Can an Airport X-Ray Erase a Hard Drive?

Your computer isn't in direct danger from an airport's X-ray machine.
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Because X-rays penetrate solid matter, it may seem logical that they could harm electrical equipment and erase hard drives. While it's important to take precautions to protect your laptop's hard drive and information, you don't have to worry about damage from X-rays when you send a laptop through an airport X-ray machine.

1 X-Rays and Hard Drives

X-ray equipment cannot damage your laptop or erase its hard drive, but other people could walk away with your laptop if you aren't careful. The MIT Information Services & Technology website offers good advice when it suggests that you do not put your laptop on an airport X-ray conveyor belt until you're ready to walk through the metal-detector machine. However, the reason for doing that is unrelated to X-rays.

2 X-Rays and Other Devices

Hard drives are not the only storage devices a laptop can contain. If you attach a flash drive or digital memory card to your laptop, you don't have to worry about those either because X-rays won’t harm them. However, you should handle all electronic devices carefully when you place them on a conveyor belt. You are more at risk of damaging your equipment by dropping it too hard onto a surface than sending it through scanning equipment.

3 Airport Security

Because you don't have to worry about X-rays harming your laptop, you can devote your attention to holding onto it when you're in a busy airport; never walk away from the laptop and leave it unattended. If your laptop holds sensitive information, consider encrypting important files or using the BitLocker Drive Encryption tool Microsoft included in Windows 8.1. You can also find software that applies passwords to files that you don't want others to read.

4 Real X-Ray Risks

Use caution when you travel with items that X-rays could harm. Kodak reports some airport X-ray scanners can cause fogging if they strike film that has not been developed. X-rays do not damage film that is already processed, slides, videos or photo compact discs.

After majoring in physics, Kevin Lee began writing professionally in 1989 when, as a software developer, he also created technical articles for the Johnson Space Center. Today this urban Texas cowboy continues to crank out high-quality software as well as non-technical articles covering a multitude of diverse topics ranging from gaming to current affairs.