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8 Tips for Flying With a Desktop Computer

When I started flying with a desktop computer, it was such a hassle.

I put together this article to give you insider information from someone who has logged thousands of airline miles with a gaming PC in tow.

Whether you’re moving or traveling for work with your desktop, here’s what I wish I knew when I started traveling with my desktop.


Flying With A Desktop Computer

You can take a desktop computer with you on a flight in both checked and carry-on luggage. A checked desktop computer is going to need to be packed very securely to withstand being tossed around with the rest of the flight’s baggage. If you take your desktop computer as carry-on luggage you can expect some additional security screenings.

Desktop Computers as Checked Baggage

One of the best ways to travel with a desktop computer is just to check it. This saves you a ton of hassle when you go through the security screening.

The only thing you need to keep in mind is that checked luggage takes a lot of damage when it goes to the baggage claim process.

You’re going to want to pack your desktop computer with plenty of protection.


Putting a Desktop in Your Carry-On

Packing your desktop computer in your carry-on luggage is a great option. This gives you more security and lowers the risk of your bag being tossed around which could damage your computer

However, you need to keep in mind that your computer is going to need to go through some additional security screenings.

You want to pack it in such a way that it is secure and can be quickly removed when it needs to be scanned.


Should You Disassemble Your Desktop PC Before Flying?

There’s some give and take in the argument for packing your desktop PC assembled.

Leaving your desktop PC together makes for easier packing. All you need to do is securely wrap up the entire PC, and you’re good to go.

However, there is a pretty big risk with leaving all of those components together.

The large components that attach to your motherboard, such as your graphics card, can do some pretty serious damage if they shake loose during the flight.

The graphics card can actually rip a hole in your motherboard if your luggage gets thrown around hard enough.

Taking apart your PC and packing your components individually is the safest way to go. So, why shouldn’t you do this every time?

This increases the difficulty of going through the TSA security checkpoint as you now have a bunch of different components to scan rather than just one PC.


Desktop Computers and the TSA

Desktop computers, as well as computer components, are allowed as both checked baggage and carry-on by the TSA.

However, the rules specifically state that the TSA is always at their discretion for what items they allow past the security checkpoint.

There are plenty of news stories about people having computers and computer parts confiscated by TSA agents who didn’t know what they were looking at.

You will likely be alright when flying with your desktop computer, but you should be ready for some extra questions and screenings when you go through the checkpoint.


Additional Security Screenings While Flying With Computers

You might have to face off against additional security screenings when traveling with computer parts.

I’ve been questioned by the TSA when traveling with graphics cards, motherboards, and power supplies.

Just be ready to say that you’re traveling with a desktop computer, and you should be good to go after a short questioning.


Don’t Get Your Desktop Stolen While Flying

Theft is a serious consideration when flying with a desktop PC. There could be thousands of dollars worth of technology that you’ve got in your bag.

The best way to face this is to do all the best practices for being safe while flying but to take them up a notch.

Always make sure your baggage is on your person when you’re carrying your desktop PC. You should also try to avoid clearly signaling what’s in your bag.

Avoid any logos that might let a would-be thief know that a computer is in your bag.


How to Safely Pack Your Desktop When Flying

The safest way to pack your desktop PC when flying is to take it apart. Place each of the ends of the components in their original shipping boxes and then pack those into your luggage.

This will likely take up a lot of room, but it is 100% of the safest way to go about packing a desktop PC.


Desktop Computers and the Dreaded Gate Check

You need to do your best to avoid a gate check for your desktop PC. Gate checked luggage can take some extra wear and tear.

You typically don’t have the room to pack your gate-checked luggage the same way you do a checked bag.

You should consider paying for an upgraded seat that has a lower chance of being asked to gate-check luggage.

Sure, it might cost you more to buy that priority seating, but that cost is definitely lower than having to replace a damaged graphics card.


Frequently Asked Questions About Flying With a Desktop Computer

I put together some quick answers to common questions about flying with desktop computers. Let’s take a look.


What Luggage is Best for Desktop Computers?

The best luggage for flying with a desktop computer is the luggage that’s going to offer the most protection and security. You want to find a hardshell case that has enough room to put plenty of padding around your desktop computer.


Can the TSA Confiscate My Desktop Computer?

The sad truth about this is that the TSA is capable of confiscating nearly anything they deem to be potentially dangerous. There have been news reports of individuals having their laptop computers confiscated while crossing the border into the United States. Extra precautions should be taken to avoid having your desktop computer confiscated.


Can You Put a Desktop Computer in Overhead Storage?

There’s a size limit for the baggage that can fit in the overhead storage. As long as your desktop computer is able to fit in those size limitations, it can fit in the overhead storage. If your desktop computer is too big, they might have asked you to gate-check it at the last minute.

Wrapping Up Flying with a PC

I’ve been flying with a desktop computer for years. I’ve taken both domestic and international flights with my desktop computer in tow.

These are the tips I’ve learned along the way, and hopefully, they will be able to help you the next time you fly overseas with your computer.

Are you looking for some more tips on traveling? Check out our other articles and the best advice from seasoned travelers.