Are Airport X-ray Scans Safe for Laptop PCs?

Written by catherine bowers
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Are Airport X-ray Scans Safe for Laptop PCs?
Knowing what's safe to bring through airport security speeds up travel. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

In an attempt to ensure the safety of all passengers, thorough security screening at airports requires that travellers to pass through metal detectors and that baggage is sent through X-ray machines before boarding a plane. Passengers who travel with electronic devices, such as cell phones, cameras, PDAs and laptops, may not know if X-ray machines are safe for their components.

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Hard Drives

A laptop's hard drive is safe to put through an airport security X-ray scanner. Hard drives store their data as magnetic media; airport X-ray machines use a specific wavelength of light to operate. Unlike photo film, your hard drive is not photosensitive and therefore will be unaffected by the airport X-rays.

Are Airport X-ray Scans Safe for Laptop PCs?
Hard drives are magnetic media unaffected by X-ray light waves. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)


Just like your laptop's hard drive, the memory on your laptop is safe to put through the airport security X-ray scanner. Memory is stored as magnetic media and is not photosensitive, so it will not be affected by the special wavelengths of light that are used by the X-ray machine.


Any device using lithium batteries must be carried on board with the passenger. Laptops use lithium batteries and therefore must be carried on and not checked in. Government regulations have very specific rules regarding travel with batteries (see Resources). It is safe to put a laptop battery through the X-eay screening device because they are not photosensitive or vulnerable to X-ray waves.

Are Airport X-ray Scans Safe for Laptop PCs?
Lithium batteries mean laptops must be carried on board, not checked. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Other Concerns

Other computer items that go with your laptop, such as CDs, DVDs, floppy discs and USB flash drives, are safe to put through an airport X-ray scanner. Floppy discs and flash drives utilise the same magnetic media technology as the laptop's hard drive and memory. CDs and DVDs store data using physical structures, with tiny holes on the surface of their plastic disks that are read by lasers; they are not photosensitive and will not be affected by airport X-ray machines.

Are Airport X-ray Scans Safe for Laptop PCs?
Computer data storage devices will not be affected by airport X-rays. (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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