For a short time in 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security banned passengers from carrying laptops in the cabin during flights from certain airports in Africa and the Middle East. Although that ban has expired, the Transportation Security Administration still takes the possibility of explosives hidden in a laptop very seriously, so prepare for extra screening measures any time you carry a laptop – or any electronics bigger than a smartphone – through security checkpoints.

Basic Screening Rules for Laptops

The safest place for your laptop computer is in your carry-on luggage, where you don't have to worry about it being stolen from checked bags that have been taken out of your sight. But when you go through the TSA screening checkpoint, you'll need to remove your laptop from its sleeve or case and put it in a bin by itself to go through the X-ray machine. And you must also do the same for any electronics larger than a smartphone. The sole exception is for travelers in the TSA Pre-Check program, who can get by without having to remove their laptops from any cases or put them in a separate bin.

Rules for Spare Batteries

The TSA isn't the only government entity that has rules about laptops – or, at least, their batteries. The Federal Aviation Administration requires that any spare lithium ion and lithium metal batteries go in your carry-on luggage, not into checked bags. That's the sort of spare battery you might carry around for your laptop; the same rule applies to rechargeable power banks.

Airline Rules for Laptops

Airlines have a set of rules concerning laptops too, but they're more interested in when you can and can't use the device than putting it through any extra screening. Your laptop must be stowed away during takeoff and landing; otherwise, if there were an emergency, it might become a dangerous projectile. You can use your laptop in flight, however, and many airlines even offer satellite Internet to help keep you connected – for a fee. It's usually not the fastest connection, but it can be a lifesaver if you're waiting on an important email.

Get the Most Out of Your Laptop in Flight

So you got your laptop through the screening checkpoint – great. Make the most of it, and of your wait before boarding the plane, by charging the battery beforehand and preloading it with downloaded Netflix movies, audiobooks, ebooks, Spotify music and the like. If you have the option, book an airline seat with a power plug-in so you can keep your battery charged during the flight. Otherwise, you can make your battery last longer by quitting power-hungry apps and dimming the screen.