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.
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.
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.
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.
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