10 Do’s and Don’ts to Prepare your Mac for an Extended Overseas Stay

Relocating overseas or looking at an extended stay? Out of the hundreds of things to prepare for, don’t forget about your Mac. Preparing now can save you from headaches and hassles later on. Whether going for a while or just a few weeks, here is a list of 10 do’s and don’ts just for you.

1. Do buy appropriate power adapters:

Electrical sockets in other countries are not the same size, shape and current as in the U.S. Fortunately, Apple has engineered their power adapters to work with the voltage differences worldwide. This means that you need an adapter not a converter. You can tell the difference because adapters are significantly cheaper. If you are staying in one place, just get an adapter for that specific country. If you plan on traveling from place to place, the Kensington 33117 International All-in-One Travel Plug Adapter will work in over 150 countries.

2. Don’t buy an extra battery:

An extra battery is not only expensive and in most cases unnecessary, it could also cause problems with airport security. Unless you plan on using your laptop heavily without nearby electrical sockets, skip the extra battery.

3. Do use a backup system:

Time machine is perfect for this. Not only is it free and will restore a system, it’s easy to use. You will need an external hard drive to run the backups on. I recommend a smaller 2.5 inch drive that will run off of the laptop’s onboard USB power and can easily be opened up to remove the drive. Western Digital makes a great one that I recommend. For instructions on how to get a WD Passport open, there’s many video tutorials on YouTube.

A drive that can be easily removed is important if you need to do data recovery on your laptop. Being able to put the laptop’s drive into the external drive is a huge benefit if the laptop doesn’t turn on.

4. Don’t carry the backup drive with you:

Unless you are traveling to a destination, leave your backup drive where you are staying. If your bag is stolen, with the backup drive inside, you lose both the laptop and the backup. If you want to store important documents, pictures or anything else and carry it with you, a USB Flash drive is perfect for this.

5. Do check your insurance policy:

Some insurance policies will cover your laptop if it’s stolen and others won’t. Be sure to check your policy to see if you are covered and if not, add the appropriate coverage. With a good insurance policy and your backup drive, you can be back on your feet in a short time.

6. Do set your security settings and use file encryption:

OS X includes FileVault encryption feature for your user folder. Use it and create a good strong user password to lock it with. Also, disable the auto login feature and make sure all passwords for your user accounts are strong. You do not want someone to have access to your data and confidential information if your laptop is stolen. If you are considering an Open Firmware / EFI password, know that it’s actually easy to circumvent them and they prevent functions like Target Mode and booting from the install DVD.

Note: When FileVault is turned on, you MUST log out of your user account before Time Machine can back you up. If you don’t, Time Machine will back up everything except your user account.

7. Don’t use OS X specific encryption on your USB Flash drive:

Using OS X to create an encrypted volume on your Flash drive is good but not if you need to access it from a PC. Use TrueCrypt on your flash drive instead. Also, keep the OS X and Windows installers on your flash drive, not inside the encrypted volume, just in case.

8. Do have a good strong comfortable bag:

Carrying around a laptop for extended periods in an uncomfortable, bulky bag is not fun. Get something that is light, easy to manage and will store everything you will need. In my opinion, backpacks are much more comfortable than messenger bags but go with what you like. I’m partial to the Kensington 62232 Saddlebag Silver Nylon Sport Backpack. It’s incredibly comfortable. I would recommend shopping around though, because you want a bag that doesn’t scream “I’ve got a laptop inside!”. Another option is a good laptop sleeve inside a regular backpack.

9. Do bring the OS X install DVD:

If anything happens to your laptop and you need to replace the hard drive and reinstall from your backup, you will need that DVD. It won’t do any good if it’s 5,000 miles away, sitting at home on a shelf. Bring it with you and keep it with your backup drive.

10. Don’t wait until something breaks:

Have a plan before something happens. That means setting up insurance, a backup system, encryption and bring that install DVD. It also means that you should make a note of the model laptop you have and record the serial number somewhere online (perhaps an email). In the case of a breakdown, make a note of any Apple stores or service centers in your country of travel. If there aren’t any, you may have to do some repair work on your own.

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