with a hairdryer is a very bad idea, as the temperature of the air is too high and may damage the laptop. I’ve seen a few melted laptop cases from a hairdryer.
If that was your business computer and you need to continue working, the best thing to do is to transfer the hard disk to an external USB enclosure, providing that it wasn’t damaged from the liquid (in 99% of the cases the hard disk is not damaged). That way you will have access to all your files (but not to your programs) and will be able to continue working on another computer.