How Does Cold Weather Damage Your Computer?

November is almost here! The leaves will are falling, and temperatures will continue to drop, we hope you have all your warm coats, gloves, and boots ready! While preparing for the cold, remember to prepare your computers and laptops, for the shift in temperature. Cold weather can damage your laptop, both permanently and temporarily. There are some tactics to help avoid this:

Cold Weather Preparation TacticsCold weather can damage any device in many ways only if the device is exposed to the frigid conditions for longer periods of time. This means that you shouldn’t worry about your desktops and TV’s. Your laptops and mobile phones do have the potential of being damaged. It does take extremely cold temperatures or a quick transfer from a cold to warm environment to cause this internal damage within your device. Here are the concerns associated with your laptops in cold weather:

  1. Condensation

Shifting a device from a cold environment such as your car, into a warm environment, such as your office, can cause condensation to form within your laptop. Just like the fog-like substance forms over your windshield when the inside of your car is a lot warmer than the outside environment, that same moisture can develop on your laptop’s hard drive or circuit board interface when an abrupt shift in temperature occurs. This moisture damage can cause a variety of problems, such as short-circuiting when turned on.

  1. Disk Drives

Cold weather can directly affect your disk drive. Most laptops manufactured today utilize Fluid Dynamic Bearings (FDB) within their disk drives rather than the more traditional ball bearings. The use of FDB results in a quieter laptop and the ability to rotate at a higher velocity. However, when exposed to cold temperatures below around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the fluid within the drives thicken. This slows the speed that your disk drive can run, which can damage your laptop and prevent your laptop from booting up.

  1. Your Screen Display

Cold weather is also capable of damaging the display of your device. Similar to the FDB mentioned above, laptops are mainly manufactured as Liquid Crystal Devices. This means that fluid resides within your screen’s display. When the environment is cold enough, this can freeze the fluid within your screen display, subsequently disabling it. In harsh conditions, the environment can dim the fluorescent tube backlight, creating a dimmer display. While these effects are temporary, it still damages your device and shortens the life of your screen display.

How to Protect Your Laptop from the Cold

Fortunately, preventing these negative effects is easy. Minimize your device’s exposure to the cold is the most important step. However, since exposing a device to the cold is unavoidable, follow these other steps and your devices will be safe from harm.

  1. Use Cases and Protection

Whenever you travel, protect your devices with a case or other form of protection. Put your laptop in a padded, insulated laptop sleeve to keep it as warm as possible and to combat moisture damage. The same goes for your mobile phone. When in cold environments, try to keep your phone warm by placing it in your pocket or even your laptop bag.

  1. Never Leave Your Devices in Your Car Overnight

While you should refrain from this even when the weather is warmer, leaving your devices in a cold car overnight is what causes internal damage, especially when the device is then transferred indoors to a warmer environment. Always store your devices in a temperature-controlled environment. This alone can save you lots of time and money.

If this does occur, bring your device indoors but do not turn it on or open the screen until it has sat for at least 15 minutes. Giving your laptop time to acclimate to the warmer environment may prevent the many negative effects. Keeping your screen closed will also prevent any frozen wires from breaking and cracking your display. Do not attempt to warm your laptop up yourself, doing so can also cause internal damage. Simply give your device time to warm up to the current environment naturally.

  1. Extra Tip!

Here’s another helpful tip: always turn your computer completely off when traveling instead of simply closing it or putting it to sleep. Your hard drive is still running when your computer is asleep, so abrupt or rough movement can damage your hard drive. If your hard drive is damaged, you could lose your data.