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What Causes a Laptop to Short Circuit?

What Causes a Laptop to Short Circuit?

Any physical or electrical damage can cause a short circuit in your laptop. A short can occur due to errant metal fragments, loose screws, spilled liquids, or improper voltage.

However, experiencing a short doesn’t mean you must get rid of your laptop. In most cases, laptops that have short-circuited are salvageable.

If your laptop recently short-circuited and you’re unsure what to do, this guide is for you! In it, we’ll help you identify the symptoms of a shorted laptop, potential causes, and comprehensive fixes.

What Causes a Short Circuit in Laptops?

There are many reasons your laptop may short circuit. Let’s explore a few of them below.

Spilled Liquids

Spilled liquids are the most common reason for a laptop to short circuit. Depending on the amount of liquid spilled, it could be reversible damage.

A small spill won’t likely ruin your laptop, but the water that seeps into keys and ports can cause significant damage. If the liquid reaches the motherboard, any damage to resistors and capacitors can permanently disable your laptop.

How to Fix It

When you spill water on your laptop, immediately move the plug from the energy socket. Avoid removing the plug from the laptop, as you could get electrocuted.

Then, turn your laptop upside down to drain the liquid faster. If a significant amount of water enters the device, carefully remove the battery and allow it to dry. Note that removing the battery from a laptop typically voids its warranty, so prepare to shoulder any repair costs.

Use a microfiber cloth to absorb as much liquid as possible. Dampen the cloth with a bit of water if you spill something sticky, like juice or soda.

Then, leave your laptop to drain and dry for at least 12 hours in a well-ventilated space that isn’t too humid. Point a fan at your laptop to speed up the drying process.

Avoid keeping your laptop under direct sunlight. Turn the laptop back over only when it’s completely dry.

Call for help if you smell burning, but don’t leave your laptop unsupervised.

laptop short circuit

Clogged Fans and Overheating

Laptop fans can become clogged with foreign substances, such as dirt, dust, hair, and fur. When this occurs, the laptop’s battery overheats and can potentially cause a short.

Remember, like water, dust is an electrical conductor, which can be dangerous for your laptop.

How to Fix It

Clogged fans and overheating are often fatal to your laptop’s processor, so the best solution is prevention. 

Keeping your laptop cool is essential to preventing overheating. Regularly clean your fans and keep your laptop away from dust to prevent dirt accumulation. Remove the bottom frame of your laptop and use device-specific tools, such as compressed air and dry cloths, to clean the area.

Alternatively, you can always use a laptop cooling pad to avoid overheating.

While it can be difficult to tell how clogged your fans are, the signs are often obvious. You’ll typically hear noises or notice that your fan shuts down spontaneously.

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

Power Supply Problems

Check on your laptop’s power supply by plugging the cord into a wall socket. If your adapter light turns on, you can rest assured your device is receiving the required electricity supply through a steady current.

electricity fluctuation causing short circuits

If the light is off and no electricity reaches the adapter, your cable protector might be burnt. You can also tell you’ve toasted your protector if you smell burning. 

Thus, plugging your laptop in with a damaged power supply can cause a short.

How to Fix It

The only way to fix a power supply issue is to buy a new adapter made specifically for your laptop model. If you have an older laptop, consider an upgrade, as more recent versions of the same power supply may no longer suit your device.

Are you purchasing a new device for your child and want to find something with a reliable battery? You can check next the best laptops for kids this year.

Defective Hardware

Like unsteady power supplies, defective hardware causing short circuits is relatively rare. However, you never know when a dysfunctional USB, DVD unit, or peripheral will cause your laptop to short circuit.

How to Fix It

Again, prevention is the best method here. Ensure you use genuine and safe equipment approved to work with your specific device.

Since some hardware problems are due to virus attacks, download robust antivirus programs. Avoid clicking through links from sources you don’t trust.

Extremely High Voltage

High voltage or sudden surges can damage your laptop’s adapter and cause your device to short circuit.

Voltage problems typically damage the processor most due to electricity-related issues in the power source.

Should this happen, review your processor’s health to identify errors.

How to Fix It

If you’re not well-versed in deciphering output voltages, hire a professional who can take readings and determine whether your laptop is surpassing its acceptable limit.

You must replace the power cable or outlet if the voltage output is too high or variable.

Extremely Low Voltage

Like high values, low voltage can cause potential shorts. Improper electricity flow can short-circuit your laptop, especially if these amounts fluctuate drastically.

How to Fix It

As with a high-voltage plug, you should replace the power supply or adapter.

Troubleshooting a Short Circuit

Your laptop immediately shutting down due to an accident doesn’t always indicate a short. Below are a few simple steps to determine whether your device is short-circuited:

  1. Test the power supply by plugging it into a different outlet.
  2. Check output voltages by placing the positive pin on the inside of the cable power connector. Conversely, place the negative pin on the outside. Then, compare the reading on the digital display to the recommended number underneath the laptop.
  3. Use an ohmmeter to test for short circuits on your laptop. 

Remember, you can only troubleshoot this way if your laptop has not absorbed any liquid.

Tips to Prevent Your Laptop from Getting a Short Circuit

tips to prevent laptop short circuit

Prevention is easier and more cost-effective than replacement. Consider these tips to prevent your laptop from short-circuiting.

  • Avoid eating food and drinking beverages near your laptop.
  • Use your laptop in dry environments that aren’t too hot or cold.
  • Ensure your electricity supply is within a normal range and doesn’t fluctuate.
  • Use your laptop with care. Don’t snag on the plug.
  • Purchase an outlet with surge protection (affiliate link)


While short circuits are concerning and potentially dangerous, you can easily stop them from occurring. Should they happen to you, hopefully you’re better-versed on how to fix your device.

By preventing short circuits and taking the appropriate measures, you inadvertently increase the lifespan of your laptop.


Wednesday 3rd of November 2021

useless if the mobo is bad