Moving a computer or preparing it for shipping may make you a little nervous. Whether it’s a laptop, desktop or tablet, you paid a lot for it and you want to take every precaution possible to keep it from being damaged in transit. Also, there may be irreplaceable photos, work documents, or other information on your computer that you absolutely need. For many, their computer feels more like their life than any other object they own. This guide will help you keep your valuable technology safe through your move or make it safe to ship through the mail or with a courier service.
What You Need
In order to safely pack your computer, you will need the following supplies:
- Original boxes or two boxes that are slightly larger than the tower and monitor
- Zip-loc bags or a third box for accessories
- Loose paper (like newspaper) or packing peanuts
- Bubble wrap
- Packing tape
- Silica gel packets (optional)
- Zip ties or electrical tape
- Permanent marker
If you are in need of packing supplies UNITS Moving and Portable Storage offers packing supplies.
How to Pack a Computer Tower
You should pack your computer tower first before you pack the monitor. Here are the steps you should follow:
- Make a Back-Up
If your computer is storing some information or photos that you can’t lose, you should back it up to an external hard drive or a cloud service. No matter how safely you pack there is always the chance that something goes wrong and breaks the tower. If you choose to use an external hard drive be sure to store it separately from the tower, or it could be affected by the same accident, and then it’s not much of a back-up.
- Turn It Off and Clean it
Turn off the computer before you start packing, of course. Now is also a good time to dust and remove any dirt from the outside of the tower. Start by spraying the outside of the tower with an air canister specifically designed for this purpose. Don’t spray the internal parts yet—we’ll get to that later. Instead, you should wipe down the outside of the tower with a clean, barely damp cloth.
- Take a Picture
If you are comfortable with computers and understand all of the things you’ve plugged into your tower over the years, go ahead and skip this step. If you’re not sure of everything, it’s wise to take a picture of the back of your tower as well as your monitor so that you can more easily put it back together after you move.
Depending on what you have attached to your tower you may find the following cords and USB drives:
- Power supply cord
- Ethernet cord
- Audio cord
- USB connection for a wireless keyboard, mouse, etc.
You may want to look at their shape as you pull them out. The end of each cord should match the shape of the spot it is plugged into.
- Detach Cords
It’s time to start pulling out the cords. As you do, roll the cords up as you might roll up a garden hose, so they are more manageable and so that they won’t get tangled together during the move. Use either the zip-ties or the electrical tape to secure the cords. Don’t make either option too tight, and you need to be able to get one end of the scissors between the cord and the ties when you unpack the computer. The last thing you want to do is cut the cords when you’re trying to release them from the ties.
Place the cords in Ziploc bags to prevent water damage and then put them all in a small dedicated box for computer accessories.
- Detach Wireless Accessories
Next, you should deal with any wireless items you have. Your mouse, keyboard, headphones, and other accessories may be wireless. If so, they will have a USB key in the tower. If you’re using the original box for the tower you may have to take these keys out, or the tower won’t fit in the box. If you’re using a bigger box, then you can leave the keys in.
Most wireless accessories made over the last few years have a spot where you can plug the USB key into the accessory itself. On a keyboard or mouse, this spot is normally near the battery. Attaching the keys will help prevent losing them.
Now, wrap the accessories in loose paper or bubble wrap (depending on how breakable they are) and place them in a Ziploc bag. Then place the bags into that same small box dedicated to computer cords and accessories. Some people have enough room to place this in the same box they put the tower. If you don’t, then be sure to label it.
- Wrap the Tower and Place in Box
The tower itself also has to be protected from impact. But, before you pack it away, you may want to open the side panel and clean out the dust from the tower. To do so, screw open the panel and use your air canister for dust removal on each part. Never put any cloth or anything damp inside of a computer tower. Air canisters are the only safe way to remove dust.
Once that is done, secure the panel back on. Now you can place the tower back in its original packaging. If you have the box and Styrofoam, simply package it up. If you only have the original box, you need to wrap the tower in bubble wrap and then place it in the box with packing peanuts to help cushion it. If you intend to keep the computer in storage for more than a few hours, then it’s wise to throw in a few silica gel packets to absorb moisture.
How to Pack Computer Without the Original Box
If you don’t have the original box for your computer tower, you need to choose a new one carefully. Ideally, it will only be three or so inches bigger than the tower on all sides. If it’s too big, you’ll need more packing peanuts or bubble wrap to secure it. If the box is too small, the tower won’t have enough cushion to protect it from any impact it may encounter during transit.
When you’ve selected your box, wrap the tower in bubble wrap, then place it in the box with a layer of packing peanuts on the bottom and every side. Stuff the peanuts so they will offer better support.
Label the box as you see fit, with a marker. It can be wise to write both the contents of the box and the room you want the box to end up in. That way, anyone helping you will know exactly where to put the box.
- Place in Moving Truck or Portable Storage Unit
Placing the computer tower in the box is one of the most important steps of packing it. No matter how cushioned the tower is in the box, it can still be damaged if it is allowed to move freely in the moving truck. If you are using a portable storage container for your move, UNITS excels at keeping your items secure. Use the E-track strapping system in every one of our portable storage containers to secure the box, and to keep larger items from crushing it. Ideally, the box will be tightly placed between other boxes of a similar size.
How to Pack a Computer Monitor
After the tower is taken care of, it’s time to pack up the monitor. Here are the steps you need to pack up your monitor with or without the original box.
- Turn Off and Clean
Turn the monitor off and take the opportunity to use some glass cleaner and wipe off the dust.
- Take a Picture
Hopefully, you took a picture of the monitor’s wiring before you packed up the computer tower. At this point, probably the only cord left in is the power supply and maybe some cords to connect your gaming system.
- Detach Cords
Remove the power supply cord and any other cords. Wrap them up neatly and secure them with tape or zip ties. Just like before, don’t make it too tight. Throw the cords in a Ziploc bag and label them. If your monitor came with a remote, include it with the cords for convenience.
- Disconnect, Wrap and Box
Some computer monitors are meant to be unscrewed from their supports during transport. Your monitor and support may have arrived disconnected in the box. If you can’t remember, check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if it mentions anything. If you no longer have the instruction manual you can search online for the monitor manufacturer and you should be able to find those details. If it doesn’t mention anything, don’t risk unscrewing the base—they may not be intended to detach.
Whether or not the screen and base and detached, both should be placed back into their original Styrofoam and box.
How to Pack a Computer Monitor Without Original Box
If you don’t have the original box for the computer monitor, you should find a box that is at least two inches bigger than the monitor on all sides. Wrap the screen, and it’s base thickly with bubble wrap. Place the monitor in the box along with some packing peanuts
- Label the Box
Unlike when packing the computer tower, it’s important when packing the computer monitor to label which direction is up. If someone lays the box on its side or top it could stress the monitor and cause damage. The worst possibility is that the screen breaks off from the support. But, with a label, everyone should know to keep it upright.
- Place in Moving Truck
As with the box for the computer tower, the computer monitor box should be placed in the moving truck or storage bin carefully. The box should be upright and unable to slide around. You can use UNITS’ E-track strapping system to keep the monitor box in place if you are using portable storage. In general, the strapping system reduces the chances that anything in the container shifts around, which keeps everything in better condition.
How to Pack a Desktop Computer for an Airplane
Desktops can typically be packed as checked baggage on an airplane. There is some risk of damage, so you should follow our packing steps above carefully. You should also be sure to check with the airport that using a cardboard box is allowed. If not, you may have to pack the desktop in its own fabric case or something made of hard plastic like a Pelican case. Additionally, as humidity conditions will change on a flight, you should include silica gel bags with the desktop to absorb moisture.
How to Pack a Laptop for Moving
You may have a bag for your laptop already. Not many are sturdy enough for a moving van. However, most people choose to transport their laptops with them in their car instead of in the moving truck itself. After all, it’s a small valuable item.
But, if the spot on your lap or your carry-on is taken by something else, you can pack up your laptop as you would pack up a computer tower. Use bubble wrap and packing peanuts, balls, or scrunched up newspaper to secure it inside a box.
How to Pack a Gaming PC for Moving
If you have a dedicated gaming PC, chances are you’ve spent a lot of time and money getting the exact gaming parts you need. You may want to go the extra mile to protect delicate parts like the graphics card.
To do so, follow the instructions we list above, with a few modifications. When you have your tower open for cleaning, remove the graphics card, SSD, or other valuable pieces and place them in anti-static bags. Label the bags, wrap with bubble wrap, and place them in a dedicated box or with your accessories.
Ready to Move or Store Your Computer?
Moving with UNITS keeps your belongings more secure and even makes loading and unloading easier. With transparent container roofs for lighting, a secure strapping system, and all of the packing supplies you need, we’ve made moving in the Bay Area a breeze. Get a price quote for your move or storage needs today.