Sending a Computer Through the USPS Mail
By David Wayne
The United States Postal Service offers competitive rates for shipping large packages. Sending a computer through the USPS mail carries a few more risks than shipping an item that isn't electronic, although careful packing can minimize this risk. The USPS offers extra services that make shipping large, valuable items convenient. For example, if your computer is heavy, you can request a package pickup when you pay for your postage online. You may also find low rates for postage and insurance if you print your label through an e-commerce site such as PayPal or Auctiva (see Resources).
If you are selling your computer, clone the hard drive with a disk-cloning program such as Clonezilla, Macrium Reflect or HDD Raw Copy Tool (see Resources). Format the original drive with the installation disc of your operating system, but don't simply delete the partition or choose the “Quick Format” option because these methods leave data on the partition. The person who receives your computer could scan the drive for your deleted files. Even if you are just moving your computer to another location, cloning your hard drive ensures you won't lose your data if your package is lost or damaged. Prepare your computer for packing by measuring its length, width and depth, which partly determines the cost of shipping.
Static electricity can damage the electronics inside your computer, so use packing materials designed for electronics, such as static-free packing peanuts. Use a box with at least three inches of extra space in every dimension to accommodate the packing material, so bumps to the outside of the box don't hurt your computer. Wrap your computer in bubble wrap or foam sheets to prevent small fragments of packing material from getting inside the case. If your computer is small enough, consider using a flat-rate box instead of buying a box from a shipping supply store. USPS offers free flat-rate boxes and package pickup for Priority and Express services.
The USPS site enables you to print your label online or with the Click-N-Ship software application. According to the website, printing your label at home can cost as much as 16 percent less than buying postage at the Post Office. If you don't have adhesive-backed shipping labels, print the label on a plain sheet of paper and tape it to the box. Print in black using a laser printer or inkjet printer that prints at least 600 dots per inch to create labels that the USPS barcode scanner can read.
Instead of cloning and erasing your hard drive, you may decide to remove the drive or replace it with a new one. If you ship a monitor with the computer, pack them in separate boxes to prevent damage to the screen. After shipping your computer, you can follow the shipment with the tracking number you receive with your online purchase. Send this number to your recipient or record it for your own use and periodically check the status of your shipment through the USPS Track and Confirm page (see Resources). To ensure your computer goes to the right person, add signature confirmation to the delivery. With this service, the USPS holds your package until your recipient signs the receipt form.
David Wayne has been writing since 2010, with technology columns appearing in several regional newspapers in Texas. Wayne graduated from the University of Houston in 2005, earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications.