Moving your computer
No matter how well you plan ahead the actual packing/moving process can sometimes turn into a last minute rush to get things done. Whilst it doesn't really matter in the great scheme of things whether you pack your socks up carefully or cram them into a box at the last minute, some goods need extra time, special care and careful consideration. Your computer equipment is a prime example of this. Some moving companies will offer help (at a price!) with preparing and packing up your machine. Most of us will do it ourselves - this shouldn't be a problem, as long as you proceed carefully.
But, no matter how carefully you pack your computer, you must be aware that accidents can happen and you should make every effort to ensure minimum damage in this eventuality. You also need to make sure that you have adequate insurance cover. If you don't take special care you can cause serious damage to what is an expensive machine. And, all the insurance in the world won't compensate if you lose valuable data and documents.
The first thing you should do is to make copies of all of your data on either floppy disks, CD-ROMs etc. This may seem like a boring and unnecessary job but it isn't! Just think how you would feel if all of the documents you have ever created on your machine were lost forever. Don't pack up these copies with your computer - keep them safe and separate, ideally in a special lockable box. It's a good idea to get together all your system, program and other disks for the machine at the same time and pack them up together. It'll make things much easier for you at the other end when you're setting up again.
Before you start getting your computer ready to pack, think about what you're going to pack it in. If at all possible, use the box(es) it came in. These were specially designed to transport the machine in the first place and will do the best job for you, especially if you also kept the original packing inserts. If you didn't keep the packing, then use boxes of as similar a size as possible and make sure you have adequate padding material to keep it sited firmly and securely. Your equipment should never be able to slip around inside its box but should always sit snugly. You can also talk to your removal company, as they may be able to sell/hire special computer boxes that will work really well too.
Check that your disk drives don't have any disks in them. It's worthwhile putting an old floppy disk in the relevant drive for the transport process. Make sure all disk drives are closed. In many cases your computer will allow you to 'park' your recording heads - this gives you extra protection against damage to your hard disk. This isn't as complex or technical as it sounds so don't worry! Basically your computer has a system of moving the recording heads out of harms way when you tell it to. In some cases your computer will be able to automatically 'park and lock the system' and in others you will need to run a special program to get this done. If in doubt, consult your original manual, the manufacturer, your local computer shop or search on the Internet for the best solution for your machine. Many computers need to run a program called SHIPDISK.EXE to park the recording heads. This should have been supplied with your original disks (most likely on a diagnostic disk). If you have this option you can either run the program from the disk or copy it to your hard drive and then run it later. Once you've called up the program you will probably see a red blinking light on the disk drive telling you that it is parked safely. It's simply 'unparked' when you next turn the computer on. For this reason it's best to do this stage just before you dismantle the machine for packing.
Once you've parked your recording heads, you're ready to start taking the computer apart. DO make sure you turn off the system and disconnect it from power sources first! Your first step should be to disconnect all the cables to your computer components. If you have a good understanding of setting up a PC then you needn't worry too much about what goes where but if you're a bit of a novice then pay attention to the cables you removed and their sources. Either write down what went where or mark the cables in some way so you can put the machine back together again. You can either bag up all your cables together or in individual boxes with their relevant equipment.
Try to keep your computer base unit flat or on its side as appropriate - turning it upside down might alter the position of interior parts which may affect the way it works when you set it up again. Whether you're using original boxes or not, make sure that every component is firmly and securely packed with plenty of packing material to hold it in place.
You should pay as much attention to your other computer equipment as you do to the actual machine. Printers, monitors, scanners and so on are also fragile pieces of machinery. They may not be as valuable as your computer but it'll still be a pain if you damage them and it'll still cost money to replace them! Once again, try to use original boxes if at all possible. Remove print cartridges as appropriate from your printer. Remember that it is easy to scratch/break your monitor and you might want to wrap it in bubble wrap or other protective material before packing it up.
Finally, once everything is packed up, seal the box(es) securely and write: FRAGILE - COMPUTER EQUIPMENT on every available surface. You really do need to avoid having theses items knocked around and should also tell your movers that these particular boxes contain computer equipment before they load them. You should have told them you have a computer to move before you hired them and should also remind them when they first arrive to load up. They'll then be able to assess best positioning on the vehicle etc. If you're worried about having your computer on a vehicle with the rest of your possessions and will be traveling to your new home by car, then you can always opt to take it yourself if it makes you feel better.