Snow, sleet and slush: Protect your gear From winter

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(PIX11) -- While winter brings outdoor fun, it can do a number on sensitive tech gadgets. Changes in temperature – from a warm home to a freezing car or sidewalk– can damage screens and delicate circuits.  Here are Geek Squad’s tips for protecting your gear from Old Man Winter:

DO purchase protective cases for your gear:

Cold weather can cause serious damage to your devices, so shield them in protective cases. Keeping small devices, like your cell phone, in your pocket will help minimize harm from harsh winter weather elements, but to be safe, you should purchase protective cases—especially ones that cover your devices’ screens. If you’re going to be exposed to snow and other winter elements, use waterproof holders for your phones, cameras, laptops and MP3 players to protect them from possible slush and water damage.

DON’T leave your electronics out in the cold:

Leaving your gadgets out in the cold—for instance, in your car overnight—slows down electric currents in batteries, releasing their charge more quickly. This leaves devices vulnerable to condensation, which could lead to permanent damage. Warm up gadgets’ batteries before powering on devices and read your gadgets’ manuals to understand their safe storage temperature ranges.

If you have to leave your tablet, laptop or other device in the car during the winter, bring spare batteries, ensure the gadget is insulated by a protective case, and wait until you are in warmer temperatures to power it on.

DO think about buying durable gadgets for snow days:

If you know you’re going to be out in the cold for long periods of time, you might want to think about investing in a durable camera like the GoPro.  If you’d rather not worry about losing your digital camera, use a disposable waterproof camera instead.

If you plan on being outside often, check into the option of an inexpensive smartwatch like the Pebble. This would all you to see notifications without having to pull your phone out. Or, you can use either a Bluetooth headset or wired earbuds that have a microphone and control button. This allows you to make use of the voice control (Siri, Google Now, Cortana) to control your phone without removing it from those warm pockets.

DON’T panic if flurries fall on your devices:

If snowflakes cover your gadgets or you accidentally drop them in the snow, don’t panic. Remove the battery (if you can) as keeping it in the device can fry electrical circuits. And it’s best to do this somewhere inside to keep the seeped water from freezing. If it’s your smart phone that’s been affected, you should then remove its SIM card (if your phone has one). This card contains all of your contact info, so if you aren’t able to resurrect your phone, you will at least save your contact information.  Modern Smartphones will not keep your information on the limited space within the SIM card so ensure that your phone is setup to back up to the cloud (iCloud for iPhones, OneDrive for Windows Phone, Google for Android).  Otherwise, SIM cards are replaceable and only used to tie the phone to an individual carrier account.

From here, try drying the device with a clean microfiber cloth or paper towel and place it in an air tight container with packets of silica gel to absorb the moisture. You can find these at outdoor stores or packed in with a new pair of shoes.

Another way to save a gadget from water damage is to fill a cooking pot or deep bowl with uncooked rice. Submerge the device in the rice and leave it for a few hours. The uncooked rice will absorb the water that has lurked in. After a few hours, you should be able to take the phone or device out of the rice and use it normally. If neither of these processes works, drop it off at a Geek Squad Precinct for a diagnosis.

DON’T get lost in the snow:

Before severe weather strikes, invest in a GPS unit or install similar phone apps to alert you to bad weather conditions and help you find alternate routes to steer clear of snow, sleet and slush. And remember, your GPS is only as good as its maps – so make sure to download the latest and greatest versions.

If you’re embarking on an adventure with nature, purchase an all-weather GPS unit that is sturdy enough for the rugged outdoors. The Magellan eXplorist 200 and Garmin eTrex Legend are both good choices, and Satsports GPS is great for skiers, snowboarders and other outdoor athletes because it tracks real-time routing and data logging. When you’re done with your outdoor excursions, sync your Satsports data with Google Earth to get an aerial view of your recent trek. And don’t forget to secure your GPS to your snowmobile with a durable strap to avoid unnecessary jostling and dropping, and try to keep the screen out of direct sunlight.

DO take powerful precautions:

While gazing at snow-topped trees can be tranquil, winter storms can be powerful and damaging to homes, roads and your devices. To protect your gear during power outages caused by winter weather, make sure your gadgets’ power sources are connected to surge protectors rather than a standard wall outlet. Many power strips come equipped with surge protectors, which help protect your expensive electronics when there is a sudden power outage.

If you want the security of utilizing your devices even when electricity is down, consider upgrading your power strip to an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). It’s a device that offers battery back-up in case of a power outage. Standard battery back-up units provide 10 to 30 minutes of incremental power, which can be a lifesaver when you need to save crucial documents, give a cell phone a quick charge or properly shut down a connected system.