While carrying a laptop to high altitude places like Ladakh or Spiti, there are certain precautions that must be observed or else your laptop too would suffer from high altitude sickness. In this article, I will provide a few tips on how to bring your laptop safely to high-altitude regions like Ladakh, or Spiti, or other places in the Himalayas.
A computer has more or less has become a necessary part of our lives. Surviving a day without a computer within our reach seems a little hard. Now, this computer can either be in form of a desktop, a laptop, or maybe a smartphone. But the fact remains that with each passing day, our reliance on these devices increases.
Even while going on vacations, people have started to prefer to bring their laptops along. I am among those people who would carry around their laptops everywhere. The only times I leave it behind at home is when I am going for a motorcycle ride.
While my reason for doing so mostly is to carry it as a backup drive to transfer pictures from my DSLR in case I run out of space on memory cards or to jot down travelogues, everyone has their own personal reasons for keeping their laptops handy everywhere.
Carrying Laptop to High Altitude Places Like Ladakh or Spiti
Believe it or not, a laptop has a maximum operating altitude of 3,000 meters or 10,000 ft. Any higher than that and you run a risk of crashing the hard disk drive.
The reason behind this (in purely technical terms) is that a hard disk drive works on a mechanical arm with a read/write head. As you switch your laptop on, the disk would start spinning and the head would move around reading the information from the right location on the storage platter.
While doing so, it remains a fraction of a millimeter above the spinning disc in the air. At high altitudes, as the air pressure gets lower, the reading head would start to get too close to the disc.
If it comes in contact with it, the result would be a crashed hard disk drive. However, If your laptop has a solid-state drive, this risk is nominal. The reason is that on an SSD, there is no moving disk or head. The information is stored in microchips as it happens in the case of a USB drive.
HDD Vs SSD
SSD laptops have their own advantages. Their performance is significantly better than an HDD computer. This is the reason why computers these days come with a solid-state drive.
There is a catch though. They are also significantly costlier than HDD ones. For a budget laptop, you will have to opt for HDD only. The mid-range one comes with a mix of both HDD and SSD.
For example, a Dell Laptop of around 40-50k will have 250 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD. The windows installation will be in SSD for better performance but the data storage will still be in HDD.
However, no matter which laptop you are carrying, there are still a few precautions that I would recommend before you switch it on at a place higher than 10,000 ft.
Backup your Data
This is probably the most critical part. Before you carry your laptop to a high-altitude place like Ladakh or Spiti, you must backup all your data and on another drive and leave it behind. In case you end up crashing the hard disk over there, at least your existing data will be safe back home.
Do not Work your Laptop for long Hours
Do not keep your laptop switched on for a longer duration unnecessarily. By this I mean watching movies, listening to music or surfing the internet. Work it only for the minimum time required.
Shut Down Completely
After you are finished working, shut down your laptop. Do not leave it in “Sleep” or “Hibernate” mode. Do not also just bring the screen down and fold the laptop as we do at home.
Keep it Warm
This helps in terms of extending battery life. High altitude places are also places of moderate to extremely cold weather. Batteries tend to run out fast in cold environments. Keep your laptop warm to keep preserve the battery.
Better to Keep it Off
At places of 10,000 ft, it best to keep your laptop switched off, especially if it is running on HDD. Bring it to life only when you really need it to either complete some work or to back up data.
Up to 10,000 feet, most of the laptops work fine but chances of failure increase with the altitude after that. Do keep in mind though that if you are switching on your HDD laptop at a place higher than 10,000 ft, there is a constant risk that your hard drive may crash at any moment.
Avoid Putting Memory Stress
While your laptop is on, do not run multiple applications at the same time. Let the memory consumption be limited to what you need to complete your work. Do not multitask or switch between multiple running applications to save time.
Keep it Dry
Your laptop is neither waterproof nor water-resistant. So a high-quality waterproof bag is a must while traveling.
Save it from Condensation
Earlier in the article, I suggested keeping your electronics warm in order to preserve battery life. But it actually gives birth to another complication called condensation.
Any sudden change in temperature may cause condensation and fry up the circuits. In order to avoid that, do not pull your laptop out of the bag in the open. Do it in a closed environment like inside a room or in your car to ensure that there is no sudden temperature drop.
Avoid Bumps & Shocks
No matter which laptop you have, a hard bump, a fall, or continuous shaking may just damage it up completely. Keep your laptop safe and firm in a place.
Does it all also Apply while on a Flight?
No, none of what I stated above applies to operating laptops in an airplane. It is only for high-altitude regions. Airplane cabins are pressurized above 10,000 ft (newer aircraft models are pressurized as low as 5,000 feet) which makes it safe to use your laptop.
Carrying Laptop to High Altitude Places – Conclusion
So how do you know if your laptop is showing signs of stress? Or at what height is it safe for you to use it? Well, there is no predicting in terms of height really. Over-heating, too much sound, freezing application, and slow performance will be some signs of stress on the machine.
Just follow the precautions that I stated above and look for signs of stress and you should be OK. If your laptop starts to freeze, starts to shut off immediately without any warning then you must stop using it until you are back home at a lower altitude.
I hope this information on carrying laptops to high-altitude places like Ladakh or Spiti was of help. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our Community Forum, and I will be happy to answer.