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Winter weather wrecks gaming gear

SteelSeries World of Warcraft Wireless Gaming Mouse in snow
SteelSeries World of Warcraft Wireless Gaming Mouse in snow
Sarah K. Hunt

The Charlottesville area and surrounding counties in Virginia have already had quite a bit of wintery weather so far this year; unprotected gaming gear can easily be ruined if exposed to the colder temperatures. Most gamers aren’t using their equipment out in the snow, but if the thermostat is turned down when the family is on a skiing vacation at the Wintergreen Resort, or if electronics are being shipped, left overnight in a vehicle, or transported in the trunk of a car or an airplane, they will be at risk of several maladies when they are turned on and heat up.

Heat is a well-known enemy of electronics, but the cold, and the condensation caused by it, can be a game-killer as well. A drop in the external temperature during shipping or storage can lead to water vapor condensation within the device. This condensation collects on the external and internal surfaces causing components to short circuit and some parts to become permanently damaged. Temperatures below about 50° can cause LCD’s to get dead spots that, while usually temporary, can disable the use of the screen. Plastic also becomes very brittle when subjected to colder temperatures and can break easily. Fluids, like lubricants, can thicken. The liquid inside Fluid Disk Bearing drives commonly used in laptops for example, which thicken around single-digit temperatures, can cause boot failures.

Even USB drives can be affected by the cold.
Packing a laptop or PC and its components in a protective case like these from Alienware can help protect it from the winter weather during transportation. Some good advice for operating a piece of equipment that has gotten cold and may even have frost on it is to let the unit warm up to room temperature first in the off state before powering up, else you risk damaging components. Daily changes in temperature lead to faster degradation of the materials and brittleness in plastic parts, so keeping electronic gear away from windows and heating vents is key to protecting its longevity as well. The worst of the winter weather is still ahead, so for smoothly operating gaming gear that will last throughout the year, minimum operating temp specs should be checked, but a good rule of thumb is keep it dry and above 55°.