A naive computer question.

I’m going to be giving a presentation at a conference in a week and my slides will be in PowerPoint files on a disk that I will carry with me. My question is: Where is the safest place to carry the disk? Can they be damaged by airport security x-ray machines? If so, what should I do? Ask they they be taken through separately or what?

I would suggest that you give the disks to the person who lets you take things around the metal detector. That way, they won’t get scanned in any way.

Of course, this is only practical if you’re only talking about a few disks. They’re not going to let you “take them around the scanner” if you’ve got a large box of disks.

Having said that, I’ve had disks go through the X-Ray machine without any problems.

Just as a general precaution, but you probably already know this, take more than one set of disks.

Dopeler effect:
The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

Most of the larger airports x-ray machines will not effect disks. I have sent my laptop through the scanner at Atlanta Airport, New Jersey, and even John Wayne which is a very small airport south of LA.

I have no problems with my laptop or disks going through the scanners.

As Unca Beer said take two or more copies, just in case, not even because of the scanners.

If you can you might even want to compress it and e-mail it to someone in your destination city as a backup.

But you should not have any problems.


A few years ago I remember reading an article about someone who DELIBERATELY tried to corrupt the data on disks using a variety of methods.

He found that for the most part physical damage was what you really needed to worry about; the data held up surprisingly well to electromagnetic fields or radiation.

IIRC, the only non-physical attack that really did much of anything involved taking a degausser to the disks (which was pretty effective at erasing them, that being more or less what degaussers are specifically designed to do). Sticking them to the fridge with speaker magnets? Fine. Wrapping the cords of an arc welder around them for a couple of hours? Fine. Shoving them repeatedly through airport or medical X-ray units? Fine. Pouring Coke on them? Oops…

Does anyone else remember seeing this article? Is there a copy of it on the web? I seem to remember it being in either one of those weekly trade rags or in one of the monthly {PC,Mac}{World,User} type magazines.

I should note that the original article did have some kind of disclaimer, like “don’t blame us if you decide to store your sole backup disk in the coils of an arc welder, and it gets erased as a result”.

Thanks, folks. You bet I’ll be taking extras, and hard copies, too. I’m healthily paranoid about these things. :slight_smile:

I used to do software installations and have been through many airports with laptops and computer tapes. Never had a problem with them going through the scanner.

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson — dennis@mountaindiver.com
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb — www.mountaindiver.com

I have a couple of disks that have passed through airport security at least twenty-five times. (Put 'em in my purse and forgot about 'em for two years.) They still work just fine.

“I can call spirits from the vasty deep.”
“Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?”

  • Shakespeare, I Henry IV

Get a free web site, post all your files there for yourself. Shoot, what a perfect solution, eh?

What is probably more dangerous than X-Rays, is electromagnetic fields, since that is what puts the data on the disk in the first place.

In a modern airport, like Atlanta, you can inadvertantly erase your disks if you place it on the floor of one of those automagic-people-mover-type electric trains. If you place your bag right over a traction motor it may erase your disk. I have heard that subways have erased peoples data.

Subways erase data? I don’t think so. Maybe it could happen if you held the floppy in your teeth and took a piss on the third rail. Or you could throw the disk under the wheels of a train; that’d erase it real good.

On the OP, I’ve carried floppy disks through airport security many times. The only time I had a problem was when I spilled a bag of pretzels inside my luggage, and one of the disks got some crumbs inside it. So, don’t worry about the security scans.

But as UncleBeer said, do carry a spare set of disks, in case one set gets physically damaged. Put one in your carryon bag, and the other in your checked luggage, just in case one bag is stolen or lost.

If your data is really critical, you may want to invest a couple hundred bucks in a compact disc writer. Because their data is stored optically, CDs are completely immune to magnetic fields. What’s more, CDs are far more physically robust than floppies; they have no moving parts, and small scratches are far less likely to cause data loss. (I’ve been using an AOL signup CD as a coaster for nearly a year. I just wiped it off and stuck it in my drive, and it appears to work perfectly.)

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.