Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is it too cold for your laptop?

Winter in Minnesota. We're tough here. We fish on frozen lakes. We have parades on cold winter evenings. But what about your laptop?

A question that gets asked a lot: Is it safe to keep my laptop in the car when it's cold outside?

The short answer: Yes. But don't turn it on right away when you get inside.

Your laptop service manual should have some advice about how long to wait before turning it on if it's been left in the cold. Typically, they will recommend you wait an hour. But, typically, people don't know where to find their laptop manual. 333TECH is here to help.

Some things to watch out for:

1. Moisture

Condensation is the enemy here. You know how when you take a cold drink out of the freezer and little drops start to bead up on the outside of the glass? That's condensation. Your laptop is not lemonade. Those beads of water can cause a short which will fry the laptop. Bad. Your best bet is to wait... Give the laptop some time to warm up (and dry out) inside before turning it on.

Here's a trick that some people have used... throw a dessicant pack or two in the laptop bag. This will help cut down on the mositure. You can find dessicant packs in the box when buying a new pair of shoes. Bottom line... if you wait about an hour or so, the condensation will evaporate and you will be fine.

2. Extreme temperature differences

You don't want the plastic to crack. If you've had your laptop in the trunk of the car and it's 30 degrees outside, you don't have anything to worry about. If it's -10, keep in mind that there is a 80 degree difference between outside and inside. The laptop screen and components inside can get up to 150 degrees or warmer -- that's almost a 160 degrees difference between inside and outside. In addition, some of the plastic parts like hinges run a risk of cracking if you try to open them when they are at -20. If you wouldn't take a cold plastic glass from the freezer and pour hot liquid into it, why run the risk with your laptop?

Again -- give the laptop some time to warm up to avoid a sharp temperature difference and cracking the plastic.

3. Length of time outside

If you are going to run in to Byerly's to pick up some milk on your way home, you shouldn't worry much about this. It won't have time to cool down to the air temperature. It should be ready to start up in a just a few minutes when you get home. But if you've let it sit in the trunk of your car overnight, it will probably be just as cold as the mercury in the thermometer. Give it some time to warm up.

Bottom Line: Laptops are designed to be transported in environments, hot and cold. You should be fine as long as you give it some time before you fire it up again. Moisture and dramatic temperature swings are the enemy. Take steps to avoid that and you should be OK.

TECHIES is the IT Department for Small Business in the Twin Cities. Give us a call with any of your technology questions at 612.333.TECH.

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