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On an upcoming trip, I will be taking a desktop computer and monitor as checked luggage (on a United/Continental flight). What should I be aware of when doing this? What needs to be done to properly protect all the components? Are there any airline policies I should be aware of?

  • Buy a soft-shell suitcase and covered your PC with clothes is already ok. Same effect, lower cost, more remained weight(hard-shell suitcase are bulky) – Him Oct 4 '15 at 18:28
  • So at the end how was your experience i wanna travel with united and bring my desktop and monitor with me i think i will put the monitor on Checked baggage and bring the computer on a carry-on because it's an small one or maybe i disarm it if cant fit on the carry-on and still bring it on carry-on disarm – ian ARF Mar 4 at 10:48
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A friend recently did this, flying from LON (London) to SYD (Sydney).

I went shopping with him and found a hard-shell suitcase. They're surprisingly light, and Samsonite has claimed theirs is "strong enough to stand on".

enter image description here

We then removed his harddisk drive. This is the most valuable and most fragile part of the computer. It's also feasible to do the same with the sticks of RAM and other parts, but the harddrive is the critical bit.

This was packed in an anti-static bag, and bubble wrapped, and I believe he actually took it on his carry-on to make sure he had it safe at all times.

Aside from that, you check the suitcase in just as per normal. I'd perhaps put some jerseys or other clothes in the suitcase with the computer to try and give it just that extra bit of protection, and to prevent it from sliding around too much if it's not an exact fit.

  • I've done almost exactly what Mark Mayo has posted here. I didn't even use a hard-case suitcase and I simply packed clothes around the whole desktop and monitor. Customs may ask to inspect your hardware in your carry-on but that's the only issue I had. – justinl Dec 6 '11 at 7:27
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    I read the part that says "put some jerseys or other clothes in the case" and nearly died... Then realized you meant suitcase! Oops lol – tycrek Jan 22 '17 at 23:41
  • I would suggest removing the CPU cooler if it is a large model. These can put quite a large torque/cantilever on the motherboard even when sitting still, so can do some damaged if bumped etc. – RoG Jun 4 '17 at 0:11
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I personally would take some precautions. First of all, make a backup of your data. Leave on in your home and take another one with you so that you can use it in your destination place. Then when transporting a desktop computer, the most fragile part is almost always the hard disk drive. So I would dismount it if possible and take it into your cabin luggage. You could also do this for other sensible parts like for example other drives, the processor, or the RAM bars. This I would pack into anti-static bags and take it into the cabin.

The tower itself you can put into protected pc transporting bags like this one. This bag will be checked so that you can't smuggle and weapons or drugs. But you shouldn't normally fear that this will damage your computer.

And last but not least, you could also think about sending your computer with a carrier. I quote this from a message board:

Send it via a Secured Carrier, RPS(Royal Packaging Service), Which Delivers Things in the most pristine state Possible. Door to door Service, White glove care. But i warn you, Its pricey. 15lb = $200/USD.

5

I must take George's comment to an answer because it's too important: depending on the kind, the heatsink may need to be removed. Apply common sense / guess the centre of gravity. If it looks like this:

enter image description here

it very likely will cause no problems. If it looks like this:

enter image description here

you definitely do not want that bumping around.

  • Before removing a heat sink, remember that you'll need to reapply the thermal paste. Unless you know exactly how to do that, keep the heat sink in place. – ugoren Feb 3 '17 at 19:56
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    Most of the time only enthusiasts who assemble computers themselves will have large tower coolers. – chx Feb 3 '17 at 20:29
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I've shipped the kid's gaming computer twice on an airline. Both times it was partially disassembled on arrival. With a huge heatsink for the chip, it must look suspicious to the uninformed at TSA. Had to rebuild it both times. Third time, FedEX - same thing.

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    For the future it would be worth looking at the recommendations for the 'huge heatsink' - there's often a warning that they should be removed before shipping due to the stresses that they can put on the motherboard. – George Aug 2 '14 at 21:24
  • I carefully padded and packed a laptop into the center (clothes on all sides) of a checked bag. At the other end, all the wrappings had been removed, and nothing was between the laptop and corner of the bag. Due to this and other things I've witnessed, my laptop is now ALWAYS carried on. – WGroleau Oct 4 '15 at 7:58
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Depending on the size of the case and your level of pain tolerance, it may also be possible to take it as carry-on luggage.

I've done that twice now, although with a small flat desktop PC (that is within hand luggage size regulations), and aside from being taken aside at security for explosives screening (which involved me opening the case) and actually carrying the thing around, it was easy enough.

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I think I would fill it with packing peanuts and then wrap it in fleece filts, then of course take out the hard drive. I would then pack it into a hard bag and I'll make sure that the desktop has no space to slide around.

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Obviously the safest solution is to not check it -- instead bring it as a carry-on. I've done this. If the computer is within the weight and dimension limits of your carrier for carryon luggage, then there is apparently no reason why you can't bring it with you onboard.

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    This adds nothing that was not in the answers previously. – chx Jan 23 '17 at 0:20
  • Seems unlikely that a desktop and monitor would both fit in one person's carry-on. – David Richerby Jan 23 '17 at 8:26
  • @DavidRicherby starting with this forum post in 2011 I spent quite a bit of money, time and effort in figuring that exact question out, testing about half a dozen few monitors and about that many backpacks. I now have a backpack that easily takes a small computer and this monitor. So: unlikely yes, impossible, not all. (Hopefully this fall Lenovo releases a GTX 1050 containing small TB3 dock, completely deprecating my desktop.) – chx Sep 26 '17 at 12:56

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