I am moving overseas and I would like to put clothes in my PC to help the parts not move and be safe. I am worried about static electricity. I was wondering if anti-static bags will help and you said no static will be in there. With the anti-static bags help reduce static in the computer while flying? I don't want to use foam because if I use clothes, I won't have to pay for a 4th suitcase.
A never failing recipe:
- Backup your data to an online storage, maybe more than one, and/or on an SD card. Recent SD cards have an impressive capacity.
- Check that you can retrieve your data and that the backup contains whatever you care for!!!
- Sell or give away the PC.
- Travel normally
- Buy whatever you need at the destination.
- get only the expensive(e.g. video card) or valuable (e.g. the hard disk) parts with you. Antistatic bag and bubble wrap advisable, but in most cases not really needed. I do carry hard disks in my laptop bag almost daily.
- get a laptop before you leave, transfer the important data, dispose off the PC.
Moving an expensive and fragile item overseas CAN be done, but the risk of something getting stolen, broken or lost are usually high enough to think about the alternatives.
The static electricity is not even in the top 10 risks for an assembled PC shipped overseas.
p.s. if you really get to ship or check in your computer for an overseas travel, do not put inside anything that does not belong inside.
It will look too much like a smuggling attempt.
The x-ray machine operator will hate you when unable to understand what's inside. The border/customs agent will hate you when told to inspect the box. The bomb squad will hate you even more. The airline will hate you for engaging everyone of the above. Other passengers will hate you for the delayed flight. etc, etc...
Having moved my computer by plane, train, and automobile, I would highly recommend removing the GPU and the heat sink over your CPU. These are really the only pieces heavy and loosely attached enough that I would worry about breakage if you're bringing the whole thing intact. Also remove your PSU if its in the main cavity of your case and not sequestered in a separate area in the bottom (as most cases seem to do now). Your motherboard is bolted down, and your RAM and hard drive(s) shouldn't go anywhere no matter how hard everythings thrown around. The CPU (after heatsink removed) and RAM are easy to take out though, so could afford you some peace of mind to remove them and take with your carryon.
Pack tightly around the case and check the bag as fragile. Double-check all your connections when reassembling
As someone who recently shipped a desktop PC internationally, I would suggest getting proper packing material for the desktop. Mine did not have proper packaging and just used various fabric items (cushions, pillows etc) to wedge the case in the box. The parts inside the case survived fine (fans, hard drives, graphics card etc).
The case itself however took a beating. The see-through plastic side panel was smashed dumping little bits of plastic everywhere, corners and other edges of the case also took alot of damage. Even the box (which was the original box for the case, I just didn't have the packing material) took a lot of beatings and was only just holding together when it arrived.
Speaking from actual experience dealing with this type of thing, unless things are actually loose inside the case, the internal components are unlikely to be significantly affected, provided that the case itself is properly protected.
The general approach I would recommend is:
- Back up everything.
- Shut down the system, then give it a few hours powered off but plugged in, followed by a few hours powered off but unplugged. This will help ensure any residual charge dissipates safely.
- Open it up and thoroughly inspect the internal components. You’re looking for anything that is loose, wobbles around, etc. Tighten any relevant screws (‘hand tight’ is fine, you don’t need to make them so tight you can’t undo them later). If you are getting shipping insurance, make sure to take lots of pictures while doing this.
- Place a few dozen grams worth of dry desiccant packets inside, ideally wedged in spots they will not rattle around. I typically use a 50 gram packet of food-grade silica gel for this, which you could get half a dozen of for about USD 12 on Amazon right now (these are actually useful in general for shipping electronics, so getting extras is not a bad idea).
- Put nothing else in the case before closing it up. If you have a heavy, high-end GPU and the case does not provide support other than at the bracket on the back panel, you might consider getting a few blocks of high-density anti-static foam to brace it, but this will probably be unnecessary. Other than that though, you should not place anything else inside the case.
- Get the required packing materials:
- If you have the original packaging for the system, or the original packaging for the case if it’s a DIY build, and it’s in good condition then that is generally what you should use (it was designed to ship this particular system/case, so it will generally do perfectly fine).
- If you do not have the original packaging, you instead will need a heavy box (at least corrugated, ideally double-corrugated) large enough to hold the case with approximately 2cm (much less won’t allow for enough cushioning, much more will make it expensive to get proper cushioning) of clearance on all sides, plus packing foam. DO NOT use packing peanuts, sawdust, or dried wood pulp for this (not only will they shift unpredictably while in transit, they will get inside the computer and make a mess). DO NOT use bags of air, bubblewrap, or cardboard/paper filling for this (they will generally not reliably cushion something this heavy). You want dense enough layering here that the case cannot move inside the box at all, and it needs to not shift or loosen up from the box being handled roughly.
- Thoroughly cover all seams on the box with packing tape. DO NOT wrap the whole box. In the hopefully unlikely event that the box gets wet, the wrapping will almost never be perfectly water-tight (and even if it is, it will fail at some point during shipping), and it will tend to trap moisture inside.
- If you are getting shipping insurance for this, make sure to take pictures as you are packing it, as well as a picture of it once it’s all packed.
- Have the packaged system shipped through a real shipping company, not as checked baggage through whatever airline you’re traveling with. This will generally be a bit more expensive, but will in most cases drastically reduce the risk of it being damaged in transit, and will also make it easier to get it insured if you choose to do so.
I'm an experienced (and old :-)) professional electrical engineer.
Removing plug in cards would be a wise precaution, but unlikely to be essential.
I would expect that the PC would PROBABLY be OK with clothes being packed in with no special attention to protection. However, the method below should be fuilly safe.
I would expect that if all clothes were packed in electrically "somewhat conductive" outer layer or bag (or bags) that there would be no problems.
If the PC is OFF and all power well dissipated (say allow some hours) then wrapping clothes in aluminum cooking foil or bags would meet this need.
When placing items in the PC,
Hold the conductive bag and then
Touch any bare case metal first. Then
Insert bag into PC so it touches case metal at some point and then
You can stop touching the case yourself.
This sequence first places you and bag at the same electrical potential, then connects you to the bare PC case metal, then introduces now safe bag into PC.
Ben mentions baggage being thrown around.
The risk of this can be reduced by declaring the items as fragile. They are then handles separately - this does ot guarantee that baggage handlers do not 'misbehave' - but probably reduces the chances. I believe that fragile iems are usually NOT covered by airline damage claims - but should be covered by your travel insurance.
Antistatic bags are essentially faraday cages. That means the electric field inside the bag will be zero, as its covered by a conductive film. In order to make it work, you have to cover each component like motherboard, graphics card and all with an antistatic bag.
My advice is to disassemble the PC, take out the motherboard, CPU, SSD hard disk, graphics card and pack in the original packaging of those with antistatic bags. Then fill the cabinet with clothes and other things you want. Note that SMPS can stay, as its generally well shielded by itself because of metal casing and it itself is a faraday cage.
Finally, the motherboard and all can be packed among clothes, provided its well protected by original packaging and antistatic bags.
I think that I would back up the hard drive to an external drive, and pack those and any expensive parts such as a high-end GPU into a suitcase well-padded with clothes. The motherboard is up to you. Then I'd recycle the bare bones of the computer, maybe getting some money for it. When I arrived at my destination, I'd order a new case to be shipped to me there.
As others hint, taking the whole thing with you intact is probably a Bad Idea. As an alternative, consider shipping the case separately with insurance.
The vast majority of travel I've done in the last 15 years has involved transporting audio visual equipment, including standard computers, laptops and desktops. We never did anything except slide the computers into their foam-lined specialty slots in hard cases. The computer always survived, from everything I can remember. Since I assume you don't have a hard case nor the time and money to spend on specialty foam, here's a few points to imitate that security while you travel with your desktop:
Make sure internal parts are securely screwed down. I know in my own personal desktops I have in the past left cards and hard drives partially screwed down because I'm always opening them anyway. When fully screwed down, cards, hard drives, and other parts do not wiggle relative to the other parts, and so are fully secured.
We've never had any issue with static. If you are concerned about it, when you get to your destination plug the desktop in but do not turn it on, and leave it for an hour. That should discharge all of the ambient current from the parts.
Pack the computer in a case that provides at least 3" for padding all the way around. Stuff your clothes there. One good hit to the side of a soft case could easily crack your mobo. If you don't have a hard case, consider putting a quarter inch plywood over the motherboard side of the desktop, then pack 3 inches of padding/clothes between them. It can't hurt if you feel better packing some clothes in the desktop. Also, you might need to, so you can take all your clothes with you.
Plan for the worst. Back up data, pay for insurance if you don't want to pay for replacement, and expect that those gorillas in men suits will mistreat your baggage. The components will likely survive, but there will likely be damage to the case, like scratches and even cracks. A hard case prevents this.
Good luck, and enjoy your trip.