Laptop EMP protection?

Discussion in 'Equipment & Survival Kits' started by Vertigo, May 26, 2010.

  1. Vertigo

    Vertigo Member

    Hi all,

    I have a little question for the people on this site who have any knowledge/experience on the subject of EMP protection for electronics.

    One of the things I have been thinking about lately is how to conserve information in a SHTF scenario, more specifically in the case of an EMP or solar flare (since a solar flare appears to have the same effect on electronics).

    For data storage most would consider a good 'ol book of course, when in preparation for an EMP. And there is nothing wrong with this, but the fact remains that people can have a book shelf full of books, but they will not get close to the amount of information that can be stored on a modern laptop. One could store entire libraries of information on a single laptop, and lets not forget the ability to store instructional videos, dvd's, music, etc.

    The biggest problem is then to protect the laptop against EMP. Normally one would consider a Faraday cage (a metal box that can be closed completely, with a lining on the inside to insulate the goods you put in the box, from the outside metal casing). But as I am typing this post, there might just be an even better solution...namely the one right in front of me.

    I own and use one of those new, unibody Macbook Pro laptops, from Apple. These laptops come with a completely aluminum outer casing. And I think it i safe to believe that the electronics inside are shielded from touching that casing (or else there would be all kinds of shorts and electrical issues). So when the laptop is closed, and the power cable is not connected, would this not constitute some kind of a Faraday cage?

    I hope some of you have the knowledge or experience to help out with an answer for this question. If this hunch I have, would turn out to be true, it would make a great off-the-shelf solution for storing data! If not, we're back to storing a dedicated (old) laptop in a normal Faraday cage :D

    Let me know what you have to say,

    greetz and take care,


    PS: here is a link for the product page, to find some additional information. I have already tried to look up some information about EMP and this laptop on the internet, but so far I have been unable to find anything substantial. So that's where the wise people of Prepared Society come in hopefully :D

    here is the link:
    Last edited: May 26, 2010
  2. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

    I honestly do not have a solid answer for you. Some of the words that they use make me think that it will be safe and other words make me think that it might not be EMP-proof.

    Now, there are "ports" that an Electro Magnetic Pulse might be able to use to get inside the case and attack the system-board and all the electronics inside. Those ports are for the power-plug, USB and related connections. If the laptop is plugged into the wall, that would be a perfect conduit into the laptop to fry it.

    Short of doing destructive-level testing in a protected environment to prove it EMP-protected (or not) would be the only way to check. From what I can see in the pictures, I would say that it is better protected from EMP than your basic plastic-bodied laptop.

  3. Vertigo

    Vertigo Member

    You are definitely right about those ports, but on the other hand a box lined with a metal mesh (which also has holes obviously) also works as a faraday cage... So maybe it might just be enough...

    Anyone want to buy one of these and send it to the test lab in White Sands, New Mexico? :D
  4. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

    True that, but, the holes in the mesh are all equal, not random ports here-n-there. That is why I am not sure about the ports. The power-plug is my number one concern, especially if the unit is plugged in at the time of an EMP-burst.

    If the unit is not plugged in, I would hazard a guess that it would be better than your average plastic-bodied laptop.
  5. tyler_kd0bsa

    tyler_kd0bsa Well-Known Member

    You have to remember there is still the gap where the screen closes. It may not be much but its still access to the screen and possible other electronic parts inside the case. You're better off taking the safe bet and making a small Faraday cage to put it in.
  6. kyfarmer

    kyfarmer Well-Known Member

    I know i,am a dum azz for asking this , will there be a net if we get blasted? I,am still an old fashion book man, i,ve got way to many. My brother in law say's he can EMP proof a laptop by putting it in and old fridge. His is a metal cased one to. :dunno:
  7. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

    Nope - if EMP takes out the grid (power) it will also take out the grid (internet). The lines themselves may not be down, but, the hundreds of thousands of servers that provide the information to the collective known as the "INTERNET" will not have power, the routers and switches will not have power, the ends of the fiber-optic lines will not have power ... and on and on.

    Most servers run behind power-protection systems ( UPS - Uninterruptible power supply - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ) and most likely will be protected for the short-term, but, once the battery inside the UPS dies and there is nothing to recharge those batteries (AC-power) they also will shut-down.

    Now - if the EMP-blast is "close enough" to the servers in their steel cages, they may also be fried. If the blast is significantly far enough away, the servers (and related equipment) may survive, but, without power, will not be able to do anything.

    There are programs out there to "copy" entire websites to your computer and the program will make the site run as if you are connected to the internet. Being able to run those programs and copy everything possible (think the DrumRunner site) and put that information onto a data-DVD will help preserve the information that is currently available, and, if you can continue to run your laptop (solar charge the battery) you will continue to have access to the stored information.
  8. bunkerbob

    bunkerbob Supporting Member

    Laptop EMP

    I thought I had shared this with you guys, but I guess not. Here is how I protect my spare laptop. Hard case, then sheets of fine steel mesh surrounding a layer of non-conducting foam, with the laptop in the middle. When wire cage closed up I use duct tape to insulate the wire sheets from the out side case. I also keep a couple of thumb drives in there with more PDF info, manuals for all my weapons, how to guides, etc.
    This case is down in the 'pit' which should protect it even more. Oh, and I also pack some desiccant pacs in there to. Power supply and extras are in a ammo can, packed with foam.

    Attached Files:

  9. testhop

    testhop Well-Known Member

    what about the old g.i. quninst hut?

    a very long time agoi when i was in the U.S.A.F.we used the quinst hut
    to store gear in some had no windows and was made of steel.

    does anyone think thay could be made to work.
    also what about the large steel box contaners used to ship cargo on ships and trains
  10. booter

    booter Well-Known Member

    Laptop EMP protection

    For shock protection as well as electrical protection look for; heavy duty MYLAR insulated bubble wrap used in construction work, its' a burly heavy mil. polyethylene laminated product. It sells under the name of REFLECTIX insulation, it comes in big and small rolls in varying widths, you can cut it to fit in any carrying case and duct tape it into shapes along the seams. It functions as a flexible FARRADAY cage because of the MYLAR, I have cut it to fit inside my BOB as a liner and held it in place with adhesive VELCRO patches, which makes it removable.
  11. Aemilia

    Aemilia Zookeeper

    Nice Bunkerbob - I was just going to find an old microwave. I'm also told I can use my metal gun-safe.
  12. bunkerbob

    bunkerbob Supporting Member

    Microwaves might be a good idea, but, how do carry it around? not very portable. This makes my laptop very portable and safe.
  13. Vertigo

    Vertigo Member

    While my initial question on my current laptop is still out in the open to be answered, I took the 'preparedness' route :D and stored my old laptop (filled with all my info) in one of those big metal carry cases, like this. Just a little bit bigger than the one in the picture.

    With the metal outer case, and fully lined inside, this should make a handy emp-proof case. (and much more easily to handle then a micro wave :p)

  14. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    Seems to be some confusion on what an EMP actually does...

    You have to understand the electro-magnetic link to understand what an EMP does to your equipment.

    Most conductors in things like computers are copper.
    Copper has 27 electrons in it's shell, and that odd number of electrons is the key to 'Conductors'.

    Even numbers of electrons are very stable, they stay in 'Locked' orbits around the atomic structure and don't easily leave orbit.

    Odd numbered electrons has one 'Unstable' electron that will transfer fairly easily.

    How you generate an electric current is with a MOVING magnetic field that dislodges that extra electron and starts it moving for an electrical current.

    STATIC, or non moving magnetic fields aren't an issue, they don't move the electrons around,
    But a MOVING magnetic field will knock the stray electron out of it's orbit and create an electrical current.


    When an EMP happens, the MOVING magnetic field passes through all conductors and creates a HUGE electrical field which is being pushed in one direction (Away from the center of the (EMP), and that will force a HUGE electrical current through lines.

    Sensitive electronic components that work on millivolts can be damaged because the circuit they are attached to can produce an electrical current that will fry the more sensitive components.

    Most sensitive electrical components will have a power 'Transformer', stepping voltage down from wall current to an average of around 12 volts.
    That transformer is coils of wire, perfect for reacting to an EMP.


    EMP protection is pretty easy,
    Magnetic fields don't penetrate through cast iron or steel very well.
    When the EMP hits, the metal box will shield the components inside,
    *IF* they are not hooked to the power grid outside the box,
    And since even the steel will produce an electric current when the EMP hits, you need to have the box grounded to an Earth ground.

    An older lap top that still works stored completely inside a metal box would survive, same with emergency radio and TV or other electronic devices.
    Remember to use NON-Conductive shelving inside, like wood,
    And remember to Earth Ground any security cabinet.

    Don't use ANYTHING with vents, louvers, cracks around the door, ect.
    This has to be overlapping flanges at the door (like the old school wall lockers had, but without vents).

    Screen type wire will NOT stop an EMP no matter what you see on TV.
    If the magnetic field can pass through, it will create the above mentioned charge in anything that conducts electricity.

    Windings in electric motors usually aren't seriously effected since even when a motor is at rest, the brushes still make contact with windings,
    Just remember to twist the wires of anything you have stored together so the current can dissipate on it's own.

    If you have wiring you want to protect,
    Then run it through Earth Grounded metal conduit to harden it.
    Running shielded wiring, the shielding MUST be metal and not more copper, and it MUST be grounded to dissipate the current created as the EMP passes over the wiring/devices you are trying to protect.

    During military testing, researchers found that older ignition modules lived through an EMP since they are usually cased inside a distributor hosuing, or a heavy metal/grounded housing,
    But newer style ignitions built onto the computer for the rest of the vehicle did not survive very well.

    Modules in glove compartments or metal tool boxes survived while computers did not.

    The reason is simple,
    Stored modules had shielding, and they were not hooked up to the vehicle's wiring harness that acts like an antenna to collect the EMP and convert it into electrical current which ends at the ignition module.

    Lead/Acid batteries are unaffected by an EMP, they are non-magnetic and the charge created in the wiring harness of the vehicle isn't high enough or long lived enough to damage lead/acid batteries.

    Computer/Cell Phone batteries ARE unacceptable to EMP.
    They contain conductors inside that are thin enough to be damaged by the electrical pulse when an EMP Happens.

    The further you are away from an EMP the better chance you have of keeping your hardware...
    The earth's magnetic field will absorb an EMP fairly quickly, so EMP is only effective in 'Line Of Sight' for damaging electrical devices.


    Most guys panic over hard drives.
    Make sure your hard drive or back up device is METAL SHIELDED and GROUNDED!
    That's all there is to it.
    (IF you aren't making backups of your critical information, then you aren't ready for anything!)

    I keep the really important stuff printed out in my library.
    Hard for an EMP to zap a hard copy!
    As for the other stuff, bank records, ect., won't matter since if anyone EMP's us way out here in the middle of no where,
    There isn't much you can do anyway, and the banks will be done before I am!

    The 'Ideal' situation is like the Military does,
    They build a 'Box' (Actually two),
    Two complete computer systems mirrored so the hard drives are identical.
    One of the systems is turned off and unhooked at all times so an EMP can't ride in on the wires,
    And the rooms (Boxes) are EMP Proof.

    With no connections to the outside world, and no way for the EMP to penetrate the 'Box', the computer is safe,
    And can be reconnected to outside world as soon as the EMP is over.

    Backups are manually transfered on hard drives or digital storage from one 'Box' to the other 'Box' to update the second computer before it starts up so both computers are on the same page at least twice a day.

    Personally, I have an old laptop which I don't use anymore stuck in an old steel refrigerator with my welding rods, welding wire, ect.
    Since there is a dehumidifier in there, I don't have to worry about moisture damage,
    The fridge will provide some fire resistance potential,
    And since it's an all metal box that's grounded, it's a pretty good EMP protection.
    I keep the old lap top loaded with the information I collect,
    And I keep NON MAGNETIC backups, like CD's, in the lower drawers (Which are also metal, like I said, it's an OLD refrigerator!)

    I may be plugging a long on a 1 gig processor with limited memory, but I've had to drag it out before for this or that, and it's pretty handy!

    Another way to back up is with a 'Thumb Drive',
    While not completely EMP proof, it is with me on my key chain at all times.
    Sooner or later I'm going to run into a computer that works, and then I'm up and running,
    And I can carry all my repair manuals with me when I work for people I met on the internet...
    So I don't have to beat my lap top to death while traveling or working in the shop.

    As for 'Solar Flairs',
    Cables/Wires that are rated for broadcasting will bail you out on that.
    That's RF (Radio Frequency) rated cables, filters, ect. will keep you alive there.
    Different that EMP issues, if we have a solar flair that is strong enough to disrupt your home computer, it will have long since fried you with radiation before your computer stops working!

    Mild RF protection will do for 'Solar Flairs' (Charged Particles, little to no magnetic field issues),
    Since the radiation will kill you a long time before it damages anything, it's not a huge issue for anyone not in space at the time of the solar flair,
    You will get disruptions, glitches in downloads/uploads ect.
    But just shielded wiring will take care of most of those issues when land based.

    Digital information from satellites will be the issue with solar flairs.
    Charged particles play havoc with satellites and satellite transmissions,
    But really aren't a huge issue with ground based communications or damage to ground based equipment.
  15. Vertigo

    Vertigo Member

    Whoa! That's some great info you have there Jeephammer! Thanks for the help!

  16. Rourke

    Rourke Human

    I am planning on buying a Netbook to back up all of my survival information on - as well as other stuff. I plan on enclosing it in multiple layers of protection - rubber encased, then a couple layers off metal (box inside of a box).

    This "pack" will sit in side off a metal cabinet.

    Hopefully I won't have to find out if it works -

  17. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    It's a lifetime of collecting 'Useless' facts that sometimes falls to good use,
    But mostly just plugs up my brain with 'Useless' facts...
    Yup, I still remember the 'Skippers' and 'Professors' real names in 'Gilligan's Island'...
    Talk about 'Useless' facts! :p
    (Jonas Grumby/Roy Hinkley)


    Nothing will save you if you are connected to the 'Grid',
    Electric or phone lines,
    Or depending on how close you are to an EMP, even accessories like cables to printers, ect. might disable some of your functions.

    Your best bet is to HARD COPY most of your most important information,
    And if you want a computer to work after an EMP event,
    Keep it disconnected when you aren't using it.

    Panasonic 'Tough Books' have inherent protection because of their metal cases.
    My tough book survived a swinging electrical wire in the shop while it was open and turned on!
    220 volts directly to the case, and it survived with no issues except for a large burn mark on the case.
    It also survived a lightening strike while plugged in, but it WAS protected by an UN-BONDED actual 'Earth Ground', and was plugged into a 'Tripp-Lite' (military grade) surge protector.

    The military 'Field' computers are 'Hardened' Tough Books, and they seem to work VERY well for those applications.

    If you are going to protect against 'Brown Outs' which are harder on computers than voltage spikes,
    You will need a FAST battery back up system.

    I only use Tripp-Lite for a reason, the military uses them and they are SPECIFICALLY designed to withstand 'Questionable' power sources, both surges and brown outs.

    They are twice as expensive as a comparable APC or some other 'Retail' back up, but they are faster and they are more reliable, along with being 'Hardened'...
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2010
  18. EmergencyComms

    EmergencyComms Member

    Hi guy's say hello to the newby here.
    Having worked in the telecomms and communications industry man and boy - some 30+ years - all you have to do to protect your radio/computer equipment is the following:

    First - Disconnect the equipment completely from any power or network connection
    Second - Wrap it in a plastic bag
    Third - Wrap it completely in foil - aluminum cooking foil
    Fourth - Store it safely
    Fifth - Your now safe.

    You can apply the same to any electronic piece of equipment. You do not have to have any special mesh or screen - simply use the cooking foil.

    When there's what they call an EMP pulse - you get this from atomic explosions etc - the EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) - in effect a large voltage spike and ates out from the atomic explosion area and any piece of modern electronic equipment that uses transistors, IC (Chips) etc that work on the principle of current switching (that's how the transistors and chips work) will have "induced" in them by this very large EMP field a damaging current and will fry the tranistors and IC's.
    However is you have an old tube radio - there will be no problems as the old technology using tubes - uses voltage not current technology - so your ok.

    Many years ago a Russia MIG fighter was captures and our boys checked it out - they found that the cockpit was EMP proof - a simple faraday cage was in the design of the cockpit and the radio and controls were tube - mini tubes - those Russians are not all stupid it would seem.

    So cooking foil - from the store and your safe.:wave:
  19. gypsysue

    gypsysue The wanderer

    Hi, EmergencyComms, great to have you with us! Sounds like you have a lot of helpful knowledge!

    But regarding your steps to protect them...what would a person have to do, have a spare wrapped up and put away?

    These events will likely come without warning, won't they? The things we're using will just be fried and done for?
  20. EmergencyComms

    EmergencyComms Member

    Hi Gypsysue

    "But regarding your steps to protect them...what would a person have to do, have a spare wrapped up and put away?

    These events will likely come without warning, won't they? The things we're using will just be fried and done for?"

    Yep - if you are using it at the time, you can say bye to the laptop, the clocks, the tv, any modern piece of electronics.

    If you wanted to save any information - put it on a USB Stick (I back up my system on a mini drive and use some great back up software from ClickFree.

    Once the back up's done you can wrap the drive (USB stick) with cooking foil even place it in a fire proof safe and you have your system backed up and fire proofed.

    Hope that helps - oh and the Clickfree software once it's done the intial back-up only backs up the changed files etc so its ultra fast backing up.