Last updated on March 10, 2021
So you want to take your desktop computer on a plane?
Flying a desktop computer isn't that difficult, you can literally throw it in a suitcase and get started.
But getting it to its functional goal might require a little more planning. Especially if you intend to bring a monitor too!
This post covers the rules of computer flying and some packing tips to avoid damage so you can keep flying after landing.
TSA rules for desktop computers
The Transportation Security Administration is the agency that operates airport security.
I went through what they had to say about taking desktop computers on planes.
The TSA has no problem with your PC. So, in terms of security, nothing prevents you from taking a table bag in your carry-on or checked baggage.
The only requirement is that if you are traveling with your computer in your hand luggage, you must take it out of your luggage and put it in a separate container from the x-ray, just like you would with a laptop or tablet.
Don't worry about the x-ray machine damaging your hard drive. Laptops constantly go through the verification process so there is no risk to your data.
Can you take computer parts on a plane?
Another relevant entry on the TSA website deals with taking computer parts with you when you travel.
Some passengers traveling with PCs disassemble them to help pack.
TSA has no restrictions on computer parts in checked or carry-on baggage.
Can you take a monitor on a plane?
The TSA website doesn't mention computer monitors, so I checked Twitter to see if they answered this question there.
The TSA has confirmed that you can pack a computer monitor in checked baggage, but does not recommend it.
I agree. Packing a monitor in checked baggage would always be a last resort. I'd probably rather take the risk of shipping a PC than have it thrown out by baggage handlers.
David asked TSA about packing a computer monitor in his carry-on and they confirmed that monitors are allowed in carry-on.
So there are no security concerns about desktop computers in checked or carry-on baggage.
But there's a catch...
Your PC must fit in your suitcase.
Airlines regulate the type, size and weight of carry-on and checked baggage.
If you intend to fly with your desktop computer, you must be aware of your airline's size and weight regulations and any applicable fees.
Flying with a desktop balances airline limitations with the fact that your gear is both valuable and fragile.
Pack a desktop computer in your hand luggage
The best way to travel with a desktop PC is to pack it in your hand luggage if possible.
You are responsible for your hand luggage. You can rest assured that you won't throw it away or keep it in an unsafe place.
The most common size of carry-on luggage is 22 x 14 x 9 inches, and weight restrictions are unusual for carry-on luggage in the United States.
This means that some towers will fit and some won't. You need to take out the tape measure.
Super Towers and Large Towers are too big to carry in carry-on luggage.
If your desktop PC is a mid-tower, there's a good chance it could be a carry-on option.
You can check Southwest flights as they have a larger carry-on size of 24 x 16 x 10 inches. In addition, budget airlines Spirit and Frontier have larger carry-on size restrictions, but you must pay a fee to take a carry-on bag with you.
Frontier's size limit is the same as Southwest's. The largest carry-on size is actually on Spirit Airlines if you pay the fee that allows you to take a 24 x 18 x 10 inch suitcase. So the Spirit might be the best choice to fly a mid-turret in your carry-on.
And think of Delta too. If the three dimensions of your tower combined are less than 45 inches, you can take it as carry-on baggage on a Delta flight.
Minitowers and other small form factors should fit in most bags, and this is the best place to pack them so you can keep an eye on them.
Remember you don't need a suitcase, you can use a desktop computer bag. The only important thing is that your luggage is under the size limits of the airline you are flying with.
If you packed your carry-on with a tower, you need another place to store your clothes.
Many people are not aware that the baggage allowance for personal items is often very high.
Checkthe size limit of your personal itemfor the airline you are flying with. You can use this extra space to pack and avoid paying for a checked bag just for your clothes.
Pack a desktop PC in checked baggage
Most larger desktop computers must be stowed in checked baggage.
Checked Baggage Limitsare usually given in linear inches🇧🇷 The most common size limit is 62 linear inches.
That means the length, width, and depth add up to less than 62. The case withthe largest capacityIn fact, it won't be shaped like a suitcase, but more like a square cube with sides measuring 20.66 inches. Instead of a suitcase, you can pack your computer and monitor in a box.
However, you are much more likely to hit the weight limit than the height limit. Most airlines only allow checked baggage up to 50 pounds. A full tower gaming PC can typically exceed the 50 pound weight limit. Spirit and Allegiant have a 40 pound weight limit for checked baggage.
This is one of the reasons you might want to take your computer apart. If you can remove parts of your setup, you can pack components in your carry-on baggage, reducing the weight of your checked baggage.
Overweight checked baggage fees can be high. So make sure you weigh your luggage before attempting to fly.
Instead of stuffing your suitcase with clothes to cushion it, packing peanuts is a lighter option.
Be sure to mark your bag as fragile and consider damage insurance for your computer.
These ruffles pack your table in travel bags and you can see how convenient it is getting.
It really depends on the size of your tower. It may also be necessary to disassemble the monitor stand for more efficient packaging.
the bottom line
Carrying a desktop computer on an airplane is not a problem under TSA rules.
The difficulty is when you have a great physique. These systems only fit checked baggage, leaving you at the mercy of baggage handlers.
There is a real risk of damaging your PC by checking it. You can remove some of the more fragile components and stow them in your carry-on luggage.
This can also help reduce the risk of theft. Things keep disappearing from checked bags. I would leave a message for any thief that components have been removed from the PC and it will not boot.
You should also be very careful about the 50 pound weight limit. Put your tower on the bathroom scale and see how much it weighs!
If you are moving permanently, one option is to remove the components and pack them carefully in your carry-on luggage. Then buy a new PC case and rebuild your rig in your new home.
Alternatively, it might be better to ship your PC rather than take it on an airplane.
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