Cold Weather vs. Computers

Given the Artic chills that have kicked off 2018, a question came up about computers in the cold weather. This would include, I guess, all the portable devices we carry around with us: phones, tablets, and laptops.

The good news is that, in general, computers and most electronic devices can handle the cold very well.

Heat bothers computers much more than does cold.

But there can be problems when a device is taken into the cold and then brought back to a warm place. If the device got thoroughly chilled, then when it returns to the warmth, moisture will condense in the internal components – like the fog that appears on your glasses when you come back indoors on a cold day.

Even just a little moisture inside the device can cause electrical shorts if the device is powered up while it’s still damp.

If your tablet or laptop has been sitting in your car in the cold then, before you take it back indoors, make sure that it is powered off.

It’s important to power off before you bring it inside, because even idle tablets, phones and laptops are technically “on” in a low-power state, and the little bit of electricity flowing is generating a little bit of warmth, and that little bit of heat will draw more condensation from the air.

When you do bring it inside, let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature before you turn it on. You’re giving it a chance to equalize with the indoor temperature, and time for any condensation that may have gathered to evaporate.

Phones don’t have as much of a problem simply because they are typically carried in a warm pocket or bag. You can use them outside just fine, but if they get very cold (or perhaps accidentally get dropped in a snow bank), then power them off before you bring them back indoors and then let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes in the warmth before you turn them back on.

By the way, if they do get wet or even damp, leave them powered off and seal them in a plastic sandwich bag with about a cup of rice. Let them sit for 24 hours in the bag before you power it back on. The rice will absorb the moisture from the air in the bag, and hopefully from your device as well. Be patient. Let it sit!

Hoping, as always, that this is helpful and finds you in good cheer for the New Year!

Mike Pepper, The Computer Guy, has been providing software and hardware support in New York and Connecticut for more than 35 years. He can be reached at: