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What Causes a Laptop to Short Circuit?

Any physical or electrical damage can cause a short circuit in your laptop. There are many examples of damages that can cause your laptop to get a short circuit. And we’re going to learn everything about this matter in today’s article.

This complete guide will tell you what are some laptop short circuit symptoms, how to short circuit a laptop and, most importantly, how to fix these problems.

What causes a short circuit in Laptops?

We are going to describe below some of the most common and less common causes of short circuit for laptops.

A short circuit consumes all the power in a laptop and turns it off immediately. This is obviously a dangerous occurrence, so let’s jump directly into the reasons causing a short circuit.

Spilled liquids

This is probably the most common reason for a laptop to short circuit. Depending on the amount of liquid spilled and where it was spilled, it could be reversible damage.

If your laptops only got exposed to a small quantity of liquid, then it is most likely repairable. Otherwise, chances to get it working again are slim.

If the water or any sort of liquid enters inside your laptop through keys or ports, it will most likely cause a short circuit. The liquid will reach the motherboard where all the resistors and capacitors are placed, drain all energy and turn your laptop off.

This usually means that most likely you’ve got at least some sort of major damage. Whenever this happens, unplug the charger immediately.

It’s recommended to actually remove the plug from the energy socket and not the laptop itself as you would run the risk of getting electrocuted if there’s any water on the charger.

So it’s extremely important to be very careful when unplugging the charger or any other cable when a sort circuit affects your laptop. Move away from the laptop if a strong smell (burning smell) is coming from it but don’t leave it unsupervised in the room.

If you have a short caused by liquid in small quantities, the liquid might evaporate instantly when this happens. It would be a best case scenario, as this usually means little to no permanent damage is done.

How to fix it?

Laptop short circuit

As we said, as soon as you spill any liquid on your laptop, even if you don’t have any short circuit symptoms, shut down the laptop immediately and unplug the charger (ideally from the socket since that is not wet).

Next, turn your laptop upside down. This will help the liquid drain faster.

If more liquid got inside your device, you could try to open it up (with caution as this might remove warranty) and at least remove the battery to let it dry well.

Leave your laptop to drain for at least 12 hours in a well ventilated area without too much humidity. You can also place a fan to blow into it to speed up the drying process.

Only try to turn the laptop on when you are sure that the liquid is completely dried (you might have to wait more than 12 hours in certain situations).

What to do if you spilled a LOT of water on your laptop?

If you have clear signs of a short circuit after spilling a liquid on your laptop (like it shutting down), immediately follow the extra steps below:

  • Immediately turn the laptop off and unplug it carefully
  • Open your laptop, remove the battery and let it drain in an airy, dry place
  • Put a soft absorbing cloth on the motherboard to help it absorb the liquid.
  • Using a precision flat blade screwdriver, lift the plastic plate near the power button (this might not be doable on all models)
  • Apply a dry cloth to help with the drying process. Remove all excess liquid with a cloth.
  • If you spilled something sticky (like soda), carefully clean it from the motherboard using a wet cloth.
  • Let your laptop sit and dry as long as necessary (12 hours or more). Once this is done, carefully inspect the laptop for any traces of liquid or any sticky substances still left on the components.

Clogged fans & overheating

Sometimes, a laptop short circuit can be caused by clogged fans. When this happens, the power is overloaded in the adapter, the battery overheats – just like the processor and this can cause a short.

Additionally, dust is acting as a conductor for electricity so it could end up working in a similar fashion to liquids and short circuit your laptop.

How to fix it?

The best thing you can do here is to prevent this from happening. Keeping your laptop cool is a really good idea, no matter what, as overheating can cause all sorts of damage to your device.

Therefore, regularly cleaning your laptop’s fans and trying to keep it away from dust will help you prevent short circuits caused by dust accummulation.

The good news is that your laptop will send all sorts of signals before dust causes a short circuit.

If you notice any strange, loud noises coming from it (usually from the fan) or if it starts to shut down randomly or get sluggish after a while of usage, you might be dealing with clogged fans or extra dust inside your laptop.

When this starts happening, in order to prevent damage or a short circuit, you should clean your laptop’s fans.

This is usually done by removing the bottom frame of your laptop to access the fans. (Make sure your laptop is turned off and unplugged!)

The fans are usually immediately available but their location might vary depending on the model you own.

Alternately, you can always but a laptop cooling pad to avoid overheating.

In order to clean the fans, as soon as you have access to them, you can use a can of compressed air to clean them or a dry cloth. Some people use a vacuum cleaner to do the job, but if it’s too strong, it could cause damage.

Also, it’s better to clean a laptop’s fan by blowing (as compressed air would do) instead of using a sucking device like a vacuum cleaner.

Caution: After completing your task, don’t forget to tighten the bolts on your laptop’s backside!

Power Supply Problems

If there are issues with your laptop’s power supply, this could be a reason for causing a short circuit too.

You can usually check if the power supply is working as it should by plugging it into the wall outlet. If the adapter’s light turns on, then you are getting the required supply of electricity.

But if the adapter’s light doesn’t turn on even though the power source is ok and electricity is flowing smoothly, then this could be an indication that’s something wrong with the adapter cable.

This is actually why a laptop’s adapter has a led light: to indicate that current is passing through it.

Electricity fluctuation

If there is no electricity reaching the adapter (and the light is off), then it means that the surge protector in the cable is burnt. You might also feel a burning smell when plugging it in.

In such a case, it’s risky to plug your laptop in, as this could cause a short circuit and/or irreparable damage to your device.

How to fix it?

Unfortunately, there is no real fix here. You should buy a new adapter for your laptop if this happens. Make sure that you buy a model designed specifically for your laptop model as it is not recommended to use adapters on brands that don’t match.

If you think that your laptop is too old, you might want to upgrade it and get a new one. You can check next the best laptops for internet browsing this year.

Defective hardware causing a laptop to short circuit

Just like the previous category, this one only happens on very rare occasions. But it can happen for a defective hardware piece or peripheral to cause a short circuit.

If things like an USB port or other type of port on your device is broken or a DVD unit is defective, it might cause a short circuit.

How to fix?

Again, prevention is the best method here. Make sure you are only using genuine and safe equipment, hardware or peripherals that are approved to work with the brand of your laptop.

Also, since some of these problems can be caused by virus attacks – make sure you have a solid antivirus program running or don’t click links or download files from sources you don’t trust.

Extremely high voltage

A voltage surge or constant high voltage can damage your laptop’s adapter and ultimately end up in your laptop, causing it to short circuit.

This kind of a problem will usually affect the processor most of all, damaging it badly. High voltage usually happens due to electricity related issues in the power source.

If this ever happens, make sure to check your laptop’s processor for errors to quickly identify and potential damage that was caused.

This is fortunately uncommon, but if an unexpected surge of the voltage happens and your adapter can’t handle it, a short circuit can happen.

How to fix it?

You will have to check the output voltages or, even better, have a professional come and check it for you. The digital display on the tool you’re using will show you the readings and let you know what’s the voltage situation of the socket.

Double check to see that the reading is within the acceptable limits recommended by your laptop manufacturer.

If the voltage output is too high or extremely variable, it’s best to fix the problem by either replacing the power cable or fixing the power outlet.

Extremely low voltage

Very low voltage is also bad for your laptop’s health, just like extremely high values are.

If an improper amount of electricity is passing through the power supply, it can cause a short circuit in your laptop. Your device always needs the proper amount of current for charging or operating.

If those numbers are too low, too high or jumping all the way from low to high, they can cause a short circuit.

How to fix it?

Just like recommended above – replace the power supply or adapter, depending on what is causing the issue.

Tips to prevent your laptop from getting a short circuit

how to prevent short circuit in laptop

Prevention is usually better than trying to fix the wrongs in this case. Therefore, we’re sharing next some tips to help you prevent your laptop from getting a short circuit:

– Avoid using liquids near your laptop.

– Don’t eat and/or drink near your laptop. Keep all the cups or mugs with any sort of liquid away from your laptop’s desk

– Use your laptop in dry environments and try not to use it in extreme temperatures (too hot or too cold).

– Make sure that the electricity supply is in a normal range and doesn’t constantly fluctuate as it will damage your adapter eventually.

– Use your laptop with care. Don’t throw it around, hit it or move it too much.

– Make sure that the adapter and the power supply cable are also away from liquids

– If you want to be better prepared for potential power fluctuations, you should buy an outlet with surge protection (affiliate link)

Conclusion

This lengthy article hopefully taught you everything you needed to know about what could cause a laptop to short circuit. You also know how to fix your device if you run into trouble and especially how to prevent this from happening.

Hopefully, this is an useful guide that will allow you to increase the lifespan of your laptop.

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