Imagine you’re headed out of town for a weekend getaway. Maybe you’re going to a friend’s destination wedding or a family trip to the beach, or perhaps it’s camping with your friends. You decide to bring your laptop with you because it’ll be nice to stream movies, get some work done, or play a PC game in your downtime. A laptop can help you feel at home when you’re away from home.
Oops! When you’re unpacking in your hotel room, you realize that you’ve forgotten to pack your laptop charger (or worse yet, you accidentally leave it in the airport power outlet). Your laptop only has a 10% charge left, so it looks like you’re going to have to do without it on this trip. That essential email to the boss will have to wait.
But wait! It doesn’t have to be that way. Believe it or not, you can actually charge your laptop without a standard laptop charger. It’s really quite easy to do, and you should learn how to do it if you’re a fellow 21st-century dweller who feels compelled to take your laptop with you anytime you hit the road.
Here are not 1, not 2, but 3 different ways to charge your laptop when your laptop charger is MIA.
How to charge a laptop without a charger
Every laptop is built with an internal battery. To get the battery charged, you’ve just got to supply it with some electricity. Most of the time, we plug our laptop into a power outlet in our home, and the electricity travels through the cable and into the battery.
A laptop charger is arguably the most effective way to transfer power to your laptop battery, but there are other ways to do it, too. All you need is:
- A power source
- A way to transfer the power to the battery
Let’s get into it.
Can you charge a laptop with USB?
One of the most common questions I get is “can I charge my laptop with a USB connector?” This actually depends on the type of USB port you have on your laptop.
USB Type A is a non-starter
If you are you currently using a wired mouse or wired keyboard and you unplug one of them from you’ll see that there’s a rectangular connector at the end of the cord; the metal piece that you insert into the computer. This is called a Type A connector.
It’s the most common USB connector, and whenever someone says “USB” you can reasonably assume they’re referring to USB Type A. Most likely, your cell phone charger has a USB Type A connection, too. Unfortunately, while you can use Type A to power smart devices, you can’t use it to power your laptop.
Type A can exchange a sizeable amount of data, but it’s not capable of transferring the huge amount of power that’s needed to replenish your laptop battery. Type A just can’t deliver enough wattage.
USB Type C is a power-full ally
However, USB 3.1 introduced a new kind of connector called USB Type C, or “USB-C.” Unlike Type A, USB-C has more of an oval shape. It’s designed for high-wattage connectivity, which means it can transfer far more power than Type A can, and at faster speeds. Much faster:
- Type A (USB 3.1): Speeds up to 10 Gbit/s
- USB-C (USB 3.2): Speeds up to 20 Gbit/s
It’s about to get even better
USB4 will be released in 2019, and the accompanying USB-C connector can transfer data at speeds up to 40 Gbit/s.
Long story short, you can’t charge your laptop with USB Type A, but you can charge your laptop with USB-C.
1. How to charge a laptop with USB-C
If your laptop has a built-in USB-C port, then you’ll be able to charge your laptop via a USB-C cable - you just have to make sure the cable has a plug adapter (the box-shaped plug at the end of your phone charger than can plug into an outlet). Some laptops, in fact, use a USB-C cable as the primary charger.
To charge your laptop via USB-C:
- Plug one end of the USB-C cord into an outlet
- Plug the other end of the USB-C cord into your laptop
That’s it! Easy as pie, so long as you have access to a USB-C cord. But that’s the glaring problem - what if you don’t have access to one? Unfortunately, ordering a USB-C cable wouldn’t be any easier than ordering a new laptop charger. And making a stop at a computer supply store may not be possible, especially if you are stuck on a Caribbean island for that destination wedding weekend.
Plan ahead for options
But if you’re in the market for a new laptop, you might seriously consider getting one that has at least one USB-C port. The USB-C connector is rapidly gaining popularity. It’s safe to assume that in the future, most laptops will come with USB-C ports, and we might even see the elimination of USB Type A altogether. The point is, more people in the future are likely to have USB-C cables, so there will be a better chance that someone can lend you one if you lose yours on a trip. Currently, you’d have to find someone who happens to have the exact same kind of laptop charger has you do, which may prove more difficult.
Nearly all of our popular HP laptop brands have at least one USB-C port:
- HP EliteBook
- HP ProBook
- HP Spectre
- HP ENVY 13
- HP ZBook
Note: Always check product specifications before you buy.
2. How to charge your laptop in a car
A car has electricity, right? And whether you are on a road trip in your own vehicle, or renting a car when your airplane lands, you can take advantage of the power it produces. It’s fairly straightforward to use it to charge your laptop. You’re going to need two things, though:
- AC Adapter (USB Type A connector on one end USB-C connector on the other end). This USB Type A to USB-C adapter is perfect for use in a vehicle
- USB car charger
It’s easy as one, two, three. To charge your laptop in a car:
- Turn on your engine
- Plug the car charger into your vehicle’s charging port (you might not even need a car charger since many newer vehicles have USB ports you can plug into)
- Plug the USB-C connector into your laptop
Note: Never leave your laptop unsupervised in a vehicle and in clear view. That could make it more vulnerable to theft or damage from overheating.
3. How to charge your laptop with a power bank
One of the easiest ways to charge your laptop is with a power bank. A power bank is basically a portable battery for your laptop. All you’ve got to do is connect the power bank to your laptop. The best thing about power banks is that they don’t need to be plugged into an outlet while they’re charging your laptop.
Power banks come in a variety of different models, and they’re not all built with the same charging capacities. You’ll be able to charge less-powerful laptops with a USB Type A power bank. If you want to charge a more powerful laptop, like a mobile workstation, then you’ll need to get a power bank that’s USB-C-based. USB-C power banks can also power other USB devices, like your smartphone or tablet.
Most likely, your power bank will have enough charge to replenish your laptop battery only one or two times, especially if you’re recharging a more high-powered laptop. It’s important to remember to plug it into an outlet and replenish its charge. When your power bank runs out of charge, you won’t be able to use it to recharge your laptop.
That’s why it’s best to reserve your power bank only for when you really need it - like when you accidentally lose your laptop charger. Always keep your power bank inside your laptop bag.
Get a laptop bag or case
Whenever you hit the road, whether you’re traveling long distance, backpacking through Europe, or just going on a weekend getaway, you should always bring a laptop bag or backpack. A laptop bag isn’t only for storing your laptop. You should also keep accessories in it that you can use to recharge your laptop in the event you lose your power cord. In fact, you should keep accessories that can recharge all of your electronic devices.
The first thing that a laptop bag will do is protect your laptop. Many HP laptop bags are built from weather-resistant fabric and zippers that can withstand rain or hail. The interior of the bags are usually padded with soft, shock-absorbing materials that will protect your laptop if you accidentally drop it, or if your road trip gets rough and your laptop bag starts bouncing around in the back seat.
Arguably the most rugged HP laptop bag is the HP Spectre 13.3 split leather sleeve, which is tough enough to go on an Indiana Jones-caliber adventure.
The best bags also have special protective features against RFID readers. If you carry credit or debit cards with you, know that there are devices that can scan your card information from a short distance. That’s right. A cyber thief with access to such a device could stand behind you in line at the coffee shop and scan your personal and financial information right off your card without you knowing.
They might not actually do it at a coffee shop, because that would be difficult to do without drawing attention to oneself. But it happens often on the street or on public transit. Many HP laptop bags have exterior zippered pockets that are resistant to RFID scanning, so whether you’re going across the world or across town you can safely store your credit and debit cards in the pouch without worry that you’re get hacked by a cyber thief.
It’s also not a bad idea to get a full-blown backpack for your laptop. A backpack is a bit more ergonomic than a laptop case, and it will enable you to squeeze a bunch more electronics devices inside.
What to pack in your laptop travel backpack
When you’re on-the-go, make a habit out of bringing a laptop backpack that has all the supplies you need for a successful tech-filled journey while you’re away from the home office. Here’s what you should put in it.
1. First and foremost, keep your laptop in there. If you want to be extra safe, put your laptop in a laptop sleeve first and then put the laptop case in the backpack. You never know when the road’s going to get rough, so you should take any measure you can to protect your laptop. Remember, you’ve probably got a lot of sensitive or valuable work information or personal information stored on your laptop, like work projects or family photographs. Don’t risk losing those.
2. Second, you should insert a fully charged power bank. Try not to use your power bank unless you really have to. It should be mostly for emergency use in case your laptop power cord is down for the count.
3. Third, bring a travel adapter. If you’re traveling internationally, you might wind up in a country that doesn’t have outlets that are compatible with your laptop. A travel adapter has interchangeable plugs that enable you to plug into a foreign outlet.
When you’re traveling abroad, having fully functional electronics may be key in keeping you safe and ensuring that you don’t miss any transportation arrangements. Be sure to pack one of these when you’re headed out of the country.
4. Lastly, pack a USB port hub. A USB port hub is an incredibly useful device to have when you’re traveling with your laptop. Its main function is to give your laptop a larger number of available USB ports. Typically, a USB hub comes with 4 to 7 additional USB ports so you’re able to easily connect all your USB devices when you’re removed from the organized workspace in your home office.
There are powered port hubs and unpowered port hubs. Powered port hubs are great because they supply power to your connected devices (so your devices don’t have to draw power from your laptop). If you only have a limited time to charge your USB devices, you could use a powered hub to charge all of them simultaneously, and you don’t even need an extraneous number of outlets. Some HP powered hubs come with SD card slots and USB-C ports. Learn more about USB port hubs here.
Remember, if you lose your laptop charger and you desperately need to get it powered back up, you can always:
- Charge your laptop via USB-C
- Use an adapter to charge your laptop in a vehicle
- Charge your laptop with a power bank
Any of these methods could save you from having to endure a laptop-less weekend when you travel.