Letter Re: EMP Computer Question


What laptop would you recommend for storing in an EMP proof environment, to be used after an event to retrieve electronic files such as Survivalblog/Mother Earth News archives? There are so many options, and choosing the wrong one could be frustrating to say the least. I have hard copies of some essential books, but there are just too many helpful things in electronic format to ignore if it would be possible to retrieve. Thanks for all you do! – P.H.

HJL Replies:

If the device is to be stored in an EMP resistant container, there are no special considerations that must be give for EMP itself. Rather, the considerations should be towards long-term reliability, since a replacement may be hard to come by after such an event. There are many options that are possible from rugged laptops or smaller rugged tablets. My preference leans towards devices that have limited moving parts which generally means tablets. They are also usually less expensive but they may not have accessories that may be attractive to you. Tablets usually don’t come with CD/DVD reader/writers which might be important. You can usually afford several tablets compared to the cost of laptops and the software is typically less troublesome.


  1. If you want a SHTF laptop, you will need to pack more than just the laptop and power supply.

    You will need a solar panel, a battery, a charge controller and small inverter in the EMP canister.

    Add to that a DVD player and the startup disks that came with the laptop. A large USB thumb drive for backing up critical files.

    Most versions of Windows need to be reloaded after a year or two of use; there will be no Microsoft to call after SHTF and a blue screen of death will be the last screen you may see otherwise.

  2. This is why I much prefer low tech. No one can ever know everything, of course. But it’s good to know other people who do the same sort of work in farming, who can figure out solutions. It’s also good to stash book, lots and lots of books on every subject. I love survivalblog and lots of resources on the Internet, but I am basically planning to absorb as much information now as possible, and put it into practice now, so I can retain as much knowledge right now as I can.

  3. A kindle is a low cost option that uses less energy to recharge. Disadvantages: Its battery cannot be replaced, & it’s limited to amazon books. Also, one cannot copy articles off the www to store, like a laptop can.

    1. Look up the Fire 7 at Amazon. It is like a kindle but can access your email, internet, ebooks, movie, videos, pictures, etc. And it is cheap o I bout a couple of them. Not a “perfect” solution but an option. Put a large capacity SD card in it (which can be your PC backup if you choose) for increased memory.

    2. You can email documents like PDFs to be converted by Amazon and Calibre can convert other files for things like a Paperwhite.

      The largest consideration is battery life and or energy usage (buy extra battery packs, see if there is a 12 v charger).

      Find something inexpensive and buy two and two accessories. Leave one in the Faraday cage and do a dry-run to make sure everything works off the grid (one exception – you will typically get updates to software and that can only happen online so set both up and exchange occasionally).

      You need enough performance to play DVDs if you don’t pre-convert (handbrake does this) them to less stressful video. You can also store lots of these converted videos on a micro SD card can work on a tablet or phone.

  4. I agree with Hugh Farnham’s view on Windows(r) and advise using another Operating System. My preference is Linux, using one of the larger, mainstream distributions (Ubuntu, Mint, etc.). You can also obtain the source code, if you have the skill set, and build your own distribution in the future.

    Also keep backups in Faraday caged storage, for instance on USB flash drives, multiple copies for insurance, your descendants may thank you.

  5. Once a month I backup everything I need onto a quality hard drive. Then I also backup everything onto 2 thumb drives which are stored in 2 Go-Bags. As for Go-Bag electronics it is all properly packed in Faraday fashion.

    The problem with electronics in general is simple- if you use it day in and day out then you wont likely be able to protect it from an EMP. The fix is equally simple- have a back up stored in a Faraday package. a Second Laptop can be had for $300, a shortwave receiver is cheap, a printer can be had cheap. 2 is 1 and 1 is none. You simply cannot get away with using your electronics and expecting to have it after an Event. Have a few backup electronics stored. The backup hard drive is the only thing you need to risk during a given month by pulling it out of the Faraday box. It is the smart thing to do.

  6. If you’re just trying to read books, articles and archives then just about any ruggedized PC will work. I prefer Panasonics. It only has to read .pdf and .jpg (generally) files. Remember 2 is 1, 1 is none. Store documents on hard drive, mirror that drive and backup to thumb drives. Powering the PC is something for another post. Store all in a 55 gal drum Faraday cage and ground it. Throw a handgun and box of ammo in. Maybe add a few MRE’s. Viola!

  7. If you’re thinking about having a laptop for post-SHTF reference materials I see no reason to buy anything “ruggedized” unless your pockets are very deep. I found a Lenovo at Walmart last year for $69 that has all the storage of my heavy, widescreen HP that cost $300. Think minimal, not nice-to-have extra features because you’re probably not going to be using that computer for serious gaming or video editing, right? I also have a cheap Kindle that I use to store downloaded reference books on, again, nothing fancy. I would recommend a Faraday cage, and also EMP-resistant bags for these items within the cage because the money you save on the initial purchases will allow money for protecting them. I second the recommendation for redundancies in the area of flash drive record-keeping, and even power supply cords. I think of it like this: If the worst possible thing for electronics happens, will it matter whether I spent $2500 on a laptop instead of something much cheaper? No. I’m never going to be taking a laptop out on patrol and engaging bad guys while also listening to my playlist on Pandora and posting selfies on facebook. Just my.02.

  8. Just heard, yesterday on Fox Business, that the Intel processors made since 2013 have a serious security flaw. The flaw makes the laptop vulnerable to hacking regardless of the security protocols you already have in place. Time to avoid Intel, at least for awhile. It seems Dell and Lenovo have come up with a temporary software fix. Hurrah for my AMD.

  9. Ditto on the SSDD drives. No moving parts so they last. Also, look at the video from Solark where they test devices in the chamber. It is the power cords with the transformers that is the problem.

  10. Have watched videos on building pc’s cheaply,this may be the way to get what you want,on a budget,that you can repair with on hand parts(buy enough for 2-3). Stay away from Windows use open source software(how did Gates get rich with that junk?)

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