Vacation Survival Tips For Your Laptop

How to avoid buying a new $229 hard drive and paying a tech $80/hour to save your data:

Don’t move your laptop in sleep mode. While in sleep, the reading arm of the hard drive is actually on the hard drive. If you bonk the computer, you can wipe out a part of the drive.

Shut down the computer every night, right after you back up everything.

Keep virus protection on even if you feel it’s slowing up Counterstrike.

When your laptop travels, your system restore disks travel with.

A great vacation hack is to take none of these precautions. That way your hard drive physically crashes and you’re forced to actually relax while it’s in for repairs.

What laptop money-saving tips do you use while vacationing?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Pelagius says:

    1. You are ON VACATION. Leave the damn laptop at home.
    2. GOTO 1

  2. Triteon says:

    SECONDED! And leave the cell phone in the hotel room, too.

  3. Triteon says:

    SECONDED! Same goes for cell phones and Blackberries– leave ’em in the hotel.

  4. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Most drives park the drive heads when they spin down. (The parking of the heads doesn’t delay the spin-up time when the drive starts again–it’s the time it takes the disk to get to 5400/7200 rpm is what causes the spin-up delay. So, there would be no logical reason for the drive heads not to park when the drive is put to sleep.)

    A drive can be damaged by a drop even if the drive heads are parked. This Consumerist post sounds like an urban legend to me.

    From Wikipedia (emphasis added):
    A few years after LZT, initially for mobile applications (i.e. laptop etc.), and later also for the other HDD types, IBM introduced “head unloading” technology, where the heads are lifted off the platters onto plastic “ramps” near the outer disk edge, thus eliminating the risk of stiction altogether and greatly improving non-operating shock performance. All HDD manufacturers use these two technologies to this day.

  5. Kornkob says:

    Nah– take the cell phone but set the default ring tone to NONE. Then set a custom ring tone for anyone you are currently on vacation with. That way your vacation party can split up to relax separately but still stay in contact so you can meet up and relax together.

    Also lots easier to call for the hotel shuttle when you’re at the bar if you have your cell with you.

    As far as laptop tips: the best has been mentioned already— don’t take one.

    if you MUST take it (some jobs require it) back up before you leave and don’t do any work on the trip that you have to save.

    If you MUST save your work— email it to yourself so you have a copy off machine.

    Set your email client to leave a copy of the mail on the server.

  6. lpranal says:

    “Don’t move your laptop in sleep mode.” (1) Citation needed

  7. AcilletaM says:

    I’ve never had good experiences with any computer using sleep mode.

  8. viriiman says:

    What about a Mac? There is no “hibernate”, just “sleep”. I’ve moved my iBook plenty of times in sleep mode with no issues.

  9. Ben Popken says:

    Citation for not moving the laptop in sleep mode: the tech guy who serviced my computer.

  10. jeblis says:

    “Shut down the computer every night.”


  11. jeblis says:

    “What about a Mac? There is no “hibernate”, just “sleep”. I’ve moved my iBook plenty of times in sleep mode with no issues.”

    Guess you’ll have to shut it down all the time… just kidding they use the same drives as pcs/ ipods and they’ll park the same in sleep or shutdown. Writer of the above article seems to be misinformed.

  12. WindowSeat says:

    I take a copy of my extended warranty and receipt with me when I travel..just in case.

  13. “Shut down the computer every night”

    But that’s the best time for using torrent for illegal music/movie copies and porn!

    I wonder if there is an aftermaket for those exploding Sony batteries? If my company made me take my laptop on vacation, I’d be using them.

  14. jeblis says:

    A better tip would be to not subject your laptop to shocks while the hard drive is running. Either put it in standby/sleep, hibernate, or shut it down.

    1) Oh and don’t use Sony batteries.
    2) or write “TSA sucks” on it.
    3) encrypt sensitive data.
    4) Customs can search your laptop if you take across an international border.

  15. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    …the tech guy who serviced my computer.

    I call bullshit. Being a computer service tech doesn’t mean he’s right. There is often a psychological pressure on the tech to give someone a suggestion they can use to prevent future failures, after they have experienced a random hardware/software failure. A solid answer like that provides resolution and many people view it as being more competent than just saying “these things happen.”

  16. Pelagius says:

    More Vacation Laptop Tips:
    – If you like pina coladas, don’t spill it on the keyboard.
    – Take the laptop off your laptop before getting a lapdance. Bumping and grinding may bonk the reading arm.
    – You know what sand in your fanny feels like; imagine what it feels like in your USB port.

  17. TheDeadEye says:

    Yeah, those tech guys are completely knowledgeable. Especially the ones at RadioShack, Best Buy, Curcuit City and those Apple stores. o.O

  18. wait a minute- there are still people out there who get vacation time and don’t get fired for using it?

  19. Morton Fox says:

    I try not to use my laptop computer very much while vacationing. If I bring it, it’ll be mostly for hopping onto the net to get directions and maps, not for work!

  20. Tim Nudd says:

    My new Macbook is great for vacations. It shuts down on me so often, and so randomly, that I have little choice but to enjoy the scenery.

  21. AcidReign says:

    …..I get four full weeks of vacation a year, a United Way day (for giving my “fair share”) and three sick/personal days. Plus an “oral warning” day that doesn’t affect eligibility for gainsharing. The kicker: I only work seven days out of every 14! Quit my job? Are you nuts?!?

    …..The worst thing we did on our laptop on vacation a couple of years ago was to let the kids watch movies on it in the car, on a voltage inverter. It was DOA. The combination of no ventilation on an actual lap, and questionable current was too much for the Acer!

    …..This year, a fifth-floor deck kept the sand at bay, and an Antec USB cooling mat kept things running smoothly. I did bring a BartPE disk, and some utilities on a thumbdrive, but they were not needed. System Restore disks aren’t really going to do me a lot of good unless I take a USB hard drive to restore my data, settings, bookmarks, email archive, etc.

    …..My main gripe was that while there were morons in the area who left their wi-fi open, we had to be out on the deck to connect. Laptop screens are REALLY hard to see in the sun. I’m hoping Destin West has in-unit broadband next year! I may be the only Consumerist reader still paying for AOL, but those 15 hours of dial-up were damned useful for getting email inside, where I could actually read them! Dial-up was useless for Gawker sites, though. I’d have used all 15 hours up waiting for every graphic to load…

    …..I liked being able to get email, and to comment a little on the terrible, TERRIBLE spinach crisis; but frankly, the laptop was pretty much forgotten by midweek, due to superb weather and wild 10-foot surf! That, and floating around the Lay-Z river every afternoon guzzling frozen Cuervo/Grand Marnier/Fresh-squeesed-lime-juice margaritas….

  22. GenXCub says:

    I gotta get on with Acid… being a sysadmin at a utility means I’m totally chained to phone/bberry 24-7, even on vacation.

  23. Rockhound says:

    Well, i travel with my laptop from Home to Work and Vice-Versa everyday in sleep mode. I have been doing this, for several years…Never had a problem, and i dont think i will.

    Just dont DROP YOUR NOTEBOOK….That’s It. Always carry, recovery disks…

  24. ValkRaider says:

    My laptops have ridden for more than 6 years in trunks of cars, airline overhead compartments / underseats, motorcycle saddlebags, backpacks, bicycle racks, and even on a boat.

    All while in “sleep” mode.

    I can assure you, the hard drives are parked with the heads OFF the platters.

    In about 30 seconds, this laptop goes into sleep mode, and I ride my motorcycle home…

  25. Awesomist says:

    I always put my laptop in sleep mode. I carry it to and from work every day like that. No problems.

  26. dalton says:

    “Citation for not moving the laptop in sleep mode: the tech guy who serviced my computer.”

    Sorry – like many other readers of this post, I don’t buy it. I’ve thrown my laptop around plenty in sleep mode. Much like an iPod, when a laptop’s hard drive is not actively seeking, it should be parked – period.

  27. AcidReign says:

    …..GenX, there are trade-offs. I’m the shift superintendent in a big bottling operation. I’m good at the mechanical/logic problems. It’s the people stuff that will test you! There’s no air-conditioning, and on my work days, I get there at about 5:45, and leave about 7:30. Oh, and I work two months of day shift, two months at night. Been doing it for over 20 years, and probably will till I keel over or actually make it to social security age! Still, it’s a job I don’t have to take home.

    …..I’m not down with sleeping the laptop. Acers have pitiful battery capacity. You won’t make it an hour on battery if the hard drive is churning. Lots of RAM is a must! I shut it down when it’s not in use. I keep the services and start-up apps stripped, and it will boot XP Pro, and connect to a wireless network in about 55 seconds. I do sleep my HP Media Center PC a lot. It’s my “kids aren’t allowed to mess with it” VCR.

    …..The laptop’s an AMD Sempron 2800+ system. Yeah, lotta heat and a cyclone fan. Cheap, though. We’ve never had any sort of drive/data loss problems, and the unit has been dropped from coffee-table height at least twice that I know of, while it was on.

  28. Brian says:

    I love taking my laptop on vacation because it’s a tablet PC, so I can do digital painting and sketching at my destination. Easier than lugging around a bunch of paints and paper.

    I’ve got my music composition software on there too. Nice to be able to focus on something creative on a long plane ride. And because there’s no keyboard, it feels a lot less cramped than a regular laptop when used in coach class.