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Getting Your Laptop Through Airport Security

If you’re taking your laptop with you, here are tips to make the transit to your plane a little easier.

The TSA (as of summer 2008) allows people to leave their laptops inside “checkpoint friendly” bags. The bags must be able to lie flat and have a section that contains only the laptop. The bag cannot have snaps, zippers or buckles. Tri-fold style is good; accordion-style and backpacks, not good.

Airport security regulations may require you to turn on and boot up your computer at a security checkpoint to show that it functions normally. Think how long that usually takes, imagine the delay you might cause, and then consider this alternative.

Before you head to the airport, turn on your laptop, check the battery power reading to be sure that it’s at least half charged, then, instead of turning it off, put it in “suspend” mode (Windows) or “sleep” mode (Mac). Close your laptop, put it in a less-than-obviously-a-computer travel bag, and head to the airport.

Now, when security asks to look at your computer, it will only take a few seconds to power up. After the usually brief check, you can shut down fully with almost no perceptible battery loss.

If you want to use the computer on the flight, stay in the “suspend” or “sleep” mode after the inspection, and you’ll be ready to go again when you’re cleared to use electronic equipment by the flight staff.

The Transportation Security Administration recommends that you tape a business card or other identifying card on the bottom of your laptop to assure that you walk out of the security checkpoint with your own computer — and no one else does.

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