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Of all the modes of transportation in the Harry Potter universe, Portkeys often seem to be the best option.

  • They're as fast as Apparition without the age restrictions or danger of splinching or missing the target area.
  • They seem to be even easier to use than floo powder - no misspoken destinations, accidental early exits, or ashes in the mouth.
  • There's no indication that their range is limited; it certainly seems to be longer than most wizards could or would Apparate.
  • They are quick and easy to set up (at least for Dumbledore, then again it is Dumbledore).
  • There is no chance of being seen by a Muggle en route, unlike brooms or the Weasleys' car.
  • They're secure, Dumbledore used one to send the Weasleys and Harry to the Order HQ when Arthur was attacked, and another to send Harry back to his office after the Ministry fiasco, and the Order used them to regroup after getting Harry in year 7.
  • Those also show Portkeys can be used in areas to and from which one can't Apparate.
  • They have to be set up for a certain time (except the Triwizard cup), but that can be a few seconds into the future like Dumbledore did.

So, are there any disadvantages that prevent more widespread use of Portkeys? Any answers that include Ministry regulation should include why such use is regulated.

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    @b_jonas "He walked away from the pool to the place where the golden wizard's head lay on the floor. He pointed his wand at it and muttered, 'Portus.' The head glowed blue and trembled noisily against the wooden floor for a few seconds, then became still once more." - That is Dumbledore turning the head into a portkey, he didn't just happen upon one of the Ministry's. A stock of them wouldn't be very useful anyway, they are timed, after all. – Kevin Apr 30 '12 at 22:26
  • Well obviously, if it weren't for legal issues, they would be used a lot more. – Gabe Willard Apr 30 '12 at 22:42
20

‘Level Six, Department of Magical Transportation, incorporating the Floo Network Authority, Broom Regulatory Control, Portkey Office and Apparation Test Centre.’ (OotP)

Well, Porkeys are indeed regulated by the Ministry, as shown above and in the following excerpts. It seems that all magical transportation means are part of a cluster of regulatory offices in the Ministry. Canon doesn't specify why Portkeys are so highly regulated, but it's apparently a major infraction to create one without authorization.

‘How’re we getting – wherever we’re going?’ Harry asked.

‘Brooms,’ said Lupin. ‘Only way. You’re too young to Apparate, they’ll be watching the Floo Network and it’s more than our life’s worth to set up an unauthorised Portkey.’

Order of the Phoenix - pages 50-51 - UK - chapter 3, The Advance Guard

and

He walked away from the pool to the place where the golden wizard’s head lay on the floor. He pointed his wand at it and muttered, ‘Portus.’ The head glowed blue and trembled noisily against the wooden floor for a few seconds, then became still once more.

‘Now see here, Dumbledore!’ said Fudge, as Dumbledore picked up the head and walked back to Harry carrying it. ‘You haven’t got authorisation for that Portkey! You can’t do things like that right in front of the Minister for Magic, you – you –’

Order of the Phoenix - page 722 - UK - chapter 36, The Only One He Ever Feared

Portkeys as mass transit would be a nightmare to coordinate and provide on a continuous basis:

‘So, been keeping busy, Barty?’ said Bagman breezily.

‘Fairly,’ said Mr Crouch drily. ‘Organising Portkeys across five continents is no mean feat, Ludo.’

Goblet of Fire - page 84 - UK - chapter 7, Bagman and Crouch

and

'The whole Ministry’s been working on it for months [...] There have been two hundred Portkeys placed at strategic points around Britain, and the nearest one to us is up the top of Stoatshead Hill, so that’s where we’re headed.’

Goblet of Fire - page 66 - UK - chapter 6, The Portkey

If it took the Ministry -- who is authorized to create and distribute Portkeys presumably -- months to prepare two hundred Portkeys, and we know from the Quidditch World Cup that there are at least 100,000 witches and wizards in the world, it appears Portkeys would be impractical when it comes to implementation.

It seems that Portkeys are typically one-way and not round trip; the exception to this would be the Triwizard Cup (which, when you think about it, doesn't make a ton of sense. Why would Barty crouch Jr provide Harry with even the remotest means of escaping Voldemort?)

‘Morning, Basil,’ said Mr Weasley, picking up the boot and handing it to the kilted wizard, who threw it into a large box of used Portkeys beside him; Harry could see an old newspaper, an empty drinks can and a punctured football.

Goblet of Fire - page 70 - UK - chapter 7, Bagman and Crouch

Portkeys as regular transportation, or mass transportation (since groups can use one Portkey), would increase the likelihood of Muggles accidentally picking up one and being transported. Technically, this would breach the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.

ETA: I have some more to add. Pottermore addresses the issue of why Portkeys aren't used as regular transportation. Logistical issues are addressed, as I mentioned above, but apparently a good amount of people are prone to "Porkey-sickness" which causes hysteria and nausea and, using Hogwarts as the example, had the hospital wing full to bursting with ill students during the first week of classes. If a fair number of people like that are prone to getting ill from using Portkeys, then they would be impractical for day-to-day use. [POTTERMORE - THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS]

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    I think if Voldemort had finished off Harry, he'd have liked to have gloated in Hogwarts, via the magic of portkeys... – AncientSwordRage Apr 29 '12 at 17:30
  • I see the problems with using them as ministry-provided mass transit, but I'm more looking for the reason they're not used more for private travel, like what Dumbledore and the Order did. Aside from the legal issue. – Kevin Apr 29 '12 at 18:05
  • Ah, well, your question merely said: are there any disadvantages that prevent more widespread use of portkeys? You might want to give it a quick edit to specify what kind of answer you're looking for. I think the legal aspect might need to be considered because otherwise wouldn't the question become "If portkeys were legal, why wouldn't wizards use them more frequently"? I think that starts to skirt subjective speculation or discussion. Anyhow, I'll see if I can make the answer better :) – Slytherincess Apr 29 '12 at 20:15
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    @NiceOrc I really think, Barty just added the portus to the graveyard. It is only said that he volunteered to place it in the maze, not that he made the entire portkey and it did not return him to the mazes center, but to the start of the maze - in other words, it was initially intended as a portkey from the maze center to the maze beginning in order to reveal the Tri-wizard victor quickly and easily. Crouch and Lord V did not account for its return potential - or at least, they weren't the ones who created the return potential. – balanced mama Dec 7 '13 at 1:09
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    When in doubt about why something at the MoM is highly regulated, just fall back on secrecy, as that is the biggest catalyst for all of their laws. If you could make a port key any time without regulation, what would stop an evil, or just a joking, wizard from turning muggle coins into keys and throwing them on the street just to have a muggle touch them and end up in a bear cage or on top of a building? – WizardKnight Feb 24 '16 at 14:26
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Portkeys can cause nausea.

The sensation of travelling by Portkey is universally agreed to be uncomfortable, if not downright unpleasant, and can lead to nausea, giddiness and worse. Healers recommend that the elderly, pregnant and infirm avoid using Portkeys. The suggestion of arranging Portkeys for the transportation of annoying relatives has saved many a wizarding family Christmas.
(Pottermore - Portkeys)


Why couldn't Newt have used a portkey? It can't have been difficult for him to register one since he works at the Ministry.

J.K. Rowling: Consider the effect on the contents of his case...

(Twitter)

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