How the Winter Elements Affect Your MacBook Pro

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Winter is coming… well, it’s actually already here. Cold winter temps aren’t going to let up any time soon – and while many people take extra precautions to protect their cars and pipes from damage caused by cold temperatures, most don’t know that cold weather can also damage your MacBook Pro. All electronics have optimal operating temperatures as specified by the manufacturer. Apple products are no different. If you use your MacBook Pro below certain temperatures or need to travel to a place with regular winter temps below Apple’s specified operating temperature range, you will want to take these extra precautions to ensure the cold doesn’t do any permanent damage to your MacBook Pro’s external or internal components.

Just How Cold is Too Cold?

Most people know that using a MacBook Pro in high temps can cause it to overheat. We’ve all been there – open up one too many browser tabs, or press play on that Netflix video without quitting any other apps when, all of the sudden, boom: cooling fans kick in to bring down the internal temperature and protect the components hard at work inside your MacBook Pro. But, did you know that cold temperatures can also damage your MacBook Pro? And because the temperature regulators built into the device focus primarily on preventing it from getting too hot, your MacBook Pro has no built-in defense mechanism that can protect it from getting too cold.

According to Apple, the optimal operating temperature range for its notebooks is actually fairly small. From Apple.com, “Use your Mac notebook where the ambient temperature is between 50° and 95° F (10° and 35° C). Don’t leave your Mac notebook in your car, because temperatures in parked cars can exceed this range.” If your office, home, or workspace is colder than 50° F, you should talk to management or whoever owns the building because that is way too cold for working! But, pay special attention if you are required to use your MacBook Pro in temperatures below 50° F, and avoid using it for any extended period of time in cold conditions. Neglecting to do so can result in permanent damage to your hardware components and even information loss.

Let’s take a closer look at the second half of Apple’s statement on optimal temperatures for its notebooks, “Don’t leave your Mac notebook in your car, because temperatures in parked cars can exceed this range.” This is super important to remember if you live in a cold place because it’s a reminder that you can accidentally damage your MacBook Pro in cold weather even if you aren’t using it. Cars can get extremely cold when parked outside during the winter. If you accidentally leave your MacBook Pro inside of a parked car in the cold, make sure you let it warm up to room temp before trying to use it. You want to be certain all the internal components have time to get to their optimal operating temps before turning them on. This is the best way to protect your MacBook Pro from permanent damage if it accidentally gets too cold.

At Kuzy, we always recommend checking Apple’s official documentation for your specific device to be certain you aren’t exposing it to dangerous temperatures or conditions while using it. To see what your device’s temperature operating requirements are, navigate to your device on Apple.com, click “Tech Specs” and scroll to the section titled “Operating Requirements” to make sure you know exactly what temps your MacBook Pro can be used in and stored at.

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Quick Tips to Keep Your MacBook Pro Working Like New This Winter

Quick tip number one, definitely don’t charge your MacBook Pro in cold temps. All modern Apple devices rely on lithium-ion batteries, which can sustain permanent damage if charged below freezing (32° F or 0° C). While the battery might appear to be charging without cause for concern, as the website Rocket Yard points out, “it may look like the cold battery is charging normally, but the battery anode can experience metallic lithium plating. This damage is permanent, and any batteries that are subject to plating can fail when exposed to vibration or other conditions.” 

Another great tip if you live in a cold weather climate and ordered a new MacBook Pro to be delivered, is to bring the new device inside and let it warm up before you try turning it on for the first time. It’s more than likely that it spent some time outside in a delivery vehicle or on your front porch, causing its internal temperature to drop down below its optimal operating temp. And while it’s hard to have a new Apple product and not open it up to start playing with it right away, you’ll thank yourself in the long run by practicing a little patience and waiting for it to reach room temp before turning it on.

Never use incorrect methods to heat up your MacBook Pro if it gets too cold. Using pocket warmers or the like to warm up your device is ill-advised since they typically provide a significant amount of heat to a very small area. The best way to warm up your MacBook Pro is to just bring it inside out of the cold and allow it to warm up over a longer period of time. If you apply a pocket warmer to the device in an attempt to speed up the process, all of that heat applied to such a small spot could damage the wrong parts of the device, or even melt internal components while the MacBook Pro is turned off without the ability to use cooling fans to regulate its own internal temperature.

 Be especially careful if you live in a cold place that is also humid. Bringing a freezing cold MacBook Pro into a warmer, humid environment can cause immediate condensation on the internal components of the device. This, in turn, could cause unintended water damage to your MacBook Pro. If this happens to you, and you have a removable battery, you can try removing the battery and placing it into a bowl of rice, or a container with silica packets to absorb the any excess moisture before reinstalling and attempting to use the device.

Bundle Up and Take Extra Precautions this Winter 

While dropping your MacBook Pro is always a risk, dropping it into the snow could cause even more damage because of the potential for water damage in addition to scratching, denting, or bending it. Snow might be soft, but it won’t break your MacBook’s fall and the best recommendation here is to get a MacBook Pro case. First of all, the case’s rubberized silicone finish will provide extra grip so it won’t slip out of your hands as easily. Secondly, a good, well-fitted MacBook Pro case can effectively protect against small scratches and everyday wear and tear. This winter, make sure you cover all your bases and add an extra layer of protection to your MacBook Pro.

In the end, though, it’s always best to avoid exposing your MacBook Pro to cold temperatures in the first place so you don’t have to worry about the lasting damage it can cause.


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