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  1. #1
    Neat - w/ ice on the side dalmore's Avatar
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    Advice for commuting with a laptop during cold weather?

    I'm concerned about the effects of cold on my laptop. In the past, if I left the laptop in a cold environment, I'd give it several hours in the bag inside to warm up in an effort to avoid any possible damage form the rapid temperature change. If I bike commute this winter that will not be an option.

    I'm mainly concerned about moisture from the temperature change if I take it our of the bag to speed the warm up. Any tips or suggestions?

  2. #2
    Long Live Long Rides
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    Excellent question. I also carry a laptop to work every day. I did it last year through the winter. I didn't seem to have any problems.

    One thing is for sure, I back up everything each day just in case.

    I even fell in the snow once!

    Also, my laptop used for work is also my personal laptop. I bought it used for cheap.

    I'm sure someone will have some good ideas.....
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  3. #3
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    I also rode every work day last winter with my laptop going straight from a warm house to my bag and into the cold (10'F a few days, but I'd say the winter average is 30'F) and then straight back out of the bag and turned on at the office. My ride is short, a touch under four miles, so that's only about 15 minutes for the laptop to come down in temperature. I've never had a problem. If your ride is either significantly longer or significantly colder then you might want to budget some time for letting your laptop warm up. Fifteen minutes at room temperature should do the trick.

  4. #4
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    I've never ridden with a laptop in winter, but I wonder how much insulation a padded bag around the laptop would provide? Alternatively, how about slipping a hand warmer into a padded bag around the laptop. Either the disposable kind if there aren't many really cold days or a reusable one if its something you have to worry about for many days during the winter. That way the computer would never really get cold and you should avoid any concerns with condensation.
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  5. #5
    Ice Eater gmacrider's Avatar
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    For several years I carried a laptop on my 15K commute thru rain or snow, in temps down to -35C. I put it in a thin portfolio-type case, which I then put in a Blackburn pannier. Not much insulation, but my commute is only 40-50 minutes depending on the snow and ice. I always fired it up right away when I got to work and it always worked fine. I never needed to warm it up.

  6. #6
    Retrogrouch in Training bostontrevor's Avatar
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    I ride with one all the time. I it between my clothes so that it has some insulation. That and the thick vinyl hide on my shoulder bag is enough to keep it warm when I get home 20 minutes later. Of course ymmv.

  7. #7
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    If harsh commuting conditions worry you enough, look into a Panasonic Toughbook!
    You could strap one of these to the back rack and use it as a fender. I'm no techie, though, so have no speak on cold weather performance.

  8. #8
    Si Senior dbg's Avatar
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    Those disposable hand and body warmers are cheap (<$1) and can be found at almost any outdoor store (Gander, Erehwon, etc). Slip one or two into your laptop bag every morning. They even make large ones for vest pockets to keep body warm.

  9. #9
    Maglia Ciclamino gcasillo's Avatar
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    I have a work-issued laptop. It stays at work. I have a slamming desktop at home with dual LCDs and a cable modem. I can do just about anything at home that I can at work. Plus, it's a better gaming and/or DVD playback machine.

    Work and home. The only two places on earth I use a computer. When I'm out and about, I do my best to disconnect, and I'm happier for it.

    My gadget contrarianism aside, a good solution for those with able PCs at home is a USB/Firewire drive in a strong, portable case. A Maxtor Onetouch is one example that I use, but I work with many sizeable digital video files. If you just work on smaller documents and the like, you could go even smaller with a USB key drive or something. Beats toting a laptop with a stick. Take your data, not your machine.

  10. #10
    34x25 FTW! oboeguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gcasillo
    I have a work-issued laptop. It stays at work. I have a slamming desktop at home with dual LCDs and a cable modem. I can do just about anything at home that I can at work. Plus, it's a better gaming and/or DVD playback machine.

    Work and home. The only two places on earth I use a computer. When I'm out and about, I do my best to disconnect, and I'm happier for it.

    My gadget contrarianism aside, a good solution for those with able PCs at home is a USB/Firewire drive in a strong, portable case. A Maxtor Onetouch is one example that I use, but I work with many sizeable digital video files. If you just work on smaller documents and the like, you could go even smaller with a USB key drive or something. Beats toting a laptop with a stick. Take your data, not your machine.
    That doesn't always make sense. Consider my example: for a previous job I would do a bike-train-bike commut each way, with a 35-45 minute train ride in the middle. I would bring the laptop back and forth to get 1-1.5 hours extra work done on the train per day (==> go home sooner). So there!

    Anyway... perhaps the OP could stick the laptop in a 1 or 2 gallon "ziplock" back to reduce condensation problems?
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  11. #11
    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    I only use a bike to commute. So I have my home system and work system. I do not carry a laptop. I am a netork engineer and can use any connected computer that can run a MS remote desktop client to do my job.

    As for condensation-- it is the temperature change that is the culpret so just a sealed bag really isnt going to get you much. Perhaps one of those thermal bags would help.

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    I keep my laptop in sleep mode so at least there is some heat generation within the machine while it's traveling along. I will add some padding on top to keep out the cold air blasts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Savas
    I keep my laptop in sleep mode so at least there is some heat generation within the machine while it's traveling along. I will add some padding on top to keep out the cold air blasts.
    I think this is a brilliant idea. Let the computer run in Standby mode and it'll heat itself.

    As mentioned above, if you just wrap the laptop in plastic, it doesn't keep the laptop warm. Think of it this way. A laptop will get cold the same way a can of soda will get cold in the freezer. When you pull it out into the warmth of heated space, the coldness of the laptop will condense the moisture from the air just like the can of soda. And moisture is the killer if you turn the power on. You'll need to let the laptop warm up to room temperature for at least as long as it was exposed to the cold before you power it on, maybe longer. If you've never experienced any damage from powering it on immediately, you've been lucky. We're talking about best advice here for commuting.

    T'is my first post on these forums. Thanks much for all the information I've been getting. I'll just continue to lurk for a bit. But, I thought the idea of the laptop maintaining its own temperature very intuitive.

  14. #14
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    [QUOTE=Kane88]I think this is a brilliant idea. Let the computer run in Standby mode and it'll heat itself.

    While it sounds good in theory, (and I apologize for the caps,)
    PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE YOUR LAPTOP IN STANDBY WHILE YOU RIDE YOUR BIKE!

    This does not necessarily turn off the hard drive in your machine. If it is still spinning (which it does even if you don't access data), the disk can get scratched or damaged by the heads very easily. My commute to work takes curbs, sidewalk cracks, and even a grassy patch that all vibrate and bump my bike. This would cause havoc and premature hard drive failure if you left your machine on while riding. Even carrying it from place to place with it running is not recommended. Trust me, you don't want to turn on your laptop to hear "click, click, click, *nothing.*"

    Even if turned off, I also suggest backing up your data more frequently (at least weekly?) if you commute--there's just more possibility of something happening.

    Thanks.

  15. #15
    Neat - w/ ice on the side dalmore's Avatar
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    I have arrived at a plan - I've got some of those spacesaver bags - the ones where you attach a vacuum cleaner hose and seal the bag. It's not a perfect vacuum but they do hold the vacuum you establish. They are also pretty thick and hard to tear. I see no reason that will not keep the condensation out while my laptop warms up. I'll let you all know what happens.

    I'd have to trick my computer into sleeping - closing the cover puts it in to hibernation. I have learned the hardway that opening a office document from the server and then closing the cover will force the laptop not to hibernate ... Not sure I could make it sleep with the boffice doc open anyway. Also not sure that's a good idea either with the jostling and stuff ...

  16. #16
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    I'm not only an electrical engineer, I'm a chip designer for one of the most prestigious semiconductor companies in the world. Every chip we sell to the consumer-electronics market is qualified for operation between -45 and +80 degrees Celsius. That's the operating range -- the storage range is even larger. Unless you live at the South Pole, taking your laptop along for a ride in the crisp winter air won't harm the chips one bit. In fairness, most chips that dissipate significant heat (i.e. those with heatsinks) will go from ambient (27C) to operating temperature (60+C) in under a minute. The "shock" of going from a blizzard to a warm house is still nowhere near as harsh.

    Condensation is also nowhere near as big a deal as you might image. Chips and hard drives are sealed, and printed circuit boards are covered with plastic, non-conductive solder mask. There really isn't any danger from condensation inside the laptop; it might be annoying on the controls, though.

    There are components in a laptop, such as those made from glass, that might require a little more care with rapid temperature changes, but, really, even a sudden 20C rise in ambient temperature is NOT considered important by anyone I know in the electronics industry. It certainly doesn't take a couple of hours (!) to settle. Give it five minutes if you're really anal.

    - Warren

  17. #17
    Neat - w/ ice on the side dalmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chroot
    I'm not only an electrical engineer, I'm a chip designer for one of the most prestigious semiconductor companies in the world. Every chip we sell to the consumer-electronics market is qualified for operation between -45 and +80 degrees Celsius. That's the operating range -- the storage range is even larger. Unless you live at the South Pole, taking your laptop along for a ride in the crisp winter air won't harm the chips one bit. In fairness, most chips that dissipate significant heat (i.e. those with heatsinks) will go from ambient (27C) to operating temperature (60+C) in under a minute. The "shock" of going from a blizzard to a warm house is still nowhere near as harsh.

    Condensation is also nowhere near as big a deal as you might image. Chips and hard drives are sealed, and printed circuit boards are covered with plastic, non-conductive solder mask. There really isn't any danger from condensation inside the laptop; it might be annoying on the controls, though.

    There are components in a laptop, such as those made from glass, that might require a little more care with rapid temperature changes, but, really, even a sudden 20C rise in ambient temperature is NOT considered important by anyone I know in the electronics industry. It certainly doesn't take a couple of hours (!) to settle. Give it five minutes if you're really anal.

    - Warren
    Good enough for me!

    Thanks!

  18. #18
    Dances a jig. Mchaz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dalmore
    I have arrived at a plan - I've got some of those spacesaver bags - the ones where you attach a vacuum cleaner hose and seal the bag. It's not a perfect vacuum but they do hold the vacuum you establish. They are also pretty thick and hard to tear. I see no reason that will not keep the condensation out while my laptop warms up. I'll let you all know what happens.
    If you turned your computer on when in the vaccum bag, it might cause it to quickly overheat. There are fans in your computer which are vital to keep from causing damage by overheating. In a vaccum the fans would not move any air, and your CPU heatsink would get very hot, very fast, while the rest of the laptop stayed cool. Therefore that plan would not exceed in heating the case, ect in the laptop to prevent condensation, and the processor would have a high chance of overheating. I recommend against it.

    I know condensation can be a problem in computers though. I know from another hobby of mine (PC overclocking), that when guys use extreme cooling in their computers (methods that can cool the hot PC components below ambient temps) that condensation is a big concern. Usually these coolers can go below 0c. I don't know if condensation will be a problem in your situation though. I don't know if the laptop would get cold enough to cause a significant amount of condensation to where it would be damaging.

    I hate to disagree with chroot, because of his experience in the field, but I have seen computer components fail because of condensation from the extreme cooling methods I mentioned. I don't see how you computer couldn't suffer the same failure if it cooled down to a low enough temperature. Maybe he can offer some thoughts on my opinion.

  19. #19
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    I've managed to kill a laptop hard drive before now by bringing it in from the cold (I would estimate -25C or so) into a warm room and powering it on. From what I can tell the grease in the hard drive bearings was still frozen and the drive failed to spin up and the heads crashed on the platter. Fortunately, (a) I had a full backup, (b) it wasn't my laptop, and (c) I was overdue for a replacement laptop anyway. I now give my laptop minimum 15 minutes with the lid up before powering it up when I bring it in from the cold.

    The first operating temperature I could find on the net for hard drives was the Western Digital Caviar range. They are admittedly not laptop drives, but the non-operating temperature is -40C to 65C, and the operating temperature is only 5C to 55C.

  20. #20
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    sbromwich,

    -25C is really, really cold! I'm not sure what temperatures dalmore was asking about, but I didn't get the feeling he was talking about those extremes -- that's worryingly close to the bottom of the operating temperature range of most electronic devices. Most LCD panels won't even work at all at those temperatures. It's definitely a good idea to let temperatures equalize a bit before hitting the power button, but it takes minutes, not hours, for adequate equalization to complete.

    - Warren

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by chroot
    -25C is really, really cold! I'm not sure what temperatures dalmore was asking about, but I didn't get the feeling he was talking about those extremes -- that's worryingly close to the bottom of the operating temperature range of most electronic devices.
    It's fairly cold, but still a ways to go before hitting the limits. Everything else in the computer worked fine, and my bike computer worked fine, too. In a past life I spent the best part of a month destroying thousands of pounds worth of modems to find a flaky part; this involved cooling them down to -50C or so with freeze spray, then heating them up with a heat *** to 90C (simulating temperatures that would be reached in a laptop). Very few modems had a problem at the cold end of the scale, but they flaked out fairly easily over about 65-70C.


    Quote Originally Posted by chroot
    Most LCD panels won't even work at all at those temperatures. It's definitely a good idea to let temperatures equalize a bit before hitting the power button, but it takes minutes, not hours, for adequate equalization to complete.
    What I found with my bike computer is the LCD panel gets flakey between about 1C and -3C, but runs fine outside those temperatures (although the crystals get sluggish). I've also taken an old laptop out warbiking at -15C booting off a USB stick, the only problem there was foreshortened battery life.

    As I noted, 15 minutes is usually sufficient to warm up a laptop. I prefer to put the screen up as otherwise the keyboard still feels cold, which makes me suspect the innards don't get enough warmth going through. It is, however, a really great way to "innocently" kill a laptop if you think it's time for an upgrade...

  22. #22
    Senior Member JumboRider's Avatar
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    Temp,
    Solid state electronics can handle very extreme tempretures...your LCD display aka liquid crystal display can not. The liquid can and will freeze. Your laptop manufacturer should include safe operating temps but probably not safe storage temps. Advice, bundle it up enough that the display will not freeze during your ride. Power supplies and hard drives also grumble with cold. In any case, when you get to work let the laptop warm up to room tempreture before booting.

    Condensation
    Keep your laptop dry. A waterproof bag or pannier should be fine for this.

    Sleep Mode
    When you place a laptop in sleep mode it 'parks' the drive after storing information into memory during the restart the system restores from memory to the place you left off at. That is the theory. In practice I have seen sleep mode crush many a machine in transportation or even simply going into sleep mode.

    If you can carry about an eight an inch of water in a thin container to work without it freezing you should be fine.

  23. #23
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Condensation is generally not a big problem in winter. Unless the office has an overly agressive humidifier, there is usually very little moisture in the air. Using the cold can of cola experiment, you may find that there is very little condensation on the outside of the can during winter months.

    If you are really worried, then a heat pack and some insulation should do the trick. A very effective insulation can be made very cheaply by cutting a blue foam closed cell sleeping pad from walmart to make a close fitting box for the laptop. Use contact cement to glue the pieces together. Unless you have a very long ride, your laptop will probably arrive toasty warm.

    Other ideas: A reusable heat pack (save money over disposables). One or two electric socks stuffed in next to the laptop. Run the laptop with a CPU intensive application until you are ready to leave so it will be at maximum temp when you put it in the bag.

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    Anyone ever tried using a bombproof waterbottle filled with 55 deg tapwater adjacent to your laptop sleeve inside the pannier? This would seem to be a lower tech, cheaper tactic than chem heaters. Oooh, the weight penalty.

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    Hi
    This is bond
    I am new to this forum. I think this site is providing information about Advice for commuting with a laptop during cold weather?. I think this site is to be lot of helpful to the consumers who want to purchase laptop which is the best they have to consider this site.
    ====================
    bond
    Laptop Computers

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