What is a maximum amount of time that a laptop computer can be safely left in a car?

Posted on 2011-05-03
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
My company has recently began issuing laptops to workers for use outside of the office. I have been given the task of developing the policies for their use. I want to include a policy about how long an employee is allowed to leave a laptop in their vehicle during hot or cold conditions. My initial response is that they never should because I know the damage that can be caused extreme temperatures. However, in their line of work, it is sometimes unavoidable. So, I have to come up with guidelines of what may be acceptable when it is absolutely necessary. I have researched the internet but have been unable to find any research about how long it takes for damage to occur. Any facts or suggestions would be very helpful.
Question by:Robcarter10
    LVL 8

    Expert Comment

    Environmental variables aside, security should be a primary issue here.  It only takes seconds for someone to smash the window and grab the computer.  My recommendation would be that users not leave laptops in their vehicles.

    If users must leave a laptop in the vehicle, it should be in a laptop bag, and stored in the trunk.  At the very least it should be left out of sight (i.e. under the seat, under a jacket, etc.).  

    Going strictly off of environmental conditions, I wouldn't want to see a laptop left in a vehicle for any more than 30 minutes if the temps are below 50 or above 80 Fahrenheit.

    These are just my opinions, so take them for what that's worth.  
    Best of luck!
    LVL 95

    Accepted Solution

    You need to consult the laptop manuals.  They will tell your their operating temperature ranges and their storage temperature ranges.  I've left my laptop in HOT cars during the summer and COLD cars in the winter and never experienced a problem I thought was attributable to the temperatures (I live in New York and the temps can range from about 10 F to 105 F, excluding the "oven" effect of a car.

    If I were developing such a guide, I would state that the laptops need to ALWAYS be stored in the OPERATING temperature ranges... not the storage ranges because odds are, someone is going to pull it out of a FREEZING or COOKING car and start to use it immediately at least once in a while and if that happens, they will be operating outside of spec.

    That said, I cannot see how you enforce this... unless there are "temperature" stickers like shock stickers that permanently change color if they reach a certain temp...

    Expert Comment

    Hi There

    Since this question is part of creating a company policy for IT, Strictly "don't leave the Laptop in an unattended vehicle". This laptop can have sensitive data related to the company.

    Many Thanks
    Binish Varghese
    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    I assume you will not send a company laptop out that's not using full disk encryption, right?

    Author Comment

    Thank you for your suggestions. Security has already addressed with hardware encrypted hard drives, passwords policies, and remote tracking and deleting. I just want to create good guidelines that will prevent damage to the equipment when the employee is forced into a situation where they are unable to have the laptop with them. This made be hard to enforce without use of stickers that indicate when a device has been above a certain temperature. I have found these online but doubt that I will use them. It will most likely state that if the employee violates the policy and damage occurs as a result, they will be subject to disciplinary action.
    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    I understand the need to have policies... but to me, one like this is next to impossible to enforce.  You'll never know... besides, all laptops (in my opinion) should be purchased with accidental damage protection and a 3 year warranty - and being left in a HOT or COLD car would certainly count.

    It's kinda like the rule at one of my clients - we have to disable cd-writing abilities ... but people can still plug in flash cards  and flash drives... so really, what's the point?  People find it easier to use flash devices anyway (for the most part).

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