Top Cold-Weather Tips for Laptops

Man using laptop at mountain practicing tips for keeping a laptop safe in cold weather
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Most laptops are designed to work within a safe temperature range, normally 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 35 degrees Celsius). This range refers to the outside environment as well as the laptop's internal temperature. Your laptop is a significant investment, so protect it from cold temperatures with some common-sense strategies. Here are some tips for keeping your laptop safe in cold weather.

If you've already left your laptop out in the cold, let it sit, thaw, and reach room temperature before you attempt to power it on.

Buy a Ruggedized Laptop

If you know you'll be using your laptop outside in cold temperatures for extended periods of time, consider buying a ruggedized laptop. While ruggedized laptops can be more expensive, they have been designed to work under extreme weather conditions; most undergo testing according to MIL-STD-810F standards. A ruggedized laptop is an excellent investment for anyone whose laptop must withstand the rigors of the outdoors.

Store Your Laptop Carefully

Even if you have an excellent laptop case, never leave your laptop in the trunk of your car when it's cold outside. If the laptop freezes, you may end up with irretrievably lost data.

Let Your Laptop Acclimatate to the Weather

It's important to let your laptop get used to the temperature, whether you're indoors or outdoors. If you're bringing your laptop in from the cold, let it warm up to room temperature before powering it on. If you'll be using it outside, let it acclimate to the outside temperature before using it.

Don't Warm the Laptop Unnaturally

You may be tempted to try a mug warmer, heating pad, or pocket warmer to keep your laptop warm. This is not a good idea. These devices aren't designed for warming a delicate piece of machinery and they could do much more harm than good. Warming devices meant for other purposes could overheat the device, heat the wrong parts, or generate enough heat to damage or melt internal components.

Try a Laptop Warmer

Laptop warmers, such as the Kendrick laptop heater, are designed specifically for the purpose of keeping a laptop warm without causing damage. Research the one you choose to make sure it's been tested adequately.

Avoid Excessive Heat Buildup

It's tempting to keep your laptop safe in its case or bag as you work when you're outside in the cold. This is a terrible idea. Regardless of how cold the temperature is outside, never use your laptop while it's still inside a laptop bag. Without room for air to circulate, heat can build up and cause damage.

Change the Power Settings

Change your power settings to prevent the laptop hard drive from shutting down. The longer the laptop can be kept running, the warmer it will stay as it generates its own heat.

Stay Out of the Cold

The best advice is the simplest: Whenever possible, stay out of direct exposure to cold weather conditions with your laptop. Stay in a heated vehicle or inside a building or other shelter. Protecting your laptop not only from cold but also from excessive dampness from snow will keep your keyboard from freezing and other problems from developing.

Never boot up a laptop if you suspect the display has frozen.