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Which should I do if my laptop was left in the cold?

Answer: While a laptop computer's portability is one of its greatest features, it also makes it easy to leave a laptop in undesirable conditions. One of these conditions is a cold environment, such as a car parked outside in the winter, a backpack left in the snow, or even a cold basement.

Generally speaking, laptops should not be left in freezing conditions for an hour or more. In extremely cold conditions (below 0° fahrenheit), the liquid in a laptop's LCD (liquid crystal display) can actually freeze, causing permanent damage. Additionally, if a laptop has a hard disk drive (instead of an SSD), the drive may not be able to spin up and function properly. If you attempt to use a laptop with a frozen hard drive, it is possible to permanently damage the drive.

So what should you if your laptop is left in the cold? The first step is simply to let the computer thaw. The laptop should be at room temperature before you power it on. If the laptop is in sleep mode, you should avoid even opening the laptop, since that may automatically wake the computer. Even once the computer gets to room temperature, it may have condensation on it because of the change in temperature. If your computer looks wet, you can either dry it using a hair dryer at low power, place a dehumidifier by the laptop, or simply let it dry naturally. If you turn on your computer when it is wet, it may short one or more electrical connections, which could cause the laptop to stop functioning.

Laptops don't like being left in the cold, but fortunately, most portable computers are built to withstand freezing temperatures. Still, it's important to remember that laptops can be damaged when they are used in extremely cold conditions. Letting your computer thaw allows the liquid in the LCD to work correctly and the hard drive to spin properly. Letting the moisture evaporate ensures that excess water will not affect the electronic connections. Therefore, a little patience can go a long way in helping your computer recover from the cold.

Published: December 28, 2011 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center