Keep your laptop safe while travelling

The laptop is fast becoming a must-have item on the travel circuit. Wander through any hostel and you’ll quickly notice people hunched over their laptops, typing furiously away as they send their wonderful tales to family and friends back home.

If you travel with a laptop, or plan too, questions arise over the safety of such an expensive item. While there is no foolproof method to ensure its safety, I’ve listed below a few tips which will increase the likelihood of your laptop lasting the journey.


It’s inevitable that your laptop will be bumped and jolted in the midst of the hectic rush between destinations. Because of this, it’s hugely important that your laptop has sufficient protection to prevent it from damage. Generally, this protection comes in the form of a laptop bag or sleeve. Depending on your needs, both are suitable for keeping your laptop protected during your arduous journeys abroad. Before purchasing a protective case, it’s important to note down the size of your laptop (such as 13” or 15”) and buy a case which fits accordingly. You don’t want extra space around the laptop where it can move freely, you want it to fit snugly into the case.

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Electrical Protection

While it’s generally standard to have a surge protector installed at your home or office, it’s typically ignored while travelling. As power spikes can have devastating consequences to most electrical equipment, it’s extra important to keep your laptop safe from such an event. To prevent damage to your electronic devices, a surge protector can be purchased for as little as $10.00.

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Environmental Protection

The weather can play a major role in the well-fare of your laptop. Extreme temperatures – both hot and cold – can play havoc on your laptop if left unprotected. Generally laptops can stand temperatures between 10° to 35° Celsius (50° to 95° Fahrenheit), so it’s important to keep your laptop within that boundary otherwise certain components (such as batteries which aren’t heat friendly) may falter.

It’s also important to avoid condensation which can shorten your circuits. Whether it’s from high humidity or a dramatic change in temperature (such as going from the outside heat to a cool air conditioned room) it’s important to shut down your computer before moving.


Encryption is the process of transforming information using an algorithm to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, usually referred to as a key. While this isn’t necessary for all your files, if you have a set of confidential or important files which are for your eyes only, it’s vital to encrypt them to deny unauthorised access.

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In the instance that your laptop is either lost or stolen, you should have all the relevant details on hand such as make, model and serial number, and other information that will help the local authorities to identify the system if recovered.

For that extra layer of security, you can apply permanent identification to your laptop by using security labels, chemical etching or laser etching.

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Remote Access

If the unfortunate instance occurs where your laptop is stolen, there are methods to access you machine remotely, which could lead to tracking the location of your laptop and identifying the perpetrator.

One such program is Undercover which is available on the Mac. Once Undercover is installed, the following tasks can be performed if your laptop is stolen, as stated on their website:

Accurately locate your stolen Mac

Undercover uses advanced technology developed by Skyhook Wireless. Thanks to Wi-Fi positioning, Undercover can accurately locate your stolen Mac within a range of 10-20 meters.

See what happens on your stolen Mac

Undercover is the world’s first theft-recovery software to send screenshots of your stolen Mac at regular intervals. These screenshots will sooner or later reveal the thief’s identity.

See who’s using your Mac

Undercover transmits mugshots of the thief and his surroundings every 8 minutes, making it even easier to identify the current user. It’s like having a private detective working for you.

Hardware failure. Revenge of the darkness.

If recovery of the stolen Mac fails for any reason, Undercover has an ingenious plan B. It can simulate a hardware failure by gradually making the screen darker until it becomes unusable.

Full-screen message. Scream and shout.

At that point, Undercover will show a full-screen message alerting the reseller (or someone who bought the Mac from the thief) that the Mac has been stolen, that it has become unusable and that it needs to be returned as soon as possible. Our contact information and a promise for a finder’s fee will be displayed as well.

This erratic behaviour should urge the thief to either sell the Mac (e.g. on eBay) or bring it to an authorized Apple reseller. Because the stolen Mac’s location is continuously monitored, you can easily detect when the Mac is sold or returned to a Mac shop.

While Undercover is a program specifically for the Mac, there are many Window alternatives such as Prey Project and LoJack which will perform a similar service.

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In the unfortunate instance where your laptop is either stolen or damaged, you want to make sure that all your data can be retrieved. That’s why it’s imperative to keep constant backups while travelling. A stolen laptop can be replaced. Thousands of photos documenting your time in China can’t. If you’re looking for tips to keeping your files backed-up while you’re on the road, read our recent article – How to keep an online backup of your photos and documents.

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Carry it with you

While it may sound like an obvious thing to do, you’d be surprised how quickly your laptop can disappear if you even place it down for a moment. If you plan to leave it in your hostel or hotel room, place it in a secure safe or locker.


There is no golden rule to guarantee the safety of your laptop. However, if you combine the tips above with a little common sense, the chances that anything will happen to your laptop will drop dramatically. If, in spite of all these protective measures, the laptop is either stolen or damaged, you can take solace in knowing that your important files and photos are safely backed up and you have the relevant documents available to hand over to the authorities and your insurance provider.
Submitted on: April 3 2011 Protection Status
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