Cheat Sheet

Laptops All-in-One For Dummies

Laptop computers enable you to work and play away from home and the office. Traveling with a laptop requires knowing what to pack in your bag, how to keep your laptop safe, and how to keep the battery charged as long as possible.

What to Pack in Your Laptop Bag

Traveling with a laptop requires preparation. Packing your laptop bag with essentials helps you make sure you can access the Internet whether you're in the air or in a hotel. Here are some suggestions for what to pack:

  • Flash memory key: To store critical information off the hard drive.

  • Recordable CD/DVD: To make backups of files on the road.

  • Identification card: List your phone and e-mail and promise a reward.

  • Mini-flashlight: Ever try to find something on the floor of an airplane?

  • Ethernet cable: To connect to a wired network.

  • Phone cord: For emergency use of the dial-up modem.

  • Windows: A copy of the Windows install disk for emergency restarts.

  • Reference: Laptops For Dummies Quick Reference

  • Bottle of pain reliever: Life on the road isn't all peaches and cream.

How to Keep Your Laptop Safe When Traveling

Security is paramount when traveling with a laptop. Your notebook's hardware and software both need protecting when you're on the road. Start with physical laptop protection and then move onto software.

  • Buy a sturdy bag to hold your computer. Make sure it has sturdy zippers and clasps, and shun labels. The bag shouldn't advertise for the computer manufacturer.

  • Put ID tags on hooks and straps of the bag. Use internal pockets for more ID. Put your only name, phone number, and e-mail address on the tags. Add the phrase “Reward for Return” to the ID tags.

  • Take up a company on its offer to track tags in your laptop. If someone finds your machine and contacts the ID company, they serve as an intermediary to arrange the return without revealing your name and address.

  • Keep passwords elsewhere. Don't include in your laptop case a notebook with all of your user IDs, passwords, account numbers, Social Security number, and the combination for your locker at the health club.

  • Strategize for separation. Think about your strategies for times you and your laptop case may be briefly separated. Hold onto your laptop when you're in a taxi; when you're traveling on an airline, put it on the floor under the seat in front of you.

  • Hide it. Never leave a laptop in plain sight in a car. Move it to the trunk — if you're sure no one's watching you — or hide it beneath a seat.

  • Vault it. In a hotel, see if the in-room safe is large enough to hold your laptop.

  • Keep your eye on the X-ray. Send items through the X-ray machine in reverse order of their value: shoes, books and papers, the laptop-less case, jacket (with keys and wallet zipped inside), and lastly, your laptop.

  • Set up a firewall. Sveral types are available:

    • Application gateway firewalls (also known as a proxy)

    • Packet filters

    • Circuit-level firewalls

    • Stateful inspection firewalls

  • Install antivirus, antispam, and antispyware programs.

  • Avoid jolting or tilting your laptop while its hard disk drive is running.

  • Maintain your system.

    • Examine your laptop's installed hardware and software.

    • Use an automated hard disk error-checking utility.

    • Clean the drive.

    • Defragment the drive.

  • Lock the hardware. Nearly all current laptops have a hardened slot at the back to work with special cables and locks that you can attach to a desk, pipe, or other fixed object.

  • Create and use a strong password.

    • Use numbers and letters.

    • Make it meaningful.

    • Be unpredictable. (If you want to include the word Spoon in your password, try replacing one or both of the letters o with a zero.)

    • Be fickle. Change your passwords every few months.

  • Encrypt your disks. Encryption blocks access to Windows, makes all files on the drive unreadable, or both. PGP Whole Disk Encryption and TrueCrypt are sources for this technology.

  • *Back up your data to a form of removable media. Keep the backup in a safe place, separate and apart from the laptop.

Laptop Support Web Sites

Sometimes the documentation that comes with your laptop doesn't have the answers you need. Finding online laptop support is easy; finding reliable tech help for your laptop is tougher. Get support for your laptop from the following Web sites.

Acer
Compaq
Dell
Hewlett-Packard
IBM/Lenovo
Microsoft
Toshiba
Windows Update

How to Prolong Battery Life in Your Laptop

So you're almost done with a huge report, and your laptop battery is about to die. Prolong the life of your laptop battery to avoid the stress Keeping your machine cool and working on a single task lengthens the life of your laptop battery. Consider these other energy-savers:

  • If you're not using a device, turn it off.

  • Avoid unnecessarily using the hard drive.

  • Don't play a music CD while you work.

  • Don't use external devices that draw power from the laptop battery.

  • Stay away from high heat.

  • Make sure the cooling vents aren't blocked.

  • Turn down the light.

  • Avoid multitasking, which is hard on your microprocessor.

  • Be aware of the varying demands of different software.

  • Understand the difference between Hibernate and Standby (or Suspend).

How to Take Your Laptop through Airport Security

Going through airport security with a laptop can be nerve-wracking. How do you make sure your notebook gets safely through the airport X-ray if you're on the other side?

  • Travel with a wing man or wing woman. Let your confederate go through the metal detector ahead of you and wait for valuables to arrive.

  • If you're traveling alone, try this procedure:

    1. Put your wallet, cell phone, keys, and other valuables in zipper pockets of your jacket.

    2. Send items through the X-ray machine in reverse order of their value:

    • Shoes

    • Books and papers

    • Laptop case (minus the laptop itself)

    • Jacket

    • Your laptop

    3. When you see the laptop go through the scanner, go through the metal detector.

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