Modern Life

How to keep your laptop cool, dry, and safe on the go

Hybrid schedules mean our devices are on the move more than ever. Here are tips on how to protect them from office to home to coffee shop and back again.

By Jared Lindzon — August 4, 2022

In early 2020, Ali Najaf’s cat Percy knocked over a cup of coffee on his desk, instantly destroying his personal laptop. So when his employer transitioned to remote work just a few months later, the human resources professional says protecting his work device — which contains sensitive employee data — was top of mind.

“I wanted to make sure my work laptop is properly secured, because it’s someone else’s property,” he said.

When work was primarily confined to the office, there were fewer physical hazards  to worry about when it came to keeping devices safe. Now that work is more flexible, employees are increasingly transporting their laptops to and from the office, as well as coffee shops, co-working spaces — and even on trips. Each new environment comes with a range of new dangers, from babies and puppies to hot cars and cold beverages to humidity and rain.

“They’re truly mobile devices now,” says Mark Zadvinskis, president of Higher Ground Gear, which designs protective equipment for laptops, phones, and tablets. “Your day is going to be more flexible than if you were stuck in an office, and you’re going to be exposed to more elements.”

Zadvinskis says he’s seen countless ways to damage a laptop. Common accidents include devices that are forgotten on the roof of a car; laptops slipping out of bags left unzipped; and overheating caused by accidentally blocking air vents.

As for feline co-worker Percy, he is on the outs. Najaf locks the door to his workspace every time he steps away — even just to the bathroom or mailbox — to ensure his furry friend doesn’t cause any more damage.

With work laptops increasingly making their way into riskier environments, here are a few ways to keep them safe and secure.

Prevent overheating

This summer’s massive heat waves create conditions that can seriously damage laptops and other electronics. Keeping the device cool is critical, and there are some proactive steps you can take to prevent it from getting too hot to handle.

One good rule of thumb is to shut off devices entirely — not just in sleep or power saving mode — when not in use. If you need to make a stop between work and home or leave your device in your car for any reason, the best way to protect it is to turn the power off completely and keep it out of direct sunlight.

“There’s just a lot more movement from A to B to C and D, and while doing that, there’s more going in and out of the bag, on and off the desk, and more opportunity for an accident to occur.”

—Mark Zadvinskis, president of Higher Ground Gear

Those who want to work from bed or the couch might be placing their laptop on top of a pillow that is inadvertently blocking air vents. Invest in a lap desk with a hard, flat surface for the laptop and a pillowy side for your lap, which can help keep internal cooling fans working at full capacity. And those who often push their device to its heat limits — such as gamers, designers, and video editors — should also consider investing in a laptop cooling pad that can bring down the temperature when needed.

Some of the more advanced devices on the market — such as the HP Spectre — help prevent overheating proactively using smart technologies. These laptops feature Intel® Dynamic Tuning Technology, which senses when the device’s temperature is rising or the battery is draining rapidly, and automatically puts it into hibernation mode to limit the damage.

Protection from the elements

If you’re transporting your device on foot or by bus, train or bike, invest in a cover or case that can protect it from rain, snow, and humidity. If you’re working outside or traveling in a particularly humid environment, be sure to keep your device off when moving outdoors and let it adapt to the humid weather for at least an hour before turning it on. Water-resistant laptop bags and sleeves can also help prevent moisture in the air from seeping into the device.

“If your bag is not waterproof, get a sleeve that is,” advises Zadvinskis. “If you have a favorite bag or briefcase, that’s great, but you still need to make sure you can protect your device adequately.” 

A hard-shell case will also protect your device from accidental dings and other physical damage.

Keeping track of your device and your data

Another hazard of hybrid and remote work is that laptops are now at a much greater risk of getting lost or stolen. That is especially true for those who travel or who often work in public spaces, like coffee shops, libraries, and co-working spaces. In fact, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds in the United States, and the devices have a one in 10 chance of being snatched, with only a 2% chance of being recovered. 

Woman protecting her laptop with HP laptop bag.

HP

HP's waterproof laptop bag is packed with an RFID pocket to protect credit cards and data.

Enhanced features like the HP GlamCam can automatically lock your laptop’s screen as soon as you walk away from it, and HP Sure View will blur your screen when it’s viewed from an angle. HP’s laptop tote bags, briefcases and backpacks also come equipped with an RFID-blocking pocket to protect against scanners designed to steal sensitive data from electronic devices, credit cards, passports, and driver’s licenses.

While these features can help ensure privacy in public spaces, they won’t do much to stop those who want to do more than just look at your screen while you’re in the bathroom. For that you’ll need Tile technology, which can help you locate and ultimately recover a lost or stolen laptop, no matter where it ends up.

Tile, which now comes built into the HP EliteBook 800 series and HP ZBook Firefly, allows users to pinpoint their device’s location, even when its power is off and it’s disconnected from the Internet — no additional hardware required. Users can even activate a chime on their laptop speakers remotely to help them find a lost device in a crowded or cluttered space.    

Above all, anyone moving from place to place needs to be mindful of the fact that, although laptops are designed to be mobile, they’re not indestructible. Awareness, avoidance, and the right accessories are key to protecting your devices and everything you use them for.

“There’s just a lot more movement from A to B to C and D, and while doing that, there’s more going in and out of the bag, on and off the desk, and more opportunity for an accident to occur,” says Zadvinskis. “You need a little extra protection for all your adventures.”

 

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