Flying home with a broken laptop

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Old Oct 12, 17, 9:17 am
  #1
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Flying home with a broken laptop

I have a flight in two days (Managua -> Houston -> Heathrow -> Frankfurt). My laptop (Macbook) broke while I was on vacation and wont turn on anymore. Sometimes on rare occasions the display flickers for a milisecond. The only things that still work are the battery indicator light and the fan. The laptop has no important data on it, just edited photos. I know that sometimes the TSA makes you power on your devices to check if they work. What would happen in such a case if I couldnt turn it on?
Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.
Would they make me throw it away or confiscate it? Or is a working fan and battery indicator light enough to prove that it has power? All my other devices work just fine (phone, camera).

Do you guys suggest I put the laptop in checked luggage or should I just risk it and put it in my carry-on? I dont want to lose it.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 11:02 am
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In this particular case I would consider putting it in checked luggage. I know that is not the normally recommended way to transport a laptop but this situation is different.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 11:12 am
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Your concern should be with the security screening in Managua, not the TSA. Please take a look at this thread:
Increased Scrutiny of Electronics on Flights to the US
And this article:
Electronics that belong to people flying into the US will get closer scrutiny starting today
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Old Oct 12, 17, 11:39 am
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So should I put the laptop in checked luggage when I get to Houston? I dont want to have it stolen in Managua. Im also transporting a machete home with me so Im concerned about someone opening my luggage for a random security check anyway.

@TWA884: Now I get why i was pulled into an extra room in Frankfurt and swabbed for explosives. So I guess my best course of action is packing it in my checked luggage from the beginning?

What would an agent do if just the fans turn on? To my knowledge just the display is faulty.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 11:59 am
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I've never had TSA ask me to turn on a device to see if it works.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 12:30 pm
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There are no guaranteed answers to your questions I'm afraid. This is going to be a best guess situation. Good luck.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 12:44 pm
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Nobody here can give you any assurance whatsoever that your laptop will fly. Best is to ship it separately or run the risk that you can't fly with it somewhere along the way.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 1:16 pm
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I had a phone die on me during a trip to the Middle East. I do carry a back-up phone, but I did worry about whether I would be able to return home with my dead phone. In Abu Dhabi, they did ask me to turn on my tablet, but fortunately, they did not ask about my phones.

Your situation is complicated because your travel covers four different countries, and you'll have to deal with security at least twice (Managua and the USA) and possibly a third time in the U.K.

I'd be very hesitant to check my laptop, especially on a complex itinerary such as yours. Not only because of the possibility of theft, but also because it might draw greater attention to your bag and anything else it contains.

If your laptop is screened during one of the several times you'll face carry-on security, you might or might not be allowed to pass with it. I'd be prepared with a bag in which I could check the laptop, just in case.

The only real solution is to ship the laptop home, insured. It's probably not a cheap solution, but then Macbooks aren't cheap, either.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 1:59 pm
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Im getting into Managua tomorrow at 5pm from the Corn Islands and my plane takes off at 8am the next morning. To ship the laptop Id have to buy packaging, bubble wrap paper, and the shipping costs would be quite high. The only thing I care about is the hard drive really.

If I put it in my checked luggage no one can power it on right?

I know that there are no definitive answers but Im curious as to what theyd do. I bet thousands of people travel with broken phones or cameras each day.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 3:54 pm
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Originally Posted by catocony View Post
I've never had TSA ask me to turn on a device to see if it works.
It happened to me multiple times pre-9/11 but never since then. Stupid screener thought she had found contraband because my camera didn't "work"--you're not going to see anything through a DSLR without a lens attached!

I've also traveled with one whose battery was bad enough it couldn't actually boot. It worked for me, I was just using it plugged in. When I was asked to turn it on I warned the guy that the battery was all but useless and it would die during boot, but he was ok with simply seeing the POST screen. (And I stopped the boot at that point rather than risk filesystem damage from an improper shutdown while loading Windows.)
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Old Oct 12, 17, 4:55 pm
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Yes, it was common in the 90's to turn on your laptop, make your pager beep, etc. But, as you said, if it's happened in the last 15 years, I've never had it happen to me, heard it happen to anyone I know, or seen it happen to anyone else.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 5:22 pm
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Originally Posted by ynosan View Post
Im getting into Managua tomorrow at 5pm from the Corn Islands and my plane takes off at 8am the next morning. To ship the laptop Id have to buy packaging, bubble wrap paper, and the shipping costs would be quite high. The only thing I care about is the hard drive really.
Is it possible to remove the hard drive from the laptop? You could easily carry that on. Whatever happens to the laptop, at least your data will be in your hands.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 5:32 pm
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Originally Posted by ynosan View Post
Im getting into Managua tomorrow at 5pm from the Corn Islands and my plane takes off at 8am the next morning. To ship the laptop Id have to buy packaging, bubble wrap paper, and the shipping costs would be quite high. The only thing I care about is the hard drive really.

If I put it in my checked luggage no one can power it on right?

I know that there are no definitive answers but Im curious as to what theyd do. I bet thousands of people travel with broken phones or cameras each day.
No, that is wrong. Your checked luggage will be screened by TSA at IAH and may be selected for secondary. In a secondary search, a TSA Officer would likely attempt to operate the laptop and, if it is inop., pull it out and leave a note in the bag. You would then have to make arrangements with TSA at IAH at some point in the future to get your lapop shipped.

Try this. If security anywhere enroute, far more likely at MGA or LHR and very unlikely at IAH, does require you to operate the laptop and won't accept your explanation, then pop the laptop, pull the hard drive and bin the rest.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 5:45 pm
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Originally Posted by catocony View Post
Yes, it was common in the 90's to turn on your laptop, make your pager beep, etc. But, as you said, if it's happened in the last 15 years, I've never had it happen to me, heard it happen to anyone I know, or seen it happen to anyone else.
There are a few reports from earlier this year in Checkpoints and Borders Policy Debate forum of travelers being asked to turn on computers during the security screening process. To the best of my recollection, those all took place at one or more of the ME3 hubs.

Here is one example:
Originally Posted by kirker View Post
They did the usual very firm patdown of my person and testing of my hand luggage inside and out for explosives residue. And then they asked me to open my laptop in my bag and turn it on. Their English-language skills weren't great, and when I said it "wasn't working" they initially thought I was saying it was merely out of power. After a couple of minutes I finally managed to explain that the laptop was literally not working, and not merely in need of a charge. This was when they summarily announced that I "simply could not board the aircraft" with the laptop, and that I could retrieve it from the airport's lost & found office next time I was in Doha.
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Old Oct 12, 17, 10:39 pm
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OP, if you are at a hotel , try hooking the laptop up to a monitor.

If that works, try to buy a display cable. you can try indicating to the screener that it only works with external montior. last year I did have a security screener allow me to use their display.

It also helped that I had a printout of my case # and return authorization for the screen defect.
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