How can I move my desktop computer across the Atlantic?
August 25, 2007 2:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I move my desktop computer across the Atlantic?

I'm about to purchase a new computer. I need something with quite a bit of raw power for both 3d modeling and gaming. Being able to upgrade it down the line would also be a great benefit, that's why I'm logically leaning towards a desktop computer.

The main problem, however, is that about a year from now I'll be going back to grad school in the US. Since I live in France and want to be able to transfer my computer across the Atlantic on the cheap I can only come up with two solutions:

1. Get a laptop instead.

2. Dismantle the computer in a year, pack everything but the case and power supply in my suitcase and replace those items in the US.

I really don't want or need a laptop, its only utility being in my periodic travel. On the other hand I'm afraid the trip might be rough on bare computer parts (though I am an expert packer), not to mention the amount of space it would take.

Is this a solution? Do you have a better idea?
posted by kepano to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In a word, don't.

Buy the desktop. Before you leave, swap out the hard drive. Travel with the hard drive. Use the money you get from selling the desktop to buy the latest and greatest box in the US. Plug in the hard drive, do any necessary activation and driver installation, and voilà.

Rationale: computer kit is cheaper in the US. Prices drop quickly. The dollar-euro rate works in your favour. Even if you sell your desktop for half of what you paid for it, you're likely to be able to build to the same specifications when you get over.
posted by holgate at 2:26 PM on August 25, 2007

You can ship the box entire - there will be a switch on the back of the power supply for 120v/240v operation (I've never done this, so pinch of salt, etc.)

I would suggest you have three options:

Buy a laptop, carry as hand luggage.
Buy a desktop, ship.
Buy a desktop now, buy a laptop in the US in a year.

I'd go with (3) because hardware's cheaper there, but I think (1) will work out cheapest. I think that, once you have a laptop, you'll start finding uses for it.
posted by Leon at 2:31 PM on August 25, 2007

My experience of transatlantic travelling is as follows:
Stuff in the US is cheap. At the moment, it's basically half price. If you figure on it staying this way, you may as well just ditch your old rig when you move and start afresh here. I think you'll also find that stores here tend to have more parts selection, and if not you can get it online cheap.

If you travel with a desktop, no matter how well you pack it, it's likely to get a bit bashed about. Add to that the increased likelihood of the TSA opening your case to see what all the electronics are, and you may find that nice piece of kit is significantly less nice upon arrival. Your problem is exacerbated by the fact that to pack a desktop, you'd probably want to put it in a hard case, and unless your case has TSA-approved locks (i.e. they have a master key), they'll just crowbar it open and duct-tape it back together. Plus, the excess weight on the flight will cost you (and the major airlines are starting to decrease luggage allowances - transatlantic is fine at the moment, but what with the whole environment push various govts. seem to be on at the moment, I can see that changing), and will also take up valuable space in which you might want things like clothes.

Don't even speak to me about shipping. By air will cost you a ton, by sea will take months to get there.

If you need raw power, I'd go against a laptop. Your know what your needs are, and any laptop you get will be more expensive than a desktop (possibly by a long way), and more likely to become obsolete with less opportunity to upgrade various bits and pieces as time goes on.

My advice? Buy a desktop that will do what you want for a year, and one year only, as cheap as possible. Before you leave, take out the hard drive, sell on the rest on eBay or whatever, use the cash to help buy a new setup in the states. Odds are, you can buy better for cheaper when you arrive due to both the falling price of technology, the advances in technology, and the exchange rate, which I don't see swinging around to put you at a disadvantage any time soon (disclaimer: IANA financial analyst).
posted by djgh at 3:21 PM on August 25, 2007

I moved my computer from the US to the UK. I took just the tower in my checked luggage, switched the power supply from 120 to 240v, and got a new power cable and a second hand monitor. I didn't have any problems with that.
posted by happyturtle at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2007

I agree with holgate. Buy brand-name everything. In a year, sell it all on ebay.
posted by IvyMike at 3:58 PM on August 25, 2007

Why not build a Shuttle based PC? That way you'd get a reasonably tiny case that's easy to transport (I think there are Shuttles you could even get in a backpack that would take reasonably beefy graphics cards). But as others say, in a year you might want something new anyway.
posted by wackybrit at 4:06 PM on August 25, 2007

When I moved from the UK to the US, I boxed up my Mac G4(then a new, powerful desktop computer and still going strong!) in its original box and got my parents to send it to me. We used standard mail, as it seemed to be as cheap as anything else. I don't recall the price, but it must have worked out much cheaper than selling it ang buying a new one. Maybe £50? I bought a new monitor, power cord etc after arriving here.

Of course, with recent trends in exchange rates, the dollar isn't worth shit so selling stuff on and buying new in the US may make more sense.
posted by nowonmai at 5:31 PM on August 25, 2007

When I moved from the US to Japan, I used a professional moving company. However, I was still scared about my PC so I did the following:

1) Backed up everything important on DVD (that could fit on DVD) and mailed it to my parents ahead of time.
2) Used Acronis to image my drive to an external which went in my backpack carry on.
posted by m3thod4 at 12:57 AM on August 27, 2007

Seconding Wackybrit. Get a small-form-factor PC and just throw it in your luggage.
posted by Myself at 1:38 AM on August 27, 2007

« Older Where to spend Rosh Hashanah in London?   |   Need to know what font to use. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.