Many an expat has tried to unpack their belongings once they arrive to find that their computer is damaged or just won’t start anymore. There can be several reasons for that and I’ll try to go through some of them and how you can prevent it from happening.
First off, never let the moving company pack any of your computers and if they do, you should always monitor and guide them on how to do it properly.
Laptops should never be shipped because they’re far more fragile than desktop computers. At the same time it can be rather expensive to have them packed properly.
If you have to ship a laptop you should not only wrap in vast amounts of bubble wrap but also ensure that you add lots and lots of silica gel desiccant bags inside the bubble wrap as well as in the box you intend to pack it into.
If you don’t have bubble wrap, which is rarely the case, you can use either paper or newspaper pages that you cram into a small ball and then add lots of it or you can use packing peanuts. Be aware that the peanuts can get into fan grills and once inside the computer they can attach themselves to the motherboard creating a fire once it heats up!
Make sure that the computer is securely in the centre of the box!
The most common problem with desktop computers today is that they use advanced cooling of the CPU. Such a cooler can weigh up to 1 kg and a bump along the transport route will usually break it off damaging the other internal parts of the computer.
Graphics cards can also be pretty heavy and you have to ensure that they’re securely fastened inside the computer case (with locks or screws).
If you have water cooling, which is now common with many Intel systems, you have to remove the cooling unit including fans and reservoir because it may leak during transport creating a short when you switch on the computer.
There are several ways of protecting a desktop computer the safest one is removing the CPU cooler completely and pack it separately. This should only be done if you know how to do this properly!
If you can’t remove the cooler yourself you can still protect it by filling the computer case with bubble wrap. Be sure to use a gentle hand and not to apply too much pressure when adding it. The bubble wrap will still protect the cooler and prevent it from moving around in case it breaks out of its socket.
Once again you have to add lots and lots of silica gel to avoid condensation inside the computer.
You should also ensure that hard drive cages, which is often used today have to be locked in place. If you have a feeling that they're not really secure you should remove the cages and pack them separately.
Common problems when starting the computer is that it may fry itself because of condensation, it may not start because mold has built up inside the power supply or the condensation has started corrosion of the vital parts such as the copper connectors of the CPU and RAM as well as the sockets for graphics cards etc.
Never turn the computer on after unpacking, let it rest for a couple of days!
If your computer has a value above USD 750,- make sure that you have proper insurance. Many insurance companies require that you separate expensive items on a list and if you don’t the value will be calculated on an approximate of many electric items or weight average!
From the inside of a gaming computer. This cooler has a weight of almost 1 kg.
One type of Silica Desiccant.
Another kind of Silica Desiccant.
Below are some pictures of what can happen if you don't ensure a proper packaging of your computer. These are from different computer systems and they have all been severely damaged and two of them needed power supply replacement because of mold buildup inside it. The first computer had a total repair cost of USD 1.500,- of which the insurance company paid most.