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Traveling with electronics

Created date

June 22nd, 2010

When you travel this summer, you ll probably be wondering what you can take with you in your carry-on bag and what should go in the checked luggage. And if you are traveling with new and expensive electronics, you may prefer to keep it with you in your carry-on bag. Many readers have asked us if it s safe to travel with electronics. If so, do x-ray screening machines cause damage?

What types of electronics can I travel with?

[caption id="attachment_12955" align="alignright" width="280" caption="You can travel with laptops, just make sure you remove it from your bag when it's time to go through security. (File photo)"][/caption] The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not have any prohibited electronic devices on its list of prohibited travel items for carry on. It s fairly common for most travelers these days to have several electronic devices in both pockets and in carry-on baggage. These include cell phones, portable music devices such as iPods, portable gaming systems, netbooks, and laptop computers. As long as these devices are packed properly and guidelines are followed for security screenings, there shouldn t be any problems traveling with these items. If there is any question about whether or not there may be concern, it s always best to pack these items in your checked bags. For example, while traveling recently, I purchased an electronic wine opener. Inside the opener was a sharp corkscrew which electronically twists to open a bottle of wine. I thought it might raise some concern since the corkscrew has a sharp point, so I packed it in my carry-on just in case. ' I also noticed signs at one airport indicating that video game consoles such as the Xbox and Wii could not be carried on. ' For confirmation on larger items like these, it s a good idea to call your local airport or airline ahead of time. To check the latest travel guidelines, visit the TSA website at

Why do I have to take my laptop out of the bag at security?

Sometimes, certain electronics like netbooks, laptops, and other equipment will need to be removed from your bag and placed in a plastic container before going on the screening belt. The TSA frequently passes laptops through a separate x-ray machine and uses specialized tools to confirm there are no hidden explosives or detonating devices in them.

Can airport security x-ray machines damage my electronics?

[caption id="attachment_12954" align="alignright" width="280" caption="X-ray machines shouldn't harm your gadgets, but keep digital cameras and other electronics away from the magnetic hand-held wands the TSA uses. (File photo)"][/caption] When entering through security at your airport, you ll be asked to place all electronics on the screening belts for x-ray. But is it really safe to put digital cameras, computers, portable gaming systems, cell phones, and other electronics through x-ray machines? There is no evidence that x-ray screening machines cause any damage to computer and electronic components. However, even though the x-ray doesn t cause any damage, magnetic exposure to equipment can. This is especially true for digital cameras whose lenses can be affected by magnetic rays. Therefore, even if you could carry your digital camera with you instead of placing it on the belt, you d be better off keeping it far away from the magnetic hand-held wands the TSA staff uses when you walk through security. The TSA warns on its website that traditional undeveloped film can be damaged in the x-ray machines scanning checked luggage and recommends you bring film in your carry-on bag. Although safe for smaller x-ray machines, film should be packed separately in a plastic bag, then removed from your carry on at the security checkpoint where it can be manually inspected by the TSA staff. Digital media cards such as SD and cards in your digital camera or cell phones are not affected by x-ray screenings. If you re still concerned, you can always ask that these devices be screened manually. ' Regardless, it s always a good idea to back up important photos and data off any devices before you travel.