How to Check a Laptop Computer With TSA at an Airport

Laptops are screened by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports.
Laptops are screened by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports. (Image: laptop image by Kai Koehler from

Tasked with increasing security of the U.S. transportation system, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was formed after the attacks on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001 (see References.) Through security-screening checkpoints at airports, the TSA regulates types and quantities of items travelers may carry while traveling by airplane. Laptops must be screened before boarding an airplane.

Things You'll Need

  • Current, valid airline boarding pass
  • TSA-approved identification (see Resources)
  • Laptop computer

How to Check a Laptop Computer with TSA at an Airport

Go to the first security checkpoint. Present your valid boarding pass and TSA-accepted identification (see Resources) to the appropriate TSA official.

Prepare for an X-ray screening. Remove shoes, belts, metal objects, etc. from your body and place those items in the provided X-ray trays or directly on the screening conveyor belt. All carry-on luggage and baggage must also be surrendered for screening. Always follow the directions of TSA officials.

Remove your laptop from its carrying case and place it in an X-ray tray. Your laptop must be the only item in the X-ray tray.

Place the tray on the X-ray conveyor belt. Follow the instructions of the TSA agent. After your personal items have been screened and after you are told it is OK to do so, collect your personal items.

Tips & Warnings

  • As proof that you have a working laptop, TSA officials may require you to turn on your machine.
  • Special "TSA-approved" laptop bags are available, but you may still have to have your laptop individually screened.
  • If your laptop is confiscated by TSA officials the information on it may be subject to seizure.

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