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I am moving from Europe to the USA. I want to take a 500gb hard drive with me. What's the best way to go about this? I'd really like the information on the drive to arrive safely, although it's not mission-critical data.

Assume that the drive will not be on my person during the trip, but will be transported in packages/airplane cargo holds.

I have a few ideas on how to physically secure the drive, but I want to make sure it's magnetically/electronically secure as well.

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Hard cases with a lot of foam packaging. This is quite enough unless the plane crash ;) – r0ca Jun 1 '11 at 12:59
And some will survive even that. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jun 1 '11 at 13:00
@Lucas It might be worth investing in something like Crash Plan, with unlimited online storage - even if just for a couple of months, as a backup. – sblair Jun 1 '11 at 13:24
Is there any good reason for not taking it with your hand luggage? That way you wouldn't have any problems. Also note that the TSA may open your bags and try to remove the protection from your drive if they think it's a bomb or whatever. You never know. I always got my bags checked without anything fancy in it. – slhck Jun 1 '11 at 13:25
You could ship it there/take it there in a box that has the "air bag" type cushioning. I have had to do this for the datacenter I work at a lot with mission-critical data. I have shipped HDDs to Canada, Hong Kong, Salt Lake City, etc, with no problems when using the air cushioning bags or the regular Styrofoam that the manufacturer sells the product in. – David Jun 1 '11 at 13:36
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Make a full backup on another drive, and mail one, take the other with your person. Pack both very well in bubble wrap or the original boxes. I also don't know why you can't carry it on if it is that important.

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I'm not saying I can't carry it with me personally, I'm saying I may not be able to for reasons that are outside of my control. I want to make sure that even in those circumstances, the drive arrives safely. – Lucas Jun 1 '11 at 13:13
Still mailing a second copy all but guarantees your success. – KCotreau Jun 1 '11 at 13:17
Unless the second copy goes bad :/ – William Hilsum Jun 1 '11 at 14:58

Hard drives are shipped to folks around the world in cardboard boxes with foam, paper, and "air" bags. They arrive fine all the time. How would this be any different?

If you're truly paranoid, though, I would do what has been suggested previously, and make a duplicate. If you have a friend in the US, you could even scp (or similar) the drive to one here so the data gets transferred electronically, and then if something happens to the physical drive you have, your data has still arrived intact.

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First, I would say take a backup to either DVDs (safest) or another hard drive (changes of two getting damaged are very small).

After this, there are a few caddies you can get and other equipment, but, it all comes down to luck.

I have tried various methods and have had mixed results - it is all down to how rough the baggage handlers are (or you are if hand luggage).

I think the best thing you can do is be very careful and wrap it up in bubble wrap or socks - something that will stop/cushion impacts.

But again, it is all down to luck... so... good luck!

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Backing up 450gb of data to DVDs would take a LOT of discs :)... a hundred of them in fact. – Lucas Jun 1 '11 at 13:06
@Lucas, I completely agree it isn't good... but, dvds are a lot harder to damage than hard drives... it is all about how safe do you want me / how special is that data. – William Hilsum Jun 1 '11 at 13:12

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