Breakdown: How electronics are affected by cold weather

Published: Feb. 15, 2019 at 10:57 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - We have have our warm and cold days across the Mid-South, but there are a few more months left of winter so there are likely more cold days ahead.

A lot of times we think of how to protect ourselves from the cold, but have you ever thought of your electronics? According to experts, hard drives can be the most vulnerable to cold temperatures.

The reason being is that the lubricants that keep the platters spinning can thicken up when chilled. According to experts, if those platters are not able to spin as designed it may affect your device by not booting properly or data written to the drive can be totally wiped out.

For example, you buy a new gadget, it gets delivered, but sits on your front porch in cold temperatures. Well on a day when temperatures are below freezing, that time your device spent in the cold can affect the device. Before opening it, experts say the best thing to do is to let the device warm up to room temperature slowly before activation.

We can’t live without items like cellphones and laptops. When they don’t work, lets face it: it makes us frustrated and gives some anxiety. Did you know that the cold weather can affect those electronics?

In this episode of the breakdown, we explain how cold weather can affect the electronics that you rely on each and every day.

Hard drives in computers are especially susceptible to issues when they are cold. The lubricants that keep the platters spinning freely can thicken up when chilled, which in turn can cause it to not function properly.

Condensation is another killer for cold electronics in areas with high humidity. When you bring a vented hard drive into warm, humid location after it has been sitting in the cold, the condensation can be bad enough to cause electrical shorts on circuitry.

Another tip, when you are out in the cold and want to charge your iPhone, iPad or Macbook, the lithium-ion batteries found in many of those electronics cannot be charged in below 32-degree Fahrenheit temperatures without causing damage.

While a cold battery might seem to be charging normally, the metallic lithium planting can occur on the battery anode--which is more apt to fail if exposed to vibration or other stressful states.

The solution is to not charge your electronic device in temperatures below freezing.

If you are not sure what to do with your device, always check the directions, which usually include minimum and maximum temperatures both for storage and for use, as long as you keep those limits in mind while storing and using your device.

Things you can do to keep electronics functioning properly:

  • Don’t expose electronics to temperature extremes.
  • If exposed let electronics warm to room temperature before operating
  • Solid state drives are less susceptible but should also be warmed above freezing before use

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