How to keep computers safe on the road?
September 12, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

We move in just a couple weeks. We're stuffing all our belongings that will fit into the car and shoving of. Among these belongings will be two desktop computers. What is the safest way to transport these?

Everything else we're moving are household items who's greatest value is sentimental. But our computers are our babies, and neither of us has the funds for any repair or replacement once we get where we're going.

Our route is long, and occasionally mountainous. We're concerned about jolts and vibrations and hard turns knocking stuff loose inside our cases. My system is inside one of these, if that matters. My sweetheart rocks one of these.

Assuming that taking out all the components and packing them individually isn't an option, as we lack the know how to reassemble them when we arrive, how should we pack our cases? I've still got much of the original packing materials my machine arrived in, but we'll have to find boxes for my girlfriend's.

We'd considered packing the cases with some of our clothing, for additional padding. I'd also figured on strapping them in for the trip. But what am I forgetting? Does anyone have any experience with driving a desktop computer halfway across the country intact? And if so, would you please share your findings?

Thank you very much for your time.
posted by EatTheWeak to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
One of my computers is hand-assembled. I kept the packing materials for the case part and used that to pack the computer when moving. The computer weighs only a little more than the case alone, since the case included a heavy power supply. Therefore I felt confident that the packaging would hold (and it did, and I was fine). This had the same quantity and shape of foam packing that you'd find in a Dell, Apple, HP, etc. shipping box.

What UPS suggests for shipping electronic equipment (computers) is "double-boxing": box the computer with bubble wrap, place that box inside a larger box filled with packing peanuts. Materials can be obtained from an office supply store and cost about $20-40, depending on size. This could be done for your other computer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:44 AM on September 12, 2006

PCs are actually VERY hardy - I've moved with quite a few over rough roads with no problems. If you're really worried, take a big static resistant bag (the kind you pack cards in), stuff it with packing peanuts, and put it inside the computer where there's a lot of room for things to move around. Otherwise, everything inside is bolted down ANYWAY.

As for the outside, as long as you won't be dropping it, you shouldn't have any problems. The times I've had to do it I simply made sure that I had a fully loaded truck so that things wouldn't have room to jostle around.
posted by Sallysings at 9:46 AM on September 12, 2006

Assuming all the components inside the case are well-secured, I don't see a problem. I would personally take the hard drives out and pad them separately, since they're the only computer component that's particularly sensitive to shock, but padding the entire case is probably a viable alternative.
posted by neckro23 at 9:46 AM on September 12, 2006

It should be mentioned that we're also moving two video game systems (an xbox that we're afraid won't make the trip and a very sturdy and trusty gamecube). So any pointers in not killing an xbox would be appriciated.

Also: we are not intending to move monitors with all of this.
posted by nadawi at 9:47 AM on September 12, 2006

For past moves, I've padded my computers and electronics with pillows, blankets, towels, and soft clothing when I transport them in my car. Just make a "nest" of these items and place the computer in the center. Pack it tightly enough to provide adequate cushion from shocks and movement during turns, acceleration, and braking.

I've done this for a few moves (1000+ miles) and never had a problem.
posted by galimatias at 10:05 AM on September 12, 2006

Keep in mind when you buy a computer....they don't take out the hard drives, or pad it with pillows. They're computers, not eggs. Just don't drop it or leave it in a hot car for too long(though a computer won't hatch). As a way to utilize space...stick the game systems under the seats...or even the computer if it'll fit. The monitor, which you don't mention, are much more delicate than computers....put a pillow and pillow case over the top of it and lay it face down(this is what I do, I don't know if it's the safest way to do so)
posted by killyb at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2006

woops...silly opera and caching everything, forget the monitors comment
posted by killyb at 10:43 AM on September 12, 2006

When shipping, you need to worry about shocks during travel, shocks during loading/unloading (probably the biggest problem in general), and crushing or piercing.

For the actual journey in your car, you just need to isolate your computers from severe shocks, and make sure that your collection of antique harpoons don't wind up piercing the cases. If the boxes are securely in place, the computers can't jiggle inside the boxes, and you don't take any speed bumps at 30 mph, you're probably OK. As Sallysings says, computers are surprisingly hardy—I once sent a Mac as checked luggage in my backpack on an international flight, with nothing more than a layer of bubble wrap to protect it. Even the hard drive, as long as it's parked (which it should be if you shut down normally), is unlikely to be damaged.
posted by adamrice at 11:07 AM on September 12, 2006

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned this yet, but since you have a couple weeks before the big move, you should probably back up your hard drives. I would buy an external hard drive and back up to that, then make sure that it's packed super-carefully and hand-loaded. External drives are relatively cheap, and if you can't afford a big one, get a smaller one for the super-important stuff (resumes, homework, photos, etc). If you really can't afford it, sign up for a couple Gmail accounts and email the most precious stuff to them as attachments.
posted by MrZero at 11:23 AM on September 12, 2006

I would only worry about the interior if you have a big, heavy video card inside. It might be wise to brace it, or remove it and pack seperately.
posted by utsutsu at 12:33 PM on September 12, 2006

I've transported a monstrosity of a CRT monitor and a Dell tower for 4 years with the following method: One layer of bubble wrap put over the screen/face of the monitor, duct taped cord to base so it doesn't swing around, strap into backseat of car. Make sure to use the shoulder harness as well as the lap belt. Then, put the tower into the other seat in the back, no padding, no cushioning, just strap it in also using the shoulder harness and lap belt. Shouldn't move too much.

YMMV, of course. The worst thing that ever happened doing this was a scratch under a window when I was propping up the tower between my hip and the side of the car while attempting to unlock the passenger side door (98 2-door Civic) in 6" of snow while wearing flipflops.

Good luck.
posted by sperose at 1:26 PM on September 12, 2006

I drove to and from college every year, and most winter breaks, with my 19" Dell CRT and a homebuilt tower PC wedged in the passenger seat of my car. No packing material, monitor packed with the base sitting in the seat, display against the backrest, seatbelt around it to make me feel all warm and fuzzy. The tower, I wedged between the monitor and the dash, bottom sitting where one's feet would typically go. I packed my keyboard, mouse, power strips, printer, scanner, graphics tablet, joystick, and kitchen sink in a couple of big Tupperware tubs, which went in the trunk or the back seat, depending on what else I was carrying.

While I'm sure this would've been BAD in any sort of front/side impact situation, my system did survive a 180 degree spin into a ditch from ~25 mph on icy roads two christmasses ago. No damage to the car, no damage to the PC. I realize I was insanely lucky.

Of course, YMMV. Also, I have no airbags.
posted by Alterscape at 3:26 PM on September 12, 2006

I just wedged my tower behind a seat, on the floor in the back. No problems. Last time I moved, my tower was air-freighted (corporate move) from London to South Africa. No problem there, either (they did pack it in a wooden box). When I moved from the States to Germany, my computer was fine, but the disk was gone, for no apparent reason. That was several moves ago (and 2 computers ago).
posted by Goofyy at 8:28 AM on September 14, 2006

« Older Restoring Windows 2000 snapshot   |   hit me with your best digital shot Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.