Preserving Precious Laptop Stickers

Stickers belong on laptops. That’s not just because all developers are issued a 2015 MacBook Pro at birth to zealously hold and cherish for the rest of their careers, and the vast uniformity of laptop models in the workplace makes each individual’s laptop indistinguishable from anyone else’s. No, stickers belong on laptops because that ‘RUN GCC’ sticker is just so good. But how do you keep a laptop stickered up while not hurting the resale value or worrying about sticky residue left behind? That’s the question [Graham] answered, and the answer may surprise you.

The problem is such: there mus be a way to apply stickers to a MacBook that is invisible, removable, and leaves no trace after being removed, even after years of enjoying a bestickerd’ laptop. The first thought turned to old-style screen protectors for a phone, but this had problems: they’re glossy, and sourcing a large sheet of screen protectors proved difficult.

After some research, it turned out there was a market with similar requirements: car wraps. Yes, you can wrap your car in vinyl that’s any color you want, including whatever Apple is calling their plain aluminum finish these days. As far as a protector for an aluminum MacBook, it looks good: it doesn’t leave any residue behind, it’s strong enough to survive on a car, so it’s probably good enough for a laptop on a desk, and it’s easy to apply.

With some stickers applied to this larger sticker, everything looked good and lived up to a few months of abuse. Then came the real test: could this MacBook wrap be removed with all the other stickers intact? Yes, and you can frame the result. While this is only a test of the aluminum-colored MacBook, vehicle wraps come in nearly every color imaginable. There is apparently a vinyl that looks like Space Gray, and if you want Thinkpad Black, you can get that wrap, too.

75 thoughts on “Preserving Precious Laptop Stickers

      1. I just removed a sticker from my laptop this way. There was still some glue left that was impossible to just rub off with your thumb. I used Goo Gone (very easily available in most places) to remove it easily. Of course, I tested it on an inconspicuous area first, as you should always do. I did *not* use Goof Off, it is much stronger,and it has melted some plastics and removed some paint for me in the past, so be careful with it. A metal laptop case might be OK with it. Someone suggested brake cleaner. That makes me really nervous, it’s really nasty stuff. Really, really check that out on an inconspicuous surface!

    1. my favourite is non chlorinated brake cleaner (as a mechanic i have it lying about by the gallon) test a little on the plastic first before going nuts, but i have found it to be kind to most all plastics and is superb at softening and removing glue. also removes oil stains from fabric, starts hard to start diesels, removes hot glue (think paintless dent pullers) and is superb at washing flux off circuit boards.

      fantastic stuff. its liek acetone, but not as strong.

      1. I looked at the SDS of a couple of non-chlorinated brake cleaner formulations, they were all primarily acetone.
        Do you use a particular brand?
        I’ve had good results removing sticker residue with citrus (limonene) based cleaners.

        Whatever people use, I second your advice “test a little on the plastic first before going nuts”.

        1. perhaps it’s a us/UK thing? but here checking the MSDS of all the products I use regularly they are all a light hydrocarbon fraction. EC number: 265-151-9 for example. I have never had a bottle that didn’t smell the same, and certainly none that smell like acetone.

    2. Peel it off as best you can and then use an oil to remove the residue. Kerosene, Diesel fuel, WD40, mineral oil, as well as products like goo gone all work. Alcohol can be used to remove the oil residue.
      I once bought a “scratch and dent” laptop that listed the damage as “unremovable sticker residue” from the advertising stickers (“Made for Windows 98”, etc.). A bit of diesel fuel cleaned it right off.

    3. I have had good luck with something sharp to lift up an edge and than fingernails or pliers to lift the sticker off. Use adhesive tape to get the last bits of the adhesive off the computer case. Once in a while you may have to resort to WD40 and Scotchbrite followed up with some alcohol, but most of the time regular tape does a really good job of pulling the adhesive off. I can not tell you how much I dislike stickers on computers. A lot.

  1. I have an old Mac laptop, maybe the 1400c, and on the back of the screen, there is some plastic where you can slide things under, to customize the look. Seems useful.

    I once got a nice mylar Grateful Cead sticker, can’t remember if I.bought it or was given it, and stuck it on the portable dusk druve for the Model 100. I never used tyat drive much, so it was a waste, but couodn’t get the sticker off withiut damaging it.


  2. That’s cool I have a stack of stickers in a drawer that I can’t force myself to use because I don’t want to waste them on a pc I’m not going to keep for years but this would fix that

    1. I don’t put stickers on things either, and usually remove them whenever possible with one exception- I have a Intel “Intel Inside Core i7 Vpro” sticker from my laptop that I moved from the corner of the keyboard to cover the camera lens.

  3. Are there stories about angry others destroying someone’s notebook because of the wrong stickers? As with Anti-Donnie-Smallhands stickers on cars?

    Anti OOP stickers would be a good candidate… :-P


  4. For removing stickers, I use Fantastic spray cleaner. I can’t believe it took me 6 years of annual laptop cleanup to discover it. (1:1 laptop program at a school)

    it works better than windex,alcohol or simple green, but less agressive than acetone. I suppose it depends what type of sticker residue, but imho:

    fantastic is fantastic.

  5. I just came here to say that I absolutely *must* have a BASH sticker for my laptop. I have my ham radio call sign already, and a few other stickers from traveling (I like to get city stickers at airports) and from conferences (wordcamp) but need me some good Linux stickers.

  6. “But how do you keep a laptop stickered up while not hurting the resale value or worrying about sticky residue left behind?”

    What is this “resale value” which thou speakest of?

    1. I think you have to own a mac to understand. Against common sense, even the most outdated and obsolete macbook will command hundreds of dollars over all of the business-grade laptops on ebay that sell for 100 bucks and have better specs.

    1. You mean you didn’t remove the portion of the cover with the sticker using an angle grinder and epoxy it to the new laptop?

      You mean you didn’t etch a Jolly Wrencher into the new laptop with a laser engraver?

      You mean you didn’t make a bas relief Jolly Wrencher with your 3D printer and bolt it to the new laptop?

      You mean you didn’t cut a Jolly Wrencher shaped hole into the skin of the new laptop and place a translucent “lens” behind it, with addressable tri-color LEDs behind that?

      You mean you didn’t set up a holographic projector to have the Jolly Wrencher float above your new laptop?

      You mean you don’t have a friend in Graphics Art class to make a new Jolly Wrencher sticker with the sign maker?

      You mean you didn’t build a custom laptop in the shape of the Jolly Wrencher?

      You mean you didn’t remove the “meta” keytops and emboss a Jolly Wrencher into those? (with Zircon eyes)

      (I guess the coffee is starting to kick in)

      1. “You mean you didn’t cut a Jolly Wrencher shaped hole into the skin of the new laptop and place a translucent “lens” behind it, with addressable tri-color LEDs behind that?”

        Now you’ve got me thinking….

  7. That’s what I did with mine — used the wood panel macbook wrap and then completely covered it in stickers. When I trade this in, I’ll just peel it off and put it on the wall of my hackerspace.

  8. “Laptop+Resale Value”… uh… does not compute. When you buy one and keep it long enough to the point where a cellphone has more power and memory…. well… you know.

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