Can I Ship External Hard Drives?

External hard drives aren't hazardous and shippers can choose any service to send them, but sturdy corrugated cardboard boxes and proper packing material should always be used
ship external hard drives
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While cloud storage is becoming more of the norm, external hard drives are still popular with individuals and businesses alike. There are fringe cases when one may need to send a hard drive for reasons such as a repair, relocation, and more. Fortunately, shippers can use any service to ship external hard drives. That said, they should also make sure to use proper cardboard packaging and ample protective packing material when doing so.

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You Can Use Any Service from Any Carrier to Ship External Hard Drives

As we said above, shipping carriers don’t deem solid external hard drives to contain any hazardous materials. Therefore, you can use any service to ship these types of items, including both ground-based and air-based services.

UPS Ground and USPS Ground Advantage are the most common ground-based services in the U.S. for shipping handheld items. Both options are the most affordable services from either carrier, but both feature slower delivery timeframes compared to air-based services.

On the other hand, popular examples of air-based services from USPS and UPS include USPS Priority Mail (including Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes and envelopes), UPS 3 Day Select, UPS 2nd Day Air, and UPS Next Day Air. Generally speaking, the faster a service’s delivery estimate is, the more that service costs.

Properly Packaging Your Hard Drive for Shipment

Regardless of the service you choose, you should ship your hard drive in its original manufacturer’s packaging, if possible. In most cases, this packaging will have a custom-molded insert that protects the drive perfectly from moving around and incurring damage during transit. This makes the manufacturer’s packaging the perfect box for shipping your hard drive!

Should the manufacturer’s packaging not be available, a good rule of thumb is to wrap the drive in several layers of thick bubble wrap (you can pick up some on Amazon). Once you’ve secured enough bubble wrap to protect the drive, place the wrapped drive in as small of a cardboard box as possible. The idea here is that you don’t want the drive to move around inside the box at all. If your drive is moving around a bit too much in your box, you can use other kinds of packing material such as packing peanuts and air pillows to fill out any space.

Pro Tip: The smaller the box you can use, the better! For smaller hard drives, the Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box is a great packaging solution and a relatively affordable service. You can order a pack of 10 of these boxes for free on the USPS website, and all you need to do is pay for the postage!

Make Sure to Back Up Your Hard Drive Before Shipping It (If Possible)

External hard drives contain quite a bit of data, and as a hedge, we suggest backing up any data to a separate hard drive before you ship it. That way, you’ll have a copy of your data saved onto another source if your package arrives damaged or gets lost during transit.

Backing up your hard drive isn’t always possible, of course, and another good idea for sending hard drives is to purchase extra shipping insurance on top of your shipping label. However, shippers should keep in mind that insurance companies will likely only reimburse a hard drive for its replacement cost (in other words, the actual cost of the hard drive itself). As such, shipping insurance companies likely won’t cover the more intangible value one may assign to a hard drive, such as the value of the digital contents on the device itself.

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