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Protecting Your Computer When Traveling: 3 Essential Tips

July 19, 2018

When you’re traveling, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about your computer. That can change in a second when you accidentally splash water onto your laptop or leave a USB drive behind in a hotel room.

At, we regularly receive cases from clients who’ve lost data during vacations or trips. To avoid data loss while traveling, keep these tips in mind:

Back up crucial data before (and during) your trip. The best safeguard against data loss is vigilant backup. Ideally, you’ll have crucial data on at least two physically separate devices — and you’ll leave at least one copy of your important files at home.

Try to make sure that your backup strategy is automatic (the best way to avoid human error is to remove it from the equation entirely. Cloud backup is an obvious option, but if you’ve got a slow internet connection, an onsite backup with an external hard drive or flash drive will also get the job done. In any case, make sure that you’re backing up important files and folders regularly.

More importantly: Check your backups to make sure that they’re usable. We’ve had plenty of clients explain that they thought a key file was backed up. If you don’t check your backups, you could be making the same mistake.

Be sure to backup during your trip to preserve vacation pictures, conference notes, or anything else that you might want later. This is where an offsite backup — such as a cloud backup service — can be enormously helpful.

Remember: If you don’t have at least two backups of a file, you’re taking a completely unnecessary risk.

Don’t connect to any airport WiFi networks without verifying the safety of the connection. Data security is just as important as data loss prevention, and unfortunately, bad actors often target airports and other high-traffic public places.

Watch out for “honeypots,” which are unsafe WiFi hot spots designed to steal credit card numbers, email logins, and other personally identifiable information. Check with an airport employee before logging onto the WiFi, or better yet, use your mobile phone’s tethering option to stay off of the public network completely.

If you do decide to use public WiFi, make sure that your computer has an active firewall and malware protection. Don’t rely on that protection completely while you’re browsing — no mechanism is perfect, so the best course of action is to avoid unknown or untrusted websites.

Make sure your laptop and other electronics are adequately packed. Your laptop should have several inches of secure padding, particularly if you’re checking your bags. A high-quality laptop bag should protect against most physical shocks. If you’re adding extra padding to a carry-on, be aware that you will have to take the laptop out of its bag while going through TSA checkpoints.

Don’t let your laptop bag sit in any extremely hot environment (i.e. the back of a car) for long periods of time. If your HDD-equipped laptop feels hot to the touch after you take it out of storage, let it cool down for a few hours before using it. Likewise, let cold laptops heat up to room temperature before turning them on. This can help to avoid a failure of your hard drive’s read/write heads, which can be greatly affected by temperature fluctuations.

If something goes wrong, turn off the damaged device immediately. When data is inaccessible, the damage is done — but attempting to recover your own files can easily make things worse. This is especially true if your laptop hard drive fails (common signs include clicking or whirring noises) or if you accidentally delete files.

Ideally, your trip will go off without a hitch, and with a decent backup and responsible data security practices, you won’t have to worry about running into issues. If something does go wrong, we’re here to help; call 1-800-237-4200 to speak with a data recovery specialist.