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I've been living in Australia for the past few months and during that time my laptop charger broke. I haven't bought another one because I have a spare charger back home and haven't seen the need to spend the money on one.

I know you are supposed to be able to prove the laptop works and in fact I've been asked before to power my laptop on while going through security. Does this mean I should put my laptop in my checked luggage but put the battery in my carry on?

I'd really rather not put my laptop in checked luggage because it is somewhat fragile, what are the consequences of my laptop not powering on if I am asked to power it on? Is it worth the risk?

  • I would call the appropriate authorities ahead to ask, and even if they say no problem, allow for extra time and perhaps have as many accessories (battery, optical disks, etc) removed as feasible for visual inspection. – Mark Stewart Jun 14 '16 at 0:03
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    Flat batteries happen. I am sure there is a process to handle them. Also, might I inquire as to where you have been asked to power it on before? I have flown in and out of SYD, BNE and PER in the last six months with 2 computers and a few tablets and never been asked to prove any of them work. – The Wandering Coder Jun 14 '16 at 4:10
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    Where are you flying to? I have only heard of this restriction when flying to the US. – Burhan Khalid Jun 14 '16 at 6:51
  • That's my thoughts as well, there must be a process I just hope it doesn't involve tearing it apart or delaying me! I was asked to power it on both in the US and in Canada and I'll be passing through airports in both, however I shouldn't need to pass through security again after Sydney. I'll definitely try calling ahead, thanks for the advice Mark! – Blaine Jun 14 '16 at 8:07
  • Maybe they have a socket at the security and they can power it on using the power cable. – gerrit Jun 14 '16 at 10:47
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Depending on how flat your batteries are. If my laptop closed down from lack of power and I restart it, it typically lights up for a second, maybe even displays the IBM screen and then dies down again. The battery symbol will be orange (signalling low power) during that entire time.

In the unlikely (that has so far not happened to me, and I have to think back a long time to remember the last time it happened to my dad) event that they do ask you to prove it to be working, start off by explaining that the battery is flat, you forgot your charger at home or borrowed one off a friend and state that you may only see a quick light-up of the display before it dies again. I think that should be enough.

Alternatively, try to borrow a cable before you leave and charge your laptop quickly. Assuming a somewhat popular brand, there should be someone around somewhere with a similar one.

I would definitely not put the laptop into checked luggage because of the possibility of it breaking due to rough handling. As per this related question, it seems okay to do so though. What seems forbidden is to put the lone battery without the surrounding laptop into checked luggage.

And if you argue that you want to take out the batteries and just check in the laptop — well, think about it. Imagine you are a security official and a traveller has laptop batteries but no laptop? Remember, they cannot check what you checked in at the detectors. I can only imagine a load of questions popping up that I really wouldn’t want to deal with.

  • Sadly it's been months and the battery is right flat. I'll try to find somebody with a cable that's good advice that I haven't considered! I'd take the battery out of the laptop and put it in my carry-on. – Blaine Jun 14 '16 at 12:46
  • @Blaine That’s something I would do even more unhappily. Wouldn’t you think it weird that somebody tried to board a plane with the laptop batteries but without the laptop? It should give the security officials a lot of questions to ask … – Jan Jun 14 '16 at 12:48
  • Normally I'd agree with you but there's actually an allowance to the number of lithium batteries you're allowed to bring aboard an aircraft. – Blaine Jun 14 '16 at 13:02
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Ideally you should check with the all airlines and involved and the security administrations of all airports you go through. However that's easier said than done.

In practice this is a relic of the distant past and a complete non-issue. US security (TSA) has stopped this practice many years ago. Over the last 5 years I've flown 500k+ miles in 20+ countries (including Australia and the US) and never had to turn on anything. This is NOT a guarantee (and you are unlikely to get one) but 99.9% chance that this is just fine.

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It's not disallowed to carry a computer that won't power on. Rather, turning it on is just one expedient way to show that it is a genuine computer. I have travelled with a Mac mini as carry-on luggage before, whose operation was not convenient to demonstrate. It's also not uncommon at all for travellers to run out of battery on their devices. They should be able to use alternate screening methods, such as swabbing for traces of explosives.

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It's the opposite: Battery in the checked in luggage, laptop with you.

The reason why they want to see your laptop working is that there are explosives that cannot be distinguished from a battery. So if you claim you have a laptop with a non-working battery, it could be a laptop full of explosives. A laptop without a battery is fine because they can see there is nothing that looks like explosives. Something that looks like a battery is definitely not fine, because it could be explosives.

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    Interesting, but wouldn’t that open Pandora’s box once they realise the checked luggage has a lithium ion battery inside? – Jan Jun 14 '16 at 13:05
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    You're definitely not allowed to put lithium ion batteries into checked luggage. They're unstable at cold temperatures and low pressure so being in the unpressurised and cold cargo hold they can start a fire. – Blaine Jun 14 '16 at 13:10
  • @Blaine You're correct that you're not allowed lithium batteries in checked luggage but your reasoning is completely wrong. First, cargo holds of almost all planes are pressurized -- for all but a few small planes, the cargo hold is under the passenger compartment and the flat floor is a terrible shape for a pressure barrier. Second, almost nothing becomes less stable at lower temperatures: lower temperature means less energy for reactions. The reason they're not allowed is that they can catch fire if they short-circuit. – David Richerby Jun 14 '16 at 19:21
  • @David Interesting I didn't realise that thanks for the infor! The post Jan linked says you are actually allowed to check them as well. – Blaine Jun 15 '16 at 3:32

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