Your Laptop and Airport Security - dummies

By Dan Gookin

The airport security situation is becoming increasingly complex. Travelling with a laptop presents a special issue in the airport security line. Here’s what you need to know and do to get through airport security with relatively little pain.

A laptop must dwell in its own bin. To be x-rayed, the laptop must be placed in a bin by itself. Put your shoes, laptop bag, keys, coat, and other personal items in a separate bin.

Laptops must be x-rayed. The x-ray machine doesn’t harm the laptop, nor does it “erase” any digital memory cards.

Grab your laptop from the bin first when you exit the metal detector. Place the laptop immediately back into your laptop bag. Then gather your phone and keys and other items. You don’t want someone pilfering your laptop while you’re desperately struggling to put on your shoes at the security gate.

As this book goes to press, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is allowing laptops to traverse the x-ray machines in their own bags, as long as the bags meet certain criteria. How do you know? The bag says so when you buy it. If the bag doesn’t say it’s approved, it’s not. Simple.

  • Send your laptop through the x-ray machine last. First, send your luggage, shoes, coat, and other items. Then send the laptop last, and in its own bin. That way, you can gather your belongings and then be ready for the laptop when it arrives on the exit side of the security area.

  • The key to successfully navigating security is to pay attention. Don’t chat it up with others, and don’t be distracted. Focus on your immediate task, and recognize that the short, annoying experience and suspension of your Fourth Amendment rights will soon be over.

  • A laptop occupies a separate bin because it helps the security people identify the laptop as a laptop. It also helps you better keep track of it.

  • Typically, the TSA-approved bag style is flat ― either a pouch or sleeve design or a folding flat bag. The bag lacks pockets, and the TSA prefers that no other items be inside it but the laptop, which makes for a lousy laptop bag. Even then, security personnel may ask that you remove the laptop from the TSA-approved bag if they cannot see a clear image on the scanner.