Knowing how to transport a desktop pc in a car is essential if you own a desktop PC. At some point, transporting it is inevitable.
That’s where we aim to deliver the best resource for you, so you can keep your desktop computer safe and sound when getting it to or from your destination.
The difficulty of transporting your computer is also determined by the size of your case. If it’s something large like a full tower system, greater care must be taken and will be slightly more difficult to load it into your vehicle.
There are various measures you can take in order to ensure safe transport for your PC. Let’s go through them.
A summary of how to transport your PC in a car:
- Secure all mechanical hard drives. Removing them for transport, and providing extra individualized care for them, is even better.
- Lay the case down in a position where the CPU cooler’s weight doesn’t strain the motherboard or mountings. An even safer option is to remove it clean off the old thermal paste and reapplying it again when assembling.
- Provide a soft, spongy surface for the computer to lay upon.
- Remove all heavy add-in cards, like graphics cards. These are heavy and can damage the PCI Express slots without too much trouble.
- Try not to force the case into any tight areas in the vehicle. This will limit damage to the case or any other protruding components.
- Make sure everything is unplugged before carrying the desktop PC anywhere. This includes ALL dongles or anything else that can unplug externally.
- Make sure that any loose components inside the case are secured or removed. This holds true for any loose cables too as the plug ends can be heavy, causing scratching and could also end up wedged into cooling fan blades.
- Check for components inside the case that aren’t screwed or secured with enough mounting clips or screws.
Please note: Keep all your internal components in an anti-static bag where possible.
Bear in mind, if any components become unsecured inside the PC case and are free to rattle and roll around, it is highly probable to cause damage to sensitive components.
This is also why I always recommend keeping your original PC case’s box. I realize in some situations it’s not possible, which is okay, but try where possible. It most likely has support material inside the box which helps cushion and protect the case.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the most common components that are either vulnerable or that can cause problems during transportation.
How to transport your PC in a car
Remove your mechanical hard drives
For mechanical drives, I highly recommend removing them and transporting them in anti-static bags. This way you can make sure that your data remains safe and you don’t end up replacing unnecessary components.
Mechanical drives are sensitive. One wrong bump, and you can say goodbye to it. And I really mean it. With the drive head’s flying height without the drive actually powered up, you are talking about clearance of around 0.002 of an inch or 52 micrometers.
So don’t take any chances! Most cases are designed nowadays in such a way that drives are easy to remove and to add back in.
So it’s hardly worth the trouble to take the risk, don’t you agree?
It’s also not a bad idea to keep everything important from your mechanical drives backed up, before doing anything else.
Secure your CPU Cooler
Most CPU coolers are extremely heavy. This is to help keep fan noise down by introducing plenty of cooling surface area, reducing the need for extreme fan speeds under most conditions.
With this comes a risk when wanting to transport your PC in a car.
If you are able to lay your PC case down in such a way during transport to ensure the mountings on the motherboard to the CPU cooler isn’t strained, you’re off to a good start.
The other thing to be acutely aware of, are the mounting screws or nuts. Make sure they don’t unscrew or become unsecured during travel.
This will cause the cooling to become redundant if not enough tension is kept between the CPU cooler’s block and the CPU surface itself.
This will result in your computer perhaps starting fine, but becoming unstable as Windows starts up or when you decide to run a software application.
To be 100% certain that your CPU doesn’t loosen to the point where it rolls around inside your case and causing massive damage, simply remove it.
Most third party CPU coolers can be removed by removing four nuts and a power connector. It can also usually be done without having to remove your motherboard from the case.
You will have to reapply the thermal paste after cleaning the old thermal paste before refastening it back into its proper position.
Yes, it’s more work I know, but it will be worth it in the end. Also, it will give you an excuse to replace your thermal paste and to also make sure that the cooler is doing its job properly.
Try to keep your case laying on a spongy surface
In some cases, the back seat of the car might be an ideal carrier for your PC case. It is usually angled the correct way and the seat belt can be used to add some security.
If you don’t have this luxury, either try returning the case into its original box or you will have to find some spongy material to lay it on.
While this isn’t absolutely a must, it can save you running the risk of some parts either coming loose that you have missed, or something going faulty due to excessive vibration or impacts.
Things that you could use to help would be newspapers, old towels, bubble wrap, old packaging materials, old clothes, or anything else that you could use that is better than a hard surface in a car’s trunk or floor.
Remove all heavy add-in cards
For the majority of us, the graphics card will be a prime example of a heavy add-in card. They have substantial heat sinks and apply quite a bit of force to a PCI Express slot.
These slots are simply surface mounted with solder connecting the contacts to the motherboard. These solder contacts can break or be ripped off completely, even by reasonably delicate jolts.
They can be easily removed by removing one or two screws and sometimes there is a power connector(s) at the rear. Release the clip at the end of the slot to allow the card to be pulled out. Just remember to keep pulling the cards out straight or level and don’t lift one side higher than the other.
Never touch any of the copper contacts on the edge connector of the card.
This could result in the card getting wedged or damaging the internal contacts of the slots themselves.
Never force a PC case into the car (revisit your packing strategy)
If you find that things are a bit tight, due to the fact that your PC isn’t the only thing you are transporting, simply wait. You can always come back for a second trip to pick up your PC when your car has the room for it.
Please note: If you have to move all your belongings in one hit, consider loading in your computer components first. This way other items will act as packing material to keep your computer even safer.
If you are trying to squeeze your desktop PC in a small space somewhere between a door and other objects, don’t do it. It will always pay off to remove already loaded items and put your computer in first and rethink your packing strategy.
When you try to force a PC case into any type of gap, you run the risk of knocking something attached to the case or some internal hardware. This usually results in damage that cannot be easily repaired without buying new components or a case.
Be very careful if you have a water cooling system. The fins in the radiator are extremely delicate and impossible to fix if they are damaged past a certain point.
Prioritize protection of the radiator(s). For added protection, use some cardboard from a cardboard box and cut out a piece to wrap around the radiator. You can secure the cardboard by either zip-tying or taping it carefully to wrap around it, without touching the delicate fins.
Make sure everything is unplugged
There are lots of connections to plugs and sockets on a computer. Even other miscellaneous items like WiFi aerials or dongles.
Please Note: Make sure you unplug everything before thinking of moving your computer anywhere. Forgetting to unplug a cable and walking off with your computer case never results in anything pretty to watch.
As I’ve just said, make sure you unplug everything. You will be surprised by how easily you can overlook something protruding when loading your PC into your car. It’s extremely easy to snag anything and break it when either moving your PC inside your car or loading it in.
I’ve seen a ton of broken WiFi aerials from this common oversight. The other common items will be dongles used to convert display outputs from graphics cards.
The latter can be expensive to fix, depending on the depth of the damage.
Secure anything that is free to move around
This goes for any cables or any other hardware that can swing or move around when introducing any form of movement to your computer’s case.
The end of a cable with a heavy plug, for example, can actually do a fair bit of damage under the right circumstances.
Use some zip ties, or tape if you cannot get your hands on any ties. Secure any loose cable ends or anything else that can move like brackets, plastic items that are lightly clipped, etc.
It’s very common for cable ends to move around and end up between a cooling fan’s blades, stopping it from spinning. This can be catastrophic and can either end up causing your computer to become unstable or to be permanently damaged.
It’s something that can easily be overlooked, so please check over all your cooling fans before turning your computer back on when it has been set up after transport.
Watch out for poorly secured components
Some computer parts are made cheaply. Even if you spent a small fortune on your hardware. Watch out for missing screws, poorly designed clips and half secured items. Especially when there is some weight involved with them.
Some smaller heatsinks that have a poorly designed through-hole clip can easily vibrate loose and your heatsink ends up rolling around causing all kinds of damage. This kind of damage can be hard to see unless you know what to look out for.
Look out for any loose screws on all components. Not only do you stand a chance of something larger to fall off and roll around, but that screw itself can be fatal.
If a screw (which is most likely going to be conductive) rolls around and ends up getting wedged under your motherboard, depending on where that is, it could permanently damage your motherboard to a point of no repair.
Inspect any mounting clips and be especially attentive to those clips that make use of springs to apply tension. If one of them shoot loose, it could mean no more cooling for that component, or a conductive spring could land and short out something on your board.
So check everything carefully before and after transport.
How to transport your monitor(s)
If you are unable to fit your monitor safely into a vehicle, consider renting a monitor (or monitors). It’s not ideal in terms of cost, but it might be the right solution for your specific situation.
For car transportation, I found laying the monitor on it’s back on the rear seat is the safest option. You can usually find a position that prevents the monitor from sliding around and keeping anything from touching the screen itself.
If you choose to stand it upright behind a front seat, I highly recommend throwing towels or sheets folded multiple times over it to prevent front and back movement or surface damage.
Help, my computer won’t start up after transport!
If your PC becomes unstable or won’t boot after transportation, firstly check for any loose components inside. Secure them if anything is loose or has come unfixed.
One of the first things to check is, of course, your CPU cooler. Make sure that it’s secure and retaining pressure against the top of your CPU to ensure proper cooling of the CPU.
Next, check all the power plugs, data connectors, and RAM modules. Make sure they are all plugged in properly. Do not skip over this step, or take it lightly, as it is a very commonly overlooked and common issue.
Check that cables, or anything that can move hasn’t obstructed any cooling fans and they can all spin freely.
If your computer still won’t boot or remains unstable, try cleaning the RAM contacts.
Some professionals use various packaging materials to pack inside a PC case to keep everything from moving. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that if you know exactly what you are doing.
In this instance, I won’t recommend doing that. Sometimes debris from various packaging materials can cause problems.
Other packaging materials like expanding packaging bags are expensive and can actually be damaging if not used properly.
So stick with the basics and you cannot go wrong. Sometimes it does require more tedious or time-consuming work, but it’s your precious PC after all!
This is an instance where shortcuts can cost money or the possibility of losing data. So take your time and do it right, you will be happy you did.