Bringing a Desktop on a Transatlantic Move

a quick guide

Last week I moved from Washington, DC to Copenhagen, Denmark. In my move, one of the things that was on my mind was my desktop/gaming PC. While I call it my gaming PC, it is also my workhorse computer for doing things that require more oomph than a laptop can handle such as digitizing, processing large datasets, etc. It is not like I do not game, It also has most of my steam library on it, including the entire Civilization franchise. The keyboard that I use with it is a very nice IBM Model M and I prefer it over other keyboards, so even for writing, it is necessary.

I had a few options to ship it. The first was my Household Effects (HHE) which will arrive in a few months. The second was my Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB) which will arrive in a few weeks. The third was in the checked luggage that I brought with me on the plane. I considered my desktop to be a high enough priority that waiting for either the HHE or UAB shipment to be delivered, so the only way to transport it was as one of my pieces of checked luggage. Luckily, my wife just hit silver on United, so we each got three bags of up to 70 pounds. Giving up one of three bags for a computer is slightly less crazy than giving up one of two.

When a searched Google for how you were supposed to do it, there were conflicting answers. Some people talked about fully disassembling the computer and putting it in anti-static bags. Others went for a full YOLO approach and put the whole thing in a bag surrounded by clothes. A full strip down seemed like a ton of work and clothes make static electricity which makes computers sad. I decided to go the middle route.

On Amazon, I got anti-static bubble wrap and bags and then cracked open my tower. The most expensive part of my computer is the video card. It is also the part that is connected to my motherboard by the least amount. It was a pretty obvious contender for a part to remove. I undid the screws, removed the power cable, and popped it out.

Remembering back to the Edward Snowden disclosures, one of the things that various state security services were known to do was copy hard drives that were in transit. I do not have anything worth getting a copy of on my hard drives, but it seemed like it was a good information security best practice to hand carry them across international borders. So, I used a screwdriver and popped them out of my computer as well. All three parts were then placed in anti-static bags. The graphics card went in the rolling hard case that I used as my carry-on between stacks of clothes and my hard drive and solid-state drive went in my backpack.

The one last thing I removed was the lithium-ion button battery on the motherboard. After some work, I got it to pop out and I placed it in a ziplock bag that was then put in my backpack.

The tower was then closed and wrapped in green anti-static bubble wrap. It took a bit at first, but then I realized that the bubbles are supposed to face the item, not out. After this was finished I set it aside. The other important thing that I needed was a monitor. I moved the base from one of my Acer K242HQL monitors and popped off the rest of the stand. The monitor was then wrapped in the same anti-static bubble wrap.

None of my suitcases were large enough or sturdy enough to fit a computer, monitor, and peripherals for the voyage. In one of the many Target runs that my wife and I did in the last month, I came across this giant American Tourister hard side suitcase. Beyond being a sturdy hard case, the color was perfect. It was bright enough to stand out on the baggage carousel, but the pink color does not scream “open this bag” like other colors.

In the area with the straps, I put my tower and monitor. In the area where my monitor was longer than my tower, I placed some shirts. Beside my tower, I placed my IBM Model M Keyboard.1 To fill out the rest of the space, I placed my webcam, mouse, etc. The weight when full was 60 lb. This would be overweight except for my wife’s silver status on United. I am sure that there would be a way to distribute more of the peripherals to make the bag lighter.

Two days after getting to Denmark, I set up my computer. The TSA lock on the suitcase appeared to be untouched and there was no piece of paper in the suitcase to tell me that TSA had opened it. Everything appeared to be in the same place as I left it. In this whole process, the only thing that broke was one of my three SATA cables. For now, I am flying without a DVD drive. I view this as a great success.

When I move from Denmark to my next location in 3 years, I am going to do the exact same thing. If you are taking part in a big move, I strongly suggest doing this. It worked for me and it might work for you. Best of all, we did not need to declare the computer as part of the move for extra insurance.


Danish life

It is obvious that the cinnamon bun was perfected in Denmark. And, dispite what they say in Sweden, the Danes do it right by putting sweet icing on them. I grabbed this bun at the Coop 365 near my house and it was better than what I would have gotten in the US at a supermarket, but not amazing.

1

Completely unwrapped. I thought that the steel frame of the keyboard would keep it safe.