This is one time when the hoarders might have the right idea. With Hurricane Florence drawing close, I'm reminded of one of my own experiences, when Superstorm Sandy hit New York in 2012.
Back then, out of an abundance of caution, I pulled a big, bulky, otherwise useless laptop out of a closet and plugged it in to fully charge it. When the power went out across all of downtown Manhattan, the big battery in the old laptop kept my phone charged up for at least an extra couple of days.
The same advice holds true today, and I do the same thing every time there's a potential for a power outage. If you have any old laptops that still hold a charge in their batteries, even if the screens, touchpads, or wi-fi antennas don't work, there's a very good chance the USB ports will still charge your phone or other small devices. Many laptops will even charge USB-connected devices while in sleep mode, preserving even more power for later.
Since I wrote that original story six years ago, a few things have changed that are important to keep in mind. Now, finding a traditional USB port (called USB-A) on a laptop is no longer a given. Many newer laptops, including almost all MacBooks, have only USB-C ports. These ports are smaller and more flexible, but require a different type of cable. Make sure you have the correct charging cable or adapter (for example, a Lightning-to-USB-C cable) to get a phone connected to the laptop.
All this advice goes for your everyday laptop as well, which should be kept charged up as a precaution. And ff you're planning on pulling a Marie Kondō and recycling old electronics, hold on to those outdated laptops until after the storm passes and you might make one part of living through a blackout a little easier.
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