Can You Bring a PC on a Plane?

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Wondering if you could carry your PC (not your laptop) with you on a plane? It might sound absurd to some, however, when you are relocating or going on a trip where you can not abandon your PC, the question of whether you can carry it, becomes inevitable.

Since personal computers or desktops are not built keeping portability as a highlighting feature, carrying them might bring up some doubts for you. Thus, in this post, we will answer some of your most brain-racking questions in regards to carrying your PC on a plane.

Can you bring a PC on a plane?

Yes, you can bring a PC on a plane. TSA states that you can bring your PC on a plane in both your carry-on or your checked-in luggage. However, there are a certain set of criteria that you must meet in order to carry your desktop on a flight.

Generally, there are three points to remember when carrying your PC on a flight, either as a part of checked-in luggage, or as carry-on:

  • Your bag (either your checked-in suitcase or your carry-on) must be within the size limitations of the airline you are traveling with.
  • You need to be persistent about carrying your PC on flight, especially if you are bringing it as a carry-on. This includes the willingness to have ‘friendly’ conversations with the TSA officials.
  • You must yourself be able to carry as well as haul your PC, in your baggage, in the airport as needed.

In checked-in baggage:

Of course you can carry your PC in checked-in luggage. While some countries may restrict you from carrying your PC in hand luggage, all of them allow you to carry it as checked-in luggage. Checked luggage has expanded size limitations, in comparison to carry-ons. Although the exact measurement rules vary from airline-to-airline, the average size limit is approximately 62 linear inches, which means that the length, width, and depth of your luggage, as a sum, should not exceed 62 inches. 

Since most common suitcase shapes have only 20.66 inch sides, your computer may not be able to fit into it. Therefore, if you have a bulky computer with a big tower, you should use a separate box or container to carry your PC. Always mark it fragile, because handing it off to the customs to be loaded in the cargo. If you have a smaller computer, it should fit just fine in your suitcase, and shall have no trouble being carried in the cargo hold.

Now, moving on from size to weight of the baggage, it is a known fact that there is a certain free weight limit, after which you are charged for the extra weight you bring on as checked-in luggage. Most airlines allow a free-weight of 50 lbs, however, with a behemoth computer, we are sure the weight would exceed 50 lbs.

You will have two options in this case: 

  • You can either pay for the extra weight (which will be substantial) that your PC accounts to.
  • You can disassemble your computer, and pack some of the components, ranging from light to medium in weight in your hand baggage. Since you are allowed a carry-on and a personal item to be carried with you in the cabin hold, you can keep some parts in the hand baggage to avoid irrational charges. 

In carry-on/hand baggage:

As TSA states, you can carry your PC as carry-on. Here is the catch: this shall work just fine in countries which have laid groundworks to rules similar to TSAs. This translates to a passenger being able to carry a PC as a carry-on in countries such as the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, etc.

However, many countries, including India do not allow PCs to go in the carry-on luggage. This means that even if you were allowed to board with a PC in your hand baggage in one country, landing in a country where it isn’t allowed can get you in trouble – always remember that TSA is only a single regulatory body, and does not have authority over other customs bodies of individual countries.

Thus, make sure to keep yourself up to date with the destination airport’s rules. 

Now, about carrying your PC as a carry-on, you will be just fine as long as your PC can meet the airline size requirements, which vary from country to country. 

If you have a big and bulky tower that is not only heavy to carry, but also a behemoth, it will possibly not be allowed in your hand-baggage. Any medium-sized PC, especially the newer models lacking an external CPU, could easily be carried as hand-baggage and kept in the cabin hold of the flight. 

Carry-on size regulations:

Hobica states that all carry-on baggage should be only 15-inches wide. American Airlines’ bag policy states that the carry-on should fit in the sizer without any hassle and should not exceed the 45 inches in terms of length plus width plus height dimensions.

The carry-on must not have to be forced into the sizer, and should not exceed the measurement as follows: 22 inches long by 14 inches wide by 9 inches tall or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23 cm).

United Airlines’ carry-on rules specify the same dimensions as American Airlines’, and also points out that if the carry-on is suspected to be oversized, it will be measured to determine if it is accepted in the cabin. 

Delta Airlines’ allows passengers to bring a carry-on that does not exceed 45 linear inches. This measurement will also include the wheels, as well as handles. Similar to American Airlines’ Delta states that the baggage must fit in the cabin sizer easily and should not exceed the following measurements: approximately 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches or 56 by 35 by 23 centimeters.

A few other airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest allow comparatively higher size limits to their passengers. Both the previously mentioned airlines allow bigger carry-ons that can measure as much as 4 inches long, 16 inches wide and 10 inches high.

Should you remove other components?

It is generally not ideal to remove components from your PC when bringing it with you as carry-on. Since you will be certain to handle it with absolute safety, there are very sporadic chances of damage to fragile components of the PC. 

On the other hand, if you are packing your PC in the checked-in luggage, it is recommended to remove important components such as the hard drive, graphics card, and CPU. Hard drives are susceptible to not only damage but also data loss/theft in the checked-in luggage. Thus, you should remove it and keep it with you in your purse, or whatever you are carrying as hand baggage.

A bumpy ride, when it comes to the graphics card or the CPU-coolers, can dislodge the PCI-e slots, or cause potential damage to the board, thus rendering it obsolete.

Since CPU and graphics cards are fragile, it is preferred to protect them by wrapping them or sheathing them in a protective covering after removing them from PC and bringing them as carry-on.

How to pack your PC for a flight?

It is of utmost importance to pack yourPC when carrying it on a plane to avoid damage to it.

Packing PC in a Carry-On Bag:

Yes, you are carrying your PC with you as hand baggage – that does not exempt you from taking extreme measures to protect it. You should never just toss your PC in your hand luggage, without using some protective covering to avoid damage. Since your computer will be screened, just like a laptop, in a separated screening tray, you will have to remove it from your bag and then put it back in after screening. 

This means you will have to shield it against constant moving in and out of the bag. To achieve this, you can use a checkpoint-friendly sleeve or case that adheres to TSA’s guidelines. These TSA-compliant cases give you the privilege to not even have to remove your PC from the case and place it in a screening tray for the screening process.

It is advisable to buy a sleeve that has some protective padding or cushion to provide additional protection. Once the screening is done, you should pack your PC (inside the TSA-compliant sleeve or case) along with the case in the carry-on baggage, in such a way that it is cushioned amidst other items in the bag. 

If you are a part of TSA’s precheck program, you will be saving yourself the trouble of screening at the airport, and thus cause less movement to your PC altogether.

Packing PC in Checked-in Luggage:

If your PC does not meet the requirements to pass as carry-on, you will have no option but to pack it in the checked-in baggage. This will require a trip to the shipping store, such as FedEx or UPS. In these shops, you will be able to find boxes that are especially designed to not only carry but also protect your PC during shipping. If your PC won’t fit in the suitcase, it is advisable to buy such a box from a shipping store. 

If your PC can easily fit into your suitcase, make sure to cushion it from all sides by padding clothes you are taking on your trip. You can also bubble wrap the PC before packing it into your suitcase amidst other things.

Why should you opt for travel & damage insurance when carrying a PC?

In the event of some uncalled for harm caused to your PC, or baggage theft, travel and damage insurance can cover a lot for you, and provide you comfort against your damaged or stolen goods. 

Theft from baggage is nothing new, and if you have no remedy against the same, it can put a crimp on your travel plans.

You can claim travel insurance for items valued over $150, if they are stolen while you are traveling, and your PC is no exception. On the other hand, it is strongly recommended to get your PC covered for damage insurance, because checked luggage is beaten up all during the flight duration. If you are bringing an expensive gaming rig on plane with you, we can not stress enough on getting it covered with damage insurance.

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Author - Willa Carson
Happywayfarer author Willa Carson
Hi, I'm Willa Carson, a passionate traveler who has been exploring the world for 7 years. Whether it's trekking through the Himalayas, exploring ancient ruins in South America, or simply savoring a cup of coffee at a local cafe, I believe that travel has the power to enrich our lives in countless ways. So join me on my journey and let's discover the world together!
Read more about me here.

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