Surviving a Laptop Crash While Traveling

Laptop crash while traveling avoid with recovery restore info on flash drive (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

My homemade Dell Latitude laptop recover and restore info on a flash drive, always with me in a purse side pocket, labeled and on brightly-colored media so I can’t miss it (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Not many things can plunge your heart down to your feet like a laptop crash while traveling.

Particularly if your work life is mostly online, it’s like having your entire office go up in flames.

I was lucky in that a recent PC laptop crash happened to me when I was working at home, but it certainly made me think, “What if this had happened when I was away from home, on a trip?”

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for when, not if, you face the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) or some other PC laptop crash while traveling….

(Note –  there is also the SPOD/Spinning Pinwheel of Death that indicates problems on a Mac – I only have experience with PCs, so am unsure about needing the recovery disc mentioned below, but I do know that file backups are critical for any computer system, including Macs.)

First, Be Able to Recover Your OS (Operating System)

When I landed in Safe Mode post-crash, one of my options was to restore my laptop back into normal Windows configuration by using a restore point, stored on the laptop itself.

I’d had one other glitch on this laptop about eight months ago, so I’d been fairly diligent about making sure that I had learned how to set up a system restore point in Windows 10.


When I clicked the option to use it, the response was that it couldn’t find one.

I was hating life.

The good news was that I had read somewhere years ago that it was important to also set up restore point/recovery information on a flash drive. For as long as I’d owned this laptop, I’d been carrying around in my purse the red recovery flash drive you see in the photo at the top of this post.

More good news – it worked to restore the OS and save my bacon.

—>>  This is key if you are traveling. Bring some sort of system recovery info with you, well-labeled, just in case bad things happen and you need to do this far from home. You’ll need a lot of room for this OS recovery data, so get a flash drive with plenty of storage – at least 16GB. Fortunately, these days that much storage on a small device is easy to find, and affordable.

The bad news – my flash drive’s restore point was super-old, because I’d made it when the laptop was new and was still running Windows 7, before I’d upgraded (for free, when it first came out) to Windows 10.


Learn from my error – make sure your restore point flash drive info is fairly recent.

The good news – rather than now having to pay for a Windows 10 upgrade, I Googled around and learned that this media creation tool (via the Download Tool Now blue box) will confirm that you previously upgraded on that computer, and will re-upgrade you to Windows 10 at no cost. It took me back up to Windows 10 without any issues.

Second, Be Able to Recover Your Files

Back up at least your documents, desktop items, photos, and videos both to an external hard drive, and to some sort of cloud-based storage/backup.

—>>  This is key if you are traveling. All of your data nicely backed up on a hard drive sitting on your desk is great, but you can’t get to it if you’re away from home. You can access your cloud-based backup from anywhere with an internet connection.

For a hard drive, I use a Western Digital 2TB (terabyte) My Book and the backup software that comes with it. Again, it’s a lot easier than it used to be to get a bunch of storage space for not much money.

For my cloud option, I’ll confess that I back up to Dropbox, but not often enough, and I know that I probably need to use a more orderly, regular system. I’m already paying for Microsoft’s Office 365, which comes with cloud storage that I’m not even using, so maybe that is the answer.

Do you have any advice about preparing for a laptop crash while traveling? Any horror stories that we can all learn from? 🙂 Please share down in the comments.

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