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Airports and Electronic Devices

Friday, December 14th, 2007 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals, Security Help
 
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Q:
You’ve talked about laptops going through airport security before, but what about other electronic devices, such as flash drives and CDs? Can those be damaged when going through the security line?

A:
That’s a great question and it couldn’t have come at a better time! With Christmas and New Year’s right around the corner, I’m sure a lot of you will be traveling via airplane to go visit your family and friends. And along with everything else, you’ll probably be taking certain devices, such as your digital camera, cell phone, MP3 player or even possibly a flash drive. No matter what you take with you, it’s vital to know what you need to do to keep all of those things safe while you travel. Keep reading for some helpful suggestions!

The biggest concern when it comes to traveling with your electronic devices is the airport security line. It’s always been a fear that when you send your media through the X-ray machine, everything you have saved will be erased or damaged. For example, if you send your digital camera through, will all of the pictures you have saved be demolished? Or, how about your MP3 player or iPod? Will all of your songs be erased with one quick swipe? It’s scary to think about that happening, but luckily, it rarely does.

Fortunately, most airports think about that kind of thing beforehand. Airport X-ray machines actually emit an electromagnetic energy, which is not magnetic at all. Therefore, they cannot damage or destroy any electrical equipment. This goes for laptops, CDs, DVDs, PDAs, memory cards, floppy disks, flash drives, external hard drives, MP3 players, iPods, digital cameras, cell phones and just about anything else you can think of. So, just to make sure we’re clear, let’s go over all of those in a little more detail. Here we go!

CDs, DVDs – This includes all of the different types of CDs and DVDs, including R and RW. Any type of optical disk cannot be affected by an X-ray machine and they will not be damaged or erased when passing through.

Laptop, PDA, other types of computers – These types of devices are not sensitive to X-rays, which means they will not be affected. The same goes for all of the components within them as well (motherboard, graphics card, video card, etc).

Flash media – This includes any type of storage device you may use for your digital camera. Memory cards are not sensitive to light, which means they will not be affected when passing through an X-ray machine. As you probably know, film can be damaged when hit with light, so if you were to X-ray a film camera, the images would be erased. (You do remember traditional film cameras, don’t you?!)

Floppy disks – Floppies are affected by magnetic charges, but since airport X-ray machines don’t carry any magnetic energy at all, they will be safe. Unless you run a magnet over the metal area on your floppy disk, the data you have saved will not be destroyed.

Hard disk drives – This category includes flash drives, thumb drives, external hard drives, etc. These all work very similarly to a floppy drive, so even though they’re sensitive to magnetic charges, an X-ray machine will not affect the material you have saved on them.

Other electronics – Finishing up, this one includes MP3 players, iPods, digital cameras, cell phones and any other devices you can think of. Unless the manufacturer of your device states an item is affected by X-rays, the data you have saved will not be lost. Certain products may be different, so make sure you read through your user manual before taking anything like this through an airport X-ray machine.

Now, before I end, I want to make sure everyone knows we’re talking about an X-ray machine and not a metal detector. They are two different things and airports usually have both. Metal detectors can sometimes damage electronic devices, so you’ll want to make sure you let the security personnel at your airport know you’re carrying a sensitive device. If you do that, they should be able to hand check your items for you so that you don’t have to risk putting them in danger. Make sure you’re always aware of which machine you’re going through and how it will affect the items you brought with you. If you do that, your flying experience will be as smooth as silk. Happy holiday traveling, my friends!

~ Erin

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