Last time I went to the US I travelled with a laptop and spent a lot of time taking it out at airport checks and removing the battery from it. This time I may be travelling with an iPad - do they make you do the same (minus battery removal) for tablet computers, etc? I.e. remove them from your luggage and scan them separately.

  • Removing the battery?? Nobody has ever asked me to do that! My current laptop requires a screwdriver to remove the battery even, something I'm certainly not carrying on. – Loren Pechtel Mar 2 '13 at 20:58
  • This would've been back in '06. I was travelling with two laptops, so having to remove them from their bags, and then remove the battery from each was just painful. – dlanod Mar 2 '13 at 21:56
  • I think I've traveled at least once every year since the late 90s. Never have I removed a battery from anything. Back in the pre-TSA era I once had to power up my laptop--luckily the POST screen made them happy as I was using one with a bum battery--it would have died before Windows was done booting. I also ran into a fool who thought they had found something when they couldn't see through my camera--duh, the lens wasn't attached! – Loren Pechtel Mar 3 '13 at 0:51

Since I've gotten my new iPad (3), I've been leaving it in my backpack and taking it through airport security checks without any problems. The rules explicitly refer to laptops. The original risk was that someone could remove the electronics of a laptop and replace them with explosives. With laptops getting thinner and thinner that is less likely, but they go by the old rules. I assume tablets are too thin to pose a risk. They still have an x-ray of the inside as it goes through the scanner.

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    Some airports do ask for iPads to be removed as well as laptops, so it's always worth asking if the signs aren't clear – Gagravarr Jul 4 '12 at 9:40
  • @Gagravarr Was this in the US? I would think TSA signage would be the same across all airports in the US. – tcrosley Jul 4 '12 at 16:34
  • Yes, in the US. A couple of weeks ago I was going through a US airport, and signage wasn't as clear as in some airports elsewhere in the world, so I asked about ipads, and was told to put them into the same tray as my laptop and not just leave them in my (big) bag – Gagravarr Jul 4 '12 at 16:37
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    @Gagravarr This is generally more likely to be the result of poorly trained staff, who, when in doubt, will tell you to just take out everything, because it makes their lives easier, and they think nothing of inconveniencing you. If you hadn't asked, you could have easily left your iPad in your bag without issue most likely. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 4 '12 at 18:34
  • Actually, the original risk was not people taking out the insides of laptops and filling them with explosives. The original risk is that laptops are large and flat and mostly opaque to x-rays so you could hide a lot of stuff under your laptop and the x-ray machine wouldn't see it well. That's why, in the US, you're allowed to leave your laptop in your bag if it's in a pocket on its own that folds out separate from the bulk of the bag. (At least, you were until recently. I guess the new regs about powering on devices nix that.) – David Richerby Nov 10 '14 at 11:53

This depends largely on the sort of case in which you carry your computer.

In 2008, The TSA began publishing guidelines for Checkpoint-friendly laptop bags. If you carry your computer in one of these kinds of cases, you shouldn't need to remove it. The key takeaway points are that:

If you intend to use a "checkpoint friendly" laptop bag once they are on the market, make sure to check that:

  • Your laptop bag has a designated laptop-only section that you can lay flat on the X-ray belt
  • There are no metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath or on-top of the laptop-only section
  • There are no pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section
  • There is nothing in the laptop compartment other than the laptop
  • You have completely unfolded your bag so that there is nothing above or below the laptop-only section, allowing the bag to lie flat on the X-ray belt Remember, a well designed "checkpoint friendly" bag must be packed appropriately if you intend to leave your laptop in your bag for screening.

If you carry your laptop in a bag that does not meet these standards, such as a backpack or messenger bag, you'll need to remove it. The electronics in a laptop are complex and detailed, and in order to get a clear view and ensure they haven't been tampered with, the TSA wants to make sure that these devices pass through the scanner relatively unobstructed.

Regardless of whether your bag is deemed 'laptop safe', if a TSA agent feels that your laptop warrants additional screening - whether because of the case, an irregular design, or for whatever other reason, they can and will ask you to remove it from it's case. Similarly, while you are not required to remove the battery from any device proactively, TSA agents may request that you do so (if possible) in order to more closely inspect it.

For the purposes of these rules, Smaller electronic devices, like tablets, e-readers, and even smaller netbooks/notebooks like the Macbook Air DO NOT need to be removed from your luggage unless explicitly requested by a TSA agent for further inspection. You should be able to leave these devices in your luggage and send it through the X-Ray machine without issue.

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