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Have Computer, Will Travel

At times, people know me to be a "Road Warrior". A "Road Warrior" in computing terms is someone that has a laptop and travels with it frequently. Usually, they use their computer quite extensively while traveling. "Road Warriors" often need to replace their laptop computers more frequently than normal laptop users because of the wear and tear on the system. To maximize the life of their computer there are things that travelers with a PC should know.

Basic Care
While laptops are more rugged than they were a few years ago, they are not indestructible unless you special order one with a titanium case. Here are a few tips on extending the life of your laptop. Buy a cushioned computer bag that will hold all of the necessary laptop equipment. (If it will not fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment of the airplane, you may want to reconsider everything you have packed.) The inside compartment should have straps for tying down the laptop for the unexpected times that you opened the bag to remove something and forgot to close it. It should also have separate compartments to hold your power supply, computer cords and external mouse as well as any documents you wish to carry. This bag should help protect your laptop from most normal incidents, short drops and other handling accidents that can happen while traveling.

Battery Life
Many factors affect battery life but most new laptops will last long enough to watch at least one DVD movie while in flight. While performing normal work such as word processing, spreadsheets, e-mails, etc., I can get up to 3 or 4 hours of battery life. Computer activities that frequently use the hard drive, DVD/CDROM and floppy drives will shorten the life considerably. As a battery gets older, the life cycle will also decrease. Check the setting on your Power Option Properties and your CPU performance utility (if applicable) to conserve power versus performance. If you find that your battery life does quite make it to your destination, you may need to consider buying a second battery ($100 - $200).

Security (Hardware)
There are a number of issues to deal with when traveling with a laptop such as how do you get through airport security unscathed. Primarily, you need to keep your eyes open and be prepared to have it inspected. Here is what to expect when passing through airport security. Usually, you will need to remove the computer from the computer bag and pass them both through the X-Ray machines. Airport X-Ray machines will not wipe out your hard drive data. Once they have passed through X-Ray, security will want to run a cloth swab around your laptop and test it for the presences of explosives using another machine. Some airports will also have you turn the computer on long enough to see the screen light up before you can put it back in the bag. (In the meantime, someone grabbed the other bags you left on the X-Ray machine and skipped town with your traveler's checks.) If you do not plan beforehand and keep tabs of everything you were carrying, this can be an ordeal. Best Tip: Carry on as little as possible and leave all of your pocket change in the car if you plan to take a laptop. I usually put my car keys and other metal objects into the computer bag as soon as I get to the airport to make security easier to pass through.

While sitting in waiting areas or in restaurants, etc. keep an eye on your computer bag and if possible keep a hand or foot in the shoulder strap so you will notice if someone tries to grab it. Place your computer bag in the trunk of the car when you stop to check directions, fill the gas tank, eat, check in to the hotel, etc. Keeping a computer out of sight minimizes the risk of someone stealing it. I know several people who returned from picking up food and found a window broken and the computer gone. If you need to leave your computer in your hotel room, place it inside of a drawer and cover it with something. Be sure to make sure your door locked behind you as well.

Security (Data)
What happens to your data if someone steals your computer? If you own a laptop that contains sensitive information such as company information, credit card or financial information then you should take steps to prevent a common computer thief from being able to access the data. (You normally have sensitive data on you laptop if you ever ordered something online.) To protect the data a laptop should normally have Windows 2000 or Windows XP installed on it and only use NTFS formatted partitions. You should also make sure you have a username and good password assigned to the system. If your computer boots up and does not require you to log in, it is open for anyone to search the drive and find your private data.

Probably the most valuable component on your laptop is the data. When I lost a computer, my biggest concern was the lost data. Not because I thought the thief would get to it and use the information but I needed the data. The laptop can be replaced much easier than the data. Since laptops are susceptible to damage and theft, it is critical to routinely backup your data. If possible, backup your laptop before every trip.

Other Tips
Here are a couple of tips for having the freedom to use the computer wherever you go.

  • Take any chance you get to plug your laptop in and charge it up.

  • Find a bag with a comfortable shoulder strap.

  • Minimize the weight in the bag since it gets heavier the more time you spend in the airport or in lines.

  • Always check twice to see if your charger is in the bag.

  • Keep an eye on your bags and make sure that no one comes between the two of you while going through airport security.

  • If you use the Internet frequently, check to see if the hotel you are staying at offers broadband access and at what cost. Prices vary from $0 to $5 per day.

  • If you want to get e-mail while you are away, make plans on how you will connect to get your email.
  • With this little bit of effort, you can travel safely and efficiently with your laptop allowing you to work, send emails, play games or sit back and enjoy a private in-flight movie on DVD in your laptop.

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    Alamo PC Organization, Inc.
    San Antonio, TX USA