Tips for keeping your laptop safe and secure on the road

A laptop has become a common must-have travel item for many vagabonds. While the wisdom of carrying a laptop is something worth debating, for many it offers a way to extend your travel time by providing a means of income on the road.

If you’re a freelance, well, anything really, these days you don’t necessarily need to quit your job to travel — just bring a laptop along and work from the road. As someone who’s done that I can assure you that yes, working while your fellow travelers are off doing something far more exciting sucks, but being able to extend your trip by several months thanks to the additional income is well worth the few days you’ll lose working.

But there are some risks to traveling with a laptop that might deter the casual PC user — theft, water damage, overpowered X-Ray machines and hosts of other problems can render your laptop useless or worse.

Of course there are ways to protect yourself against many of these things. My number one tip for laptop toting travelers is to backup everything using online services. Put your photos on Flickr, Picasa or similar. Upload your writing to Google Docs, Zoho or the like. And never, ever enter any personal information when using a public wifi connection.

Unfortunately none of that solves perhaps the most common fear of travelers — theft.

However, having lugged my laptop across four continents now, I can with some authority say that your laptop is probably safer abroad than it is sitting at the local coffee shop. That said, I have a new solution to the problem of laptop theft — don’t worry about it.

Now you might think that’s a pretty cavalier attitude about something that’s pretty expensive. But that’s part of my solution — minimize the damage.

I recently picked up a cheap (and I might add, very lightweight) EeePC laptop that cost a mere $350 on eBay. Is that a lot of money to lose if someone steals my laptop? Well, yes, it is, but it’s not as bad as $2000. The way I see it, if you frequently travel with a laptop there’s a pretty good chance that something bad is eventually going to happen, so it makes sense to minimize the pain of loss.

Of course that doesn’t mean I’ve thrown caution to the wind. The best way to keep your laptop secure is to be a smart traveler. Here are some tips to make sure your laptop doesn’t wonder off while you’re abroad;

  • Get a PacSafe or similar lock system to secure your laptop while you’re out of your hotel room or sleeping in a train car.
  • Don’t carry your laptop in fancy bag. nothing screams steal my laptop like a really nice laptop case
  • Don’t announce the fact that you have a laptop to your fellow travelers. Advertising your laptop is an invitation to steal it.
  • Disable automatic login and use a strong password. If you laptop is stolen, don’t make it easy for the thieves.
  • Be that annoying guy that holds up the line at airport security. Everyone behind me hates it, but I ever send my laptop through the conveyor belt until the person in front has moved on. Airport security checkpoints are madhouse and confusion makes it easy to lose track of your laptop. Don’t.
  • Never send sensitive data (passwords, banking info, credit card data, etc) over public wifi networks. Sniffing wifi traffic might sound hard, but if you know what you’re doing it really isn’t and bad guys know what they’re doing.

[photo credit]

Posted by | Comments Off on Tips for keeping your laptop safe and secure on the road  | October 22, 2008
Category: General

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