Gear We Like
5 ways to protect your laptop in the tropics
I love the hot weather. The warmth of the sun on my back always brings a smile to my face. Throw in some sand between my toes and a bit of salt spray in the air and I’m pretty much ecstatic.
Sadly the things that make me the happiest are exactly the things that make my laptop sad. Like, I-don’t-want-to-work-any-more kind of sad.
Having spent the last several months in the heat and humidity of South East Asia, I’ve come up with a few tips to give my laptop a fighting chance of lasting the distance.
Don’t block the exhaust vents
Probably the most important tip, and also one of the easiest things to do, is to avoid blocking the exhaust vents on your laptop. Excessive heat – especially for long periods – causes all sorts of problems for laptops including unexplained crashes, random shutdowns and reduced life expectancy.
Check where the intake and exhaust vents on your laptop are located. Most sensible manufacturers place them at the side or rear, while the idiotic ones put them on the bottom. Regardless, though, it is far too easy to block those vents by using your laptop on a soft surface.
Pillows, beds, even your lap can restrict airflow and cause significant heat build-up. When the surrounding air temperature is already 30+ degrees Celsius, that is the last thing you need. Put your laptop on a hard surface like a table or chair when in use, and/or elevate it slightly using a solid object, and it will stay a whole lot happier.
Wait a while after moving from air-conditioning to outside, or vice versa
Significant temperature and humidity changes can wreak havoc on electronic devices. Taking your laptop from an air-conditioned hotel room out to beside the swimming pool, for instance, could create real problems.
Condensation quickly forms on the inside of your laptop in situations like this, and water + electricity + moving parts is not a great combination. Turn the machine off before moving it (good advice regardless of the temperature), and wait a few minutes for it to adjust to the new conditions before switching it back on again.
Don’t leave your laptop in extremely hot places
Even when turned off your laptop can still be damaged by the heat. It is not unusual for cars parked in direct sunlight to reach temperatures two or three times hotter than the outside air, for example, and in that kind of heat the components in your laptop will expand. This can potentially cause both short and long term damage, and as notebooks become ever-smaller and more cramped inside this problem only gets worse.
Long story short: take your gear with you rather than leave it in the heat.
Avoid those pesky ants
If you’d asked me two months ago what the biggest risks to my laptop in SE Asia were, I probably wouldn’t have included the local wildlife. That was before I stayed in an ant-infested bungalow in Thailand for a while. Ever since, I’ve had to deal with one or two of them emerging from my keyboard every day to say hello.
I’ve tried a variety of techniques to make my computer’s internals a less inviting place for them, from making it run as hot as possible to creating home-made ‘ant traps’ and leaving them nearby overnight.
Apparently using compressed air to get rid of crumbs and other food scraps also helps, as does sealing the laptop in an air-tight bag for a few days. Lately the numbers have diminished, but until I have a chance to dismantle the laptop and investigate properly I suspect I’ll keep carrying a few new friends around with me.
Strange but true.
Dust, sand and dirt: the axis of laptop evil
Travelling is hot countries is a dirty business. After a long day on the road, you – and everything you carry – often end up covered in layer of grime. After a few weeks of this even brand-new laptops can look much worse for wear, and that’s just the damage you can see.
Using your laptop at the beach is great for "look at me, I’m a digital nomad" credibility, but sand does terrible things to electronics. The tiny grains clog up air vents, fall into sockets and slip down between the keys. Other than actually dropping it in the sea, there aren’t many better ways to ensure a dramatically shortened laptop lifespan.
Keep your notebook in a case when not being used, and ideally only get it out when in an enclosed space. You won’t look anywhere near as cool, but at least you’ll probably still have a working computer in six months time.
Do you have any tips for keeping your laptop safe in hot countries? Share them in the comments!