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A guide to laptop shipping

Laptop on desk

From the classroom to the workplace to home, we carry our laptops with us along every step of our day-to-day journeys. Of course, it’s crucial that we keep these fragile electronics protected from everyday bumps and spills. But what if you need to ship a laptop to another destination?

Maybe you’re heading to college and would like to ship your computer just in time for the new academic year, or perhaps you’re a merchant fulfilling an online order to another state. Whatever the circumstance, shipping a laptop requires different considerations than when you’re transporting it in your backpack.

Here’s everything you need to know about shipping a laptop - from packing the device securely to an on-time arrival at its intended destination.

Selecting a laptop shipping box

Before we talk about how to pack the laptop in a box, let’s start with the importance of selecting the right laptop shipping box (or boxes) for your device.

If you’re shipping a new laptop, one option is to make use of the original box it arrived in from the manufacturer. This will normally supply a reasonable level of protection for your device.

However, keep in mind that most manufacturers’ boxes are intended for palletized shipping, and are not designed to be shipped as a standalone item. For this reason, you should also consider using an external box to provide an extra layer of protection for your laptop.

For effective double boxing, choose an outer box that is about six inches wider in all dimensions than the internal container. Use packing material, such as inflatable packaging or foam inserts, to fill the bottom of the outer box. Place the inner container on top of the packaging material, then fill the remaining space around the top and sides with additional cushioning.

Similarly, if you’re shipping an older, previously-used device and still have the original box, it might be possible to reuse that. If you want to go that route, make sure the box is in excellent condition with no punctures, tears, or corner damage. All flaps should be intact, too.

For total convenience, The UPS Store® locations can help with finding a laptop shipping box that is right for your needs. 

How to pack a laptop for shipping

Selecting the right laptop shipping box is a crucial aspect of shipping your device. However, there are a few steps you need to follow when shipping a used machine before it can go into its box.

Firstly, dust off and otherwise clean the laptop, ensuring it is free from moisture. Make sure the laptop is completely powered down. Don't try to remove the battery from the device.

Protect the power button with a small patch of cardboard or electrical tape, so that the machine does not accidentally get switched on in transit. You may wish to similarly protect the volume buttons. For additional protection, place a thin layer of bubble wrap or foam between the keyboard and screen to protect the keys and screen while the laptop is closed. 

Wrap the shell of the machine with plastic or bubble wrap. To further protect against the risks posed by static electricity in transit, place the laptop in a snug-fitting plastic bag. Separately wrap any cables, plug adaptors, and other accessories in bubble wrap, and secure them with cable ties.

Place the device in a padded laptop box (or the original manufacturer’s box if you’re using that) and fill any remaining space with additional packaging material, such as foam inserts, to hold the machine securely in place. If the original foam inserts are broken, repair them with two-inch-wide pressure-sensitive tape (or similar), or obtain new inserts. It's best to avoid loose packaging, such as polystyrene peanuts, as loose material is less effective at preventing the laptop from sliding around on the move. Add any accessories into the box.

Gently shake the box to ensure it is securely packed and there is no internal sliding. Close the box and tightly seal with tape to avoid moisture getting in.

Now it’s time to double down. The double boxing method helps protect fragile electronics from the rigors of transportation. As mentioned, you should consider double boxing even if you’re shipping with the original manufacturer’s box, which may have been designed for palletized shipping rather than single-piece loads.

As described above, use packing material such as foam inserts and inflatable packaging to hold the inner box in place. Having ensured that the inner container is secure within the outer box, seal the outer box with suitable tape. Make sure to seal the seams of the box to preserve its integrity during transport.

Shipping a laptop by air

If you're shipping a laptop by air, it is particularly important to protect the device against overheating. As already detailed, double check to ensure the laptop is not only completely powered down but is unable to accidentally get switched on during transit. The heat and static electricity associated with air travel are risk factors for the lithium ion batteries inside of laptops.

Make a note of the regulations that apply when shipping a laptop with lithium ion batteries inside the United States or, if you’re shipping across borders, for your destination country. Securely affix any required labels or notices to the outside of your box. For larger shipments of laptops, check with UPS on any additional requirements that may apply. 

How to ship a laptop: Final considerations

Laptops can be expensive items and, by their nature, may contain sensitive data. Take sensible steps to protect the integrity of your shipment as you would any other valuable object. Consider increasing the declared value of your shipment or taking out insurance through UPS Capital to guard against the risk of damage or loss.

UPS’s Calculate Time & Cost tool can help you determine the likely cost of shipping your laptop. Make sure your package is properly labeled and you have verified the delivery address.

Shipping with confidence

Whether you’re shipping a laptop for back-to-school, or sending your machine to the repair shop, it’s important to handle your fragile electronic with care.

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