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I have an "all-in-one" computer. I know that moving a computer when it is switched on is harmful to the hardware components. What I would like to know is if the same applies to "all-in-one" computers and if the same applies to regularly moving it from one side of the room to the other when it is turned off!

The reason for the question is that I work on one desk during the day, and in the evening move it to the couch so I can do other stuff while watching TV or something. I always turn it off before the move, but somebody told me that I can be damaging the machine by doing so.

Can anybody shed some light on this?

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I have moved running PC's all the time and in since my first PC in 92 I have never had any problems. So the risk of your computer being damages is IMO vanishing low. –  Nifle Jan 6 '11 at 12:15
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Just bear in mind that it's not motion that kills it, it's acceleration, and you'll be fine. Keep it smooth and not jarring and nothing will even skip. On the other hand, knock it about while your drive is running and you're likely to get a dead drive. (OTOH, hard drives are very cheap right now!) –  Phoshi Jan 6 '11 at 18:10

6 Answers 6

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Unless the machine is designed for movement (ie, a laptop) the general advice is don't move it while it's running - it is probably OK most of the time. Mechanical hard drives are usually the vunerable component here - a hard drive that's spinning is much more vunerable to even slight impacts, or changes in orientation, than it would be if it was parked and powered down - when it can sustain much stronger impacts without damage. You've already mentioned this, but it's here for completeness.

Movement while correctly powered down should be fine in general, as long as you are gentle. The problem with moving the machine regularly is there is an increase chance of accidental damage caused by poor handling.

  • Avoid all impacts (including "dropping" the machine "lightly" on a desk).
  • Avoid sudden movements (eg, don't pick it up violently).
  • Avoid sudden changes in momentum (eg, don't spin round quickly while carrying it).

In other words, minimise all accelerating forces that you place the machine (and thus its components) under.

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Thank you for the fast response. I kind of knew this, but wanted to double check. So, avoid all movements (if possible) when machine is on. When turned off and HD is safely parked, it can moved, as long it is not dropped, moved with sudden or sharp movements, and not too often. Is that about right? –  Purak Jan 6 '11 at 13:10
    
+1! One time I had a HDD running outside of my computer and it fell from a height of around 2 cm. After that, it died. –  AndrejaKo Jan 6 '11 at 13:22
    
@Purak, yep, just be careful (and you can move it as much as you like as long as you are always careful), and try to leave the hardware alone when it's running. Basically, treat the hardware as though it's fragile - because some of it is! –  DMA57361 Jan 6 '11 at 13:40
    
We have hundreds of all in ones where I work and our experience is that they are no more or no less prone to problems with being moved than conventional PCs. I wouldn't move one while it was on. –  RobM Jan 6 '11 at 16:15

As long as you're being moderately careful about avoiding jarring impacts and dropping it, I wouldn't worry about.

The main part that could be damaged by any sort of movement would be the hard drive, but it would take a pretty solid impact to damage it. (If you couldn't move computers at all while they were on I think laptops would be much less popular.)

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Thanks for this. I appreciate the quick response –  Purak Jan 6 '11 at 13:08

Well, I don't see any reason why all-in-one PC would be more easily damaged to moving than normal PCs.

Basically, you don't want to move PC while it is turned on at all. Moving it could damage hard disk or optical drive, if there's anything in it. Same goes for other movable components, but those two are most easily damaged.

When the computer is off, it should be safe to move a small distance. You can damage computer by moving it, but the damage is most likely to come from dropping the computer or other forms of bad handling. If you move computer very carefully, there's nothing to worry about.

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Thank you for your prompt response. This is good to know. –  Purak Jan 6 '11 at 13:08

Everyone needs to remember, when our computers were shipped to us there was lots of movement. You know the kind when the package gets kicked into place while on a loading dock, or dropped when putting onto a conveyor belt. All of this occurs with the machine being powered down and so far none of my computers have ever arrived with a impact related damage. Just my observations. Howard in WY

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However computers are often packaged in a particular way which minimizes vibration/impact damage which can happen to them. Furthermore, transportation damage may not be immediately evident. For example hard disk may be damaged by particularly bad handling so that the damage becomes evident after several weeks of use. –  AndrejaKo Jan 9 '11 at 15:20

I would like to add that it is not a good idea to move a computer with a disc in the CD/DVD/Blue-ray drive. The disc can become dislodged from the tray and foul the ejection mechanism.

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Moving a running PC is not a good idea. That's why on a lot of laptops for example, you have an active protection that stops the HDD to spin when a movement is detected. All the Lenovos laptops we are using at work have that Sudden Motion Sensor feature enabled by default (aka "HDD airbag"). There's an accelerometer in the machine; when it detects freefall it locks the HDD heads so the head won't damage the platters.

HDD is the most sensitive component when talking about movement. Even if you must always be careful, moving AM, MB, CPU etc is less of a problem. The most fragile component (when moving a PC) is the HDD.

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