Cleaning your PC is as important as cleaning yourself; if you dont, you are bound to a series of illness. Yes, cleaning the inside of your PC could get risky, but a few tips should get you good to go.
First of all, forget alcohol. Any cleaning product based on any type of chemical, at all. Of course, there is a special type of alcohol, (water-free), excellent for electrical contacts, but they could damage other parts of your PC, like those acrylic transparent windows. You never know what else may react to any product, so forget them all. You need a deep chemistry knowledge to be sure, so unless you have such skills, drop it. You will be using an air can, and cotton swabs.
Well, those cans filled with clean, dry air are perfect, but you may not have enough money to buy as many of those as you would want to. So, we are going to use COTTON SWABS on smooth surfaces. Even memory chips can be cleaned with cotton swabs, as long no pieces of it get attached to the memory banks. Air intakes are famous (or infamous) for getting really grimy, so even a powerful blow of air may not be enough to clean them. You wont place cotton swabs inside memory slots, of course. For tricky places, only the air can should be used. Consider your motherboard OFF-LIMITS to cotton swabs, especially jumpers and switches.
Air fans: these can be cleaned with the swabs, no problem. You could use your own fingers, if you manage to get some latex (surgical) gloves. Your own bare hands may leave some grease, which will work as glue if exposed to dust. A surgical mask is not absurd, either, since dusty computers may trigger a severe allergic response, (like my own did me). Plus, if you sneeze, you wont "throw" anything unpleasant on the delicate circuitry. If you plan to use your hands, be gentle: air fans are a lot more fragile than they look.
You will spend some 100, 200 cotton swabs (!!!), so go buy a few extra packs. Choose the brand of swabs that it is hard to separate the cotton from the stem. Think of it as restoring a Renaissance painting...
An often neglected portion of your hardware is the power supply unit. The PSU is sure to be the dirtiest place youll ever encounter in your home, worse than those haunted houses in Halloween movies. Now, if you feel uncomfortable doing it, you dont need to open it, since there is some electrical hazard, even after you unplugged from the power outlet. There are many capacitors inside, and they can store some form of electrical energy even after unplugged, that can really shake you. Ask a professional, or a trusty friend.
If you decided to open it anyway:
You may be breaking some form of warranty. Check it first... but if it is dirty, then I guess warranties are long gone...
Unplug your PSU in both directions, if you havent already. You probably have unplugged it from the wall outlet, but it wise to unplug it from your motherboard too. If it follows the ATX standard, you should be able to unplug it. Well, some manufacturers may place some form of silicone or glue holding the PSU plug in place on the motherboard. You may have to cut the glue off, but dont cut the cable itself, be warned.
Usually, PSUs have a lid screwed on top of it, exactly because somebody is supposed to change the fan, after its life span. Once you open it, you will have access to all components, transformer, diodes, capacitors, all of it. Put on some safety goggles, and blow all that dirt away using the air can. Swimming goggles do a great job too.
For the CPU heat sink, the air can is again your weapon of choice. No cotton swab is thin enough to fit in its fins. You should clean your CPU cooler too. You will be amazed by how much dirt can be glued to it. The CPU cooler could be cleaned using the cotton swabs, as long as they fit. Those 20mm CPU coolers are likely to be cleaned by the air can only.
Everything else, like CD-ROMs, hard drives, floppy drives, the case itself, can be cleaned using a piece of paper. Choose a paper like kitchen towel or Kleenex... even toilet paper can clean the case remarkably well.
Now, for preventive maintenance:
If you dont want to remove the dirt from it, dont let it go inside in the first place. Ask your mom for some damaged nylon socks. Its thin mesh is perfect for an air filter. You will have to create a shape where you can glue a square piece of nylon, and then you place it on the outside of the intake fans. Take a look at any serious case manufacturer website, and see how it is done. Thermaltake has (or used to have) several pictures of the air intake filters, for instance. Or, you can always google for it. Air conditioner filters work great too, plus they are made of washable plastic. You can wash them with a nail brush, and be sure to let them dry before replacing them on the PC case.
Replace all your sleeve-bearing fans for ball-bearing fans. The sleeve where the fans rotate tends to lose its smoothness over time, increasing friction, noise, power consumption, and temperature. They are more subject to failure than ball-bearings when they are dirty. The same rules apply to any bearing, no matter the size. Of course, larger bearings also rely on grease or lubricant oil.
Newer hard drives have dynamic fluid bearings. This kind of bearing can be damaged when spinning up from a complete stop, opposed to full operation, when this kind of failure is nearly impossible. So, dont let your hard drive spin down when using power-saving features, because it will shorten its life span. Web servers hard drives have a much smaller rate of failure, despite they spin at 10.000 rpm or 15.000 rpm. Your hard drive probably is spinning at 5400 or 7200 rpm, so the same rules apply, given it uses dynamic fluid bearing, not to mention you probably turn your computer on and off every day.
In damp regions, or close to shore, try not to turn your PC off, ever. Great amounts of air moisture WILL cause corrosion, faster than you might think. If you got air conditioning, turn it on when NOT using your PC. Every air conditioner tends to make the air dryer when cooling it down. Keep all windows closed while doing it, for obvious reasons. Corrosion is a potential disaster, and the greater cause for memory failure in my neighborhood.
These relatively simple hardware maintenance tasks, if properly executed every 6 months or 1 year, should ensure a healthier PC. I hope I have covered all grounds.
Submitted by: Luiz A.
Kudos to Joaquin L. for being probably the first user I have ever seen (besides myself) to be concerned about the amount of dirt/dust that accumulates inside their desktop machines. I suspect that most users, including businesses, don't bother to think how the buildup of dust and dirt inside the machine leads to heat buildup and early component failure.
While I don't have any evidence to back up my suspicions, I would guess that users who have their computer towers on the floor under or beside their desks have a greater dust problem than those with machine actually on the desktop. Dust and dirt naturally settling to the floor gets sucked in through the air intake openings of the tower, and is deposited on the computer components throughout your machine.
After noting which cable plugs in where, disconnect all the cables from your computer, and remove the left side of the computer case.
This is done by either removing 2 or 3 screws then sliding the cover to the rear of the computer, or if it is a screw-less case, just slide the cover to the rear of the machine, and pull it away. Some Dell tower machines have a button on the rear of the machine, near the top you need to push, then you open the computer like a book.
You will most likely want to take your computer either into the garage, or outside for this next step as it is rather messy. Most people will probably suggest using cans of the compressed air to blow out the machine. I feel this is an expensive way to clean your machine on this scale. Lacking a shop style air compressor, I use my vacuum cleaners exhaust outlet and the hose to blow out my computers. Take the vacuum cleaner hose and connect it to the exhaust port (many allow this), and then blow away. The air should be fairly well filtered by the collection bag and often an addition filter to help protect the vacuum's motor. You should be able to get off the majority of the dust. If you have any vacuum tools that would restrict the airflow to create greater velocity, such as the crevice tool (like putting your thumb over the end of the garden hose to spray farther), use that to get a great pressure to help blow stubborn dirt out. This does a good job, and should take care of the majority of your dust buildup.
While I don't recommend it for a novice, I have been known to also use a clean makeup brush to brush off the extra fine dust that won't come off by simply blowing. I have used it on PCI cards, memory chips, and the motherboard. While I have never had a problem using the makeup brush, I have been careful about being electrically grounded to avoid shorting components, and I do it just enough to get it clean. It may be just a matter of time before this method bites me back. So don't try this unless you want to accept the risk of damage to your computer.
As for things you can do to help reduce the amount of dirt from entering your computer in the future, I have this suggestion. Often there are one or more fans that pull air into your computer. You might look for them while you have the cover off your computer. If you find them, take USED dryer sheets, and position them with tape OVER the fans so that the fan is pulling air from outside the computer case, THROUGH the used dryer sheet, then into the computer. Be sure the dryer sheets have been USED in the dryer first, so you are not possibly pulling any of the anti static coating off the sheets into the computer. Used sheets are, in my opinion, a great, cheap dust filter for your computer. Just remember to check or replace them every few months.
This should help keep the inside of your computer cleaner longer.
Congratulations for being concerned about the amount of dust and dirt inside your machine. Taking these steps should help you get a few more years out of your machine, until you decide to upgrade to a new machine with features your machine doesn't have.
Submitted by: Larry B.
PC Maintenance is critical in order to optimize the many years of performance you can receive from your PC. Not only should you clean your PC's hardware, but you should also clean/maintain your computer's software too. Since you have asked about the hardware, we'll stick with that.
The fans aren't the only component of a PC that accumulates dirt and dust. There are many other places where this will happen, and you should make a habit to clean them on a regular basis too. Some of the more common ones are, depending on frequency of use, the CD/DVD drives, floppy/zip drives, and the motherboard (inside the machine).
Your first step in this process will be to shut down the machine and remove its electrical connection (unplug the power cord). Any time you go inside your machine, whether it be the motherboard inside, or the keyboard, it is always a good practice to shut down your machine before performing any tasks on its hardware. I know shutting down the machine to clean your keyboard seems like overkill, but it can't hurt. Removing the power plug too will prevent any possible power surges from taking place; important because we will be using a vacuum, as explained in the next paragraph.
The main reason for you to remove the power plug to the computer is because vacuums can incur lots of electrical current through their use, depending on the vacuum. This can cause power surges and damage your machine. Of course, if you have surge protection on your machine, this point is moot.
The next step is to get a vacuum. The vacuum is the best tool to clean the computer, in my opinion, because it won't leave behind too much excess dirt/dust. It will suck up everything. Feel free to use other things first, like one of those keyboard spray-can cleaners, but you're still going to leave behind excess dirt/dust and it is vital that you remove all dirt/dust. If not, then there's really no point in doing the job.
Let's start with the front of the machine, where your disk drives are located. Check the controls on your CD drive(s). This is a common collection place for dust since this is the only real access the drive has to the outside of the machine during operation. This is as simple as holding the vacuum to the area where the dust is and suck it away.
Next, do the floppy/zip drives. Find any dirt/dust on the outside of these and suck it away with the vacuum in the same manner as the CD drives.
When youre done with these two items, look around the machine for any openings/vents. Check them out for any dirt/dust that has collected in them and clean them out with the vacuum. This will include the back of the machine, where your fan is typically located. Some machines will have fans in the front of the machine too, so be sure to check those out for dirt/dust as well and clean accordingly with the vacuum.
The next step is to open the machine and clean the inside. Lots of people neglect this step, but they do so at their own peril. The inside of the machine is the most important part and needs to be cleaned on a regular basis to keep your machine running at its peak level.
Before you open your machine, it is a good idea to de-magnetize yourself. Touch anything metal to achieve this. Anytime you go to touch any kind of circuitry, this is always recommended practice. If not, you could short out a component of your machine and cost yourself hundreds of dollars in repairs.
Open your machine's case by locating a button or latch that allows you to open it. They will usually be located on the narrow sides. Push them in and the case usually will open with ease. Some older machines may require you to remove a few screws before the case cover will open. In any case, figure out what is required and open the case.
Once you have your case open, you can continue vacuuming. Look for anywhere dirt has accumulated and suck it up with the vacuum. Some notable places where dirt/dust like to accumulate are the motherboard/processor/RAM chips, the fans (on the inside, too), wires, and any other opening to the outside of the machine. While we have already cleaned openings from the outside, check again from the inside because there may have been some other openings that were missed, and cleaning from both the inside and outside provides a more thorough cleaning.
When you are finished and the inside of your machine is clean enough you can eat off of it, you are finished and ready to close the case. Before closing the case, be sure to replace any wires you may have removed, whether accidental or on purpose. Once the case is closed, plug in any cords, including the power cord, and power the machine up.
I recommend you perform these steps as often as possible. While most of us live lives that can have hectic schedules, we can't clean our PCs as much as we'd like. Once every couple of months would be ideal, but not always practical for everyone. At the bear minimum you should do it once a year. With a clean PC not only will you earn the respect of us computer geeks, but you will get more life out of your machine. I follow this practice with my machine, and have yet to replace any of its internal components (knock on wood).
Submitted by: Vince D.
A PC box is a great environment for dust bunnies to live, grow and multiply. Keeping your PC clean is easy and will keep it operating correctly as long as you follow some simple steps.
There are only two things that can really mess up your computer, not putting the parts back in their correct spots and ESD (ElectroStatic Discharge). Lets look at each of these starting with ESD.
When you walk across a room, touch the doorknob and you get a shock, that is an ElectroStatic Discharge. If you can feel the discharge, that is at least 3,000 volts. If you can see or hear the discharge, that is at least 5,000 volts. Some components inside your computer box can be damaged or destroyed by an ESD event that is so small you couldnt feel it, so some preventative measures must be taken. Before removing the outer cover or panel of your computer, prepare a workspace that is as static free as possible. DO NOT work on a carpet or stand on a carpeted floor. A good work area would be a table or bench with a raw wood surface or place a piece of raw plywood on a table or bench. This is sufficient but for added protection the work surface should have a grounded ESD mat, a wrist strap attached to the mat at the appropriate location and no insulators in sight. Wrist straps, ground cords, antistatic mats and fully equipped field service kits are available at most electronics stores and Radio Shack.
The absolute worst insulators are most plastics, CD jewel cases, your mouse, keyboard and monitor. If you need a cup of coffee or a soda, use a ceramic, glass or metal container. Ceramic and glass are insulators but the charge they retain will be small and distance from your exposed electronics will help. A metal container with a rubber (plastic) base turns the metal into a conductor that is insulated, this is not good. Paint, varnish and poly coat are all insulators. You should also be naked. If working on a computer naked doesnt sound like your cup-o-tea then wear cotton, cotton pants and a short sleeve cotton shirt is best.
With your PC box on bare wood, keep it plugged in to an electrical outlet but turned off to keep it grounded through the electrical cord. Dont worry about electric shock, all the dangerous voltage is inside the power supply and you wont be opening that up. Now you can remove the outer cover or panel of your PC box for cleaning.
Touching the bare metal of a PC chassis with the power cord plugged into an electrical outlet will remove any built up static charge on your body, but as soon as you loose contact with the metal a static charge can be generated by picking up one foot or moving within your clothes. You must remain in contact with the metal frame for continuous grounding. A wrist strap with ground cord attached, worn snugly on the wrist, with the ground cord alligator clipped to the PC chassis and the chassis grounded via the power supply cord plugged in, will take care of all your fears.
Now, with everything grounded you can go to town cleaning your computer knowing everything is safe from ESD. I will not go into how to remove the outside cover or side panel as there are many different ways to get inside. Some take some real head scratching to figure out. With the outer cover/panel off, look around to see whats inside. There will be printed circuit (PC) cards and boards, ribbon cables (wires) wires and some metal boxes (hard drive, floppy drive, CD-ROM). Any of these can be removed for cleaning but must be replaced in the same locations with wires/cables in the same locations as before for your computer to work correctly when you are done. Making simple diagrams and writing down where certain things go will help immensely. Remove only one or two parts at a time so as to not overload the brain cells.
Use a can of compressed air made specifically for electronics and blow out as many dust bunnies and accumulated dirt as you can (best done outside). This quick cleaning doesnt help get in behind components and heatsinks and fans clogged up with stubborn bunnies. These will require more attention by removing the fan to clean and get to the heatsink to blow out. If the fan is secured with screws go ahead and remove the fan for cleaning. DO NOT remove any heatsinks unless you know how and what to do if you do remove them. Use toothpicks or shape Popsicle sticks with a knife to make tools for picking gunk out of corners, heatsinks and fans.
Try removing one part and cleaning it. Blow out the area where the component was and clean up the component. Pick gobs of gunk out with your fingers of one of your wooden tools. DO NOT poke around with any metal tools or objects. Replace the component and then remove another.
Worst of all DO NOT use a vacuum cleaner inside your PC box. I know, this is the first tool to come to mind and the temptation is great but think about plastic and ESD. Waving a plastic wand around all charged up with static electricity next to some expensive memory modules, video cards and other components just isnt what Id want to do. A vacuum cleaner can be used on the outside of the box to clean the vent holes and accumulated dirt on the panels but not inside the box. Move the vacuum wand around over the power supply vent, usually on the back and at the top, youll probably see a fan inside, to suck out dust.
A good rule of thumb would be to clean your computer every six months. If after six months it isnt all plugged up try going to one year cleaning. Im on the one-year schedule even if it needs it or not.
For your last question on how to keep your PC from getting so grimy, Ive found the higher off the floor the less plugged up a computer gets. The only way I know of to keep a PC clean is to have it in a "cleanroom" and none of us has one of those. Hanging your PC from the ceiling would be the best but not practical. By getting the computer off the floor 10 or 12 inches makes a big difference. Desktop height is even better. No smoking, smoke can coat everything with gunk and get inside your drives and keep them from working.
I hope this has helped. Just remember, while working inside your PC box, you can quit any time you want. A little cleaning is better than no cleaning and have fun!
More information on ESD and ESD prevention can be read at the ESD Association web site http://www.esda.org/.
Submitted by: Don S. of Hillsboro, OR
Dust bunnies and computers seem to go hand in hand regardless of how well you keep house. Unless you live in a laboratory clean room type environment, you're going to have dust. You see, a lot of what we call dust is nothing more than dead flaked off skin cells among other things. Add to that the nooks, crannies and cracks in most homes that let outside (contaminated) air inside, as well as normal opening and closing the doors and windows.
Your computer will collect dust for two simple reasons - one - you've got a fan (or fans) sucking in cold outside air (contaminated) to cool the components inside down and two - things that run on electricity tend to build a slight magnetic charge that may not attract much more than small dust particles. That magnetic charge will make the dust stick to internal components, fans, grilles, heat sinks, etc...
In addition to that, things like smoking, cooking grease, and other things tend to settle wherever they can and tend to make things sticky and that attracts even more dust and crud to fan blades and other components.
Now then, as far as cleaning is concerned, there's a couple of ways to go about it.
1.) vacuum cleaning
2.) positive air pressure - in the form of canned air.
Which is better? BOTH.
For larger "dust bunnies," the vacuum method works well. Using a can of high pressure air to blow apart a large chunk of dust and what not is a recipe for making more of a mess than you've already got. And a vacuum cleaner - especially one of those dinky (and quite useless) mini-vacs just doesn't provide enough suction to really get everything.
Cleaning up the computer's insides is not too difficult. The first thing to do is go behind the computer and make a mental note of the layout of the cables, wires and what not and where they plug into the back of the computer.
Next, unplug the computer, pull the computer out from where it normally sits and take it outside. There's no sense in creating a mess inside if it's not necessary.
You may, or may not need a Phillips #2 screwdriver (depending on your case) to open the box up. You should put the screws into a safe place so you a.) don't lose them accidentally and b.) they don't get sucked into the vacuum cleaner. Remove the cover and look at the inside of the computer.
With a canister type vacuum with a brush, GENTLY go over the grilles, intake ports, and any other cracks in the case where grunge collects. Be sure to also get the floppy disk drive's front (they tend to suck in plenty of dust).
Gently go over the CPU fan, heat sink and other components and remove the big chunks of dust.
Canned air comes under many names and brands. Most of them don't contain "air" but a combination of gasses that compress well under normal temps and MOST of them are somewhat flammable! DO NOT USE NEAR AN OPEN FLAME OR OTHER HIGH HEAT SOURCE!
Following the instructions on the can, you can dislodge the bulk of the remaining dust from inside the box.
If you've got some stubborn, sticky gunk, you can use a Q-tip with some rubbing alcohol to scrub the stuff off.
Once you're satisfied with the cleaning job, all you need to do reverse the process - close the case, tighten down and screws, replace the cables, wires and so forth and power the machine up.
Submitted by: Pete Z.
To safely clean the inside of your PC: Ground yourself by wearing an anti-static wrist band (you can pick this up at a RadioShack/Best Buy/CompUSA). Unplug the computer from the power outlet. Open the case by unscrewing the screws along the back edges of the case, usually around 3 on each side. If the case uses latches, unlatch the case. Place the screws in a plastic cup so you don't misplace them. Then use a can of compressed air (you can buy this from the same stores above) to blow out all visible dust and debris. Dust and debris will fly everywhere so make sure you're in a good work location with proper ventilation.
Carefully remove the PCI cards, memory modules, and IDE cables. Make sure you carefully note where everything needs to return. Place any screws from these on another plastic cup. If you are totally unfamiliar with what these parts look like, use the computer's technical manual. If you don't have it, you can scour the web for topics such as "building a PC" to help you identify what these internal parts look like. You can leave the hard drive(s) and optical drive(s) in place. There's no need to remove them but give them a good blast of air on all sides, especially by the connectors. Also leave the CPU in place, but be sure to airblast the top and around the fan/heatsink assembly.
After you've removed the PCI cards and memory, give everything another blast of air. Then use a lint-free soft cloth to carefully wipe down the PCI cards. You don't need to remove the power supply, but give it an extra good work over with the compressed air. Then airblast any and all vent openings throughout the case. It's especially important you do a good job here, since these are the openings where cool air comes in, and heat gets expelled. Then finally, return everything back to place. Be careful when re-inserting the memory and the PCI cards. Read up on how these things get properly installed (use your resource on "how to build a PC").
Close the case and power up the PC. If the machine doesn't boot, or you get a series of beeps and no video: unplug the power, open the PC, and re-seat everything all over again.
Final notes: don't worry about tinkering with the inside of your PC. As long as you're properly grounded and make a note of EXACTLY where everything needs to return to, you won't have a problem. These days, most computers come with integrated components, such as the audio, video and network, so there's not much to remove. Back in the old days, there was a PCI card for most of these things, and this was a slightly more laborious chore. Happy cleaning!!
Submitted by: Joe M.
Cleaning out computer boxes:
First turn everything off at the power supply and remove the power plug from the wall.
I use a small paint brush, say about 1inch, a can of air, a cross blade screwdriver, a vacuum cleaner with a small nozzle. Now you are ready, go to the back of the computer box and write down where all the wires go in. Or draw a picture and label the wires so you can put them back in the right places.
On the back there should be about 4 or 6 screws around the edge of the box. Depending on the age, the whole cover may be one piece or it will be a removable side. If there is a join near the top of the box it will have sides that come off. Another way to tell is a finger grip towards the back of the side. This applies to a tower box one that stands upright. If it is a flat box the removal is a different story, but as most of the later ones are tower we will continue with that model.
Have a look at the back and you will find that most of the wires are on one side in a small recessed area. If is a box with separate sides, undo the 2 screws that are on the side away from the wire recess. If it has one cover over the whole box then all screws have to be removed around the edge. Now these are the ones that are only around the edge - nothing else, usually 4-6 screws.
Now back to separate sides, try pulling the side backwards or give it a push with the palm of your hand in the small recess towards the back, it could be sticky, and if you have trouble use a blade screwdriver carefully to ease the side back from the case at the back.
When that is off, have a good look inside towards the front. You are looking for a fan there - some do, some don't. Then look and see if there are small plastic clips from the front cover. If there is a fan then the front will have to come off, too. This should ease off from the front, very carefully. You should not have to remove anything, just be careful. When that is free watch the wires that go to the start button, etc. You don't want them to pull out. Clean the front with the paint brush and vacuum the dust up, clean the fan as best you can with the brush.
Now the inside. There is a big board in there with a fan on it, most of the dust will be on the fan and around it. Carefully push any cable aside so you can see it and brush the dust off it and around it. If you have your canned air now blow along the fins under the fan, work from the top of the box to the bottom, taking all the dust down with you. Carefully brush the boards to remove as much dust as you can, then blow with air and leave it in the bottom of the box in a clear area. Then vacuum it out.
Have a look at the rear of the box, there will be another fan there and vents. Brush these clean and vacuum again. Great progress, now make sure that you know what side goes where. You could mark the inside to be sure. Do the same to the other side cover, remove it and it will have the frame and that big board again. Brush down as best you can and vacuum again.
Right now we put it all back together. On the cover top and bottom there will be some little slides that fit into the holes in the box, starting with the side you have just taken off. Put the slides in the slots, there should be about 3/4 of an inch to push the side forward and into place. Check to see that the bottom ones are in too, easy ah. Just have a check to see that there is nothing that looks out of place on the other side and replace that too, I know you would not know anyway!!, stupid me. But if you want, when you take the first side cover off take a photo and compare it to how it looks after you have cleaned it. Replace the front cover. Replace the screws and the power plug, and it should be ok
Submitted by: Chris and Deb
Dust, grime and the proverbial waxy yellow buildup aren't just an aesthetic concern; they can lead to serious problems with your PC. The chips and circuits in your system have two mortal enemies: heat and corrosion. Excessive dust and grime can hinder the ventilating airflow through the PC's case and form a layer of insulation on the surface of chips. As a result chips can overheat and decay prematurely. Likewise, soot and smoke (especially from cigarettes) can, over time, corrode or short out delicate circuits.
The solution is simple: Keep your PC clean. If the system is located in a relatively sterile environment, cleaning once a year may suffice. But in dust-prone places (such as rooms with wall-to-wall carpeting), performing a basic cleaning every two to three months could add years to the life of your PC.
Tools of the Trade:
Proper cleaning requires the proper tools, it also makes cleaning go faster. Here are the tools you should have. Visit your nearest PC supplier:
A data vacuum: These vacuums are designed especially for use on electrical equipment. They are small, don't shed bristles, and don't generate a static charge. Some vacuums for PCs can blow air too. If you can't find a data vacuum, use the hose and crevice attachment of a regular vacuum but be careful, these are bulky items to stick in a PC.
Compressed Air: These cans of pure compressed air are very useful for blowing dust and dirt out of hard-to-reach places. Make sure you buy compressed air only, with no solvent or lubricant added. ( Caution: the air is leaving the can is VERY cold. To avoid freezing your PC, keep the can moving when you spray and don't hold the can upside-down. And for gods sake, don't spray yourself.)
Anti-Static Wipes: These pre-moistened towels are perfect for cleaning external parts like the screen, keyboard, and printer. They are safe for PCs and leave an anti-static film that doesn't attract dust.
Clean, Dust-Free Cloths: If you are not using pre-moistened wipes, you'll need these.
Cleaning Solutions: If you are using dry cloths, you'll need a cleaning solution. Make sure your get cleaners designed for use on a PC. These leave an anti-static film and have no abrasives or chemicals that might damage your anti-glare coatings or plastic parts.
Cotton Swabs: Like compressed air, these are good for getting into hard-to-reach areas. You can also use these for scrubbing select parts of the mouse, keyboard, and printer.
Head Cleaners: Floppy drives and CD-ROM drives need periodic cleaning. Usually a blast of air will remove and dust, but once in a while, you may need a head cleaning kit. Be sure to follow the kit's directions, to avoid damaging the drive.
A Ground Strap: This is a bracelet and cable that connects you to the chassis of your PC (which is plugged in), ensuring that you are both attached to the same ground and have the same potential electrical charge. This keeps you from shocking the sensitive electronics inside the PC.
Goggles and a Dust Mask: If you have an especially dusty PC and use compressed air to clean it, the resulting dust cloud will fill the room. Wear proper protection.
The Cleaning Process:
Put on your goggles and dust mask, and let's get to work.
The PC case:
First, wipe out excessive dust or other obstructions from the opening for the power supply fan at the back of the case. Do the same for any ventilation openings. Clean the exterior of the case with a lint-free wipe lightly moistened with a very mild soap or ammonia solution. (Remember: Always spray the cleaning liquid on the rag, not on the PC).
Motherboard, cards, and memory:
Before opening your case, turn off the power, unplug the system from the electrical outlet (or keep it plugged-in). Put on your grounding strap and clip it to the PC frame if your system can remain plugged into the wall power outlet. If it can't, you'll have to attach it to another suitable ground contact such as a plumbing fixture or other metal object. Remove excessive dust with a brush and/or canned air. Remember, the object is to remove the dust, not just move it. So turn the case on its side first, or better yet, use a small vacuum cleaner to ensure dust doesn't just resettle. Over time, expansion cards and memory chips can become partially unseated due to movement and even temperature fluctuations. Cleaning offers a good opportunity to reseat them. Use caution during removal and insertion. Wipe the contacts gently with a lint-free swab and, ideally, a lubricating solution. Cautiously do the same to the inside of each slot on the motherboard.
Floppy Drives and CD-ROM drives:
Once you are done with cleaning the system from the inside, it is time to clean your drives. Now the following process should be done periodically, depending on the amount of dust that floats in the air (I would do that once a month, to ensure a clean lens for the CD-ROM). assemble all your PC parts together, plug-in the power cord (if it was removed), and power-up your PC. Follow the instructions of the head cleaners' kit to ensure optimal cleaning process.
Happy cleaning Joaquin.
Submitted by: Adham E.
Hello Joaquin. Every computer owner will notice slow downs and increasing fan noise over the years, so luckily there are ways that will help you solve your dilemma. First, opening up your PC isnt as intimidating as you might think, because computers dont break unless you juggle with the parts.
Before you start chasing dust bunnies, you should have a can of compressed air cans (available in most computers and electronics stores), which are cans filled with nothing but clean ion-free air, This wonder product will solve most, if not all, your dust problems without having you touch any vital computer components. By the way, never, ever use a vacuum cleaner to clean your computer because it will produce static, the computers most dreaded enemy.
To use the compressed air, simple open up your computer, which may be held together by screws or tabs that, will give way when you depress them. Open some windows in your house because an old PC holds an incredible amount of dust, and then simple blow the air wherever you see dust. Close up your chassis, and you are ready to go. You can also use the compressed air for cleaning your keyboard and CRT monitor if your have one, but you dont need to (and shouldnt) open them up.
If you decide you dont want to use compressed air, you can try to clean fans and heatsinks (look for the big metal blocks made up of fairly thick sheets of aluminum or copper) with cotton swaps. However, cleaning with cotton swaps have its risks, which including you having to touch the computer parts. You must discharge yourself by touch a grounded metal object or your PC case before preceding, because you may have static on your body and like I said, it is a PCs nightmare. There are also anti-static straps that safeguard your PC from static damage, but investing in one for cleaning is unnecessary.
Finally, after your little dust bunny hunt, you can minimize your dust levels with a few replacement products. You probably have IDE cables that connect your CD drives and maybe your hard drives. They are the nearly 2 wide, flat cables usually beige in color, which are excellent dust bins, so you would want to replace them with round IDE cables (ask your local computer store) that cost about $15 each. For your hard drive, you can get a new Serial ATA drive, which uses the new slim ATA cables and transmits data at a much faster rate. You can also get some wire ties and tuck your cable neatly and away from the vents, which will increase airflow and discourage collection of dust.
I hope that will solve your problem without too much difficultly. If your need more help, conveniently, there is a Weekend Project right on CNET.com on how to clean your PC.
Submitted by: Meng M. of Flushing, NY
Being in the computer service business for over 20 years, I have the answer for you! This issue of dust was a regular part of the system maintenance that we would do for our clients. We used the DataVac when visiting our clients. This was a self contained vacuum with shoulder strap which had a three stage filter to prevent dust from being blown back into the room which would eventually find its way back to your computer. You may not have one of these so a home vacuum can suffice. We've seen extensive use of canned air which we warn people not to use. The only place canned air should be used is outside! Canned air can lodge dust particles in expansion slots and be the future cause of data errors or non working peripherals within your system.
When using a home vacuum be very careful with the hose as not to knock into anything. The tools you will use are the dust brush, crevice tool, a new or totally clean artist's brush (small size is fine), cleaning swabs (these are like Qtips on long wooden sticks), Isopropyl alcohol, and your vacuum.
We recommend being grounded using a grounding strap and having the computer turned OFF but plugged into a grounded outlet/surge protector. This step will prevent you from zapping any components. Note: Always utilize a good surge protector and wall grounded outlets only!
1) Be sure your computer is grounded
2) Ground yourself to the grounded computer with your grounding strap (the alligator clip can be clipped onto the back of the power supply).
3) Clean the dust from the outside of the case
4) Using the vacuum brush, suction any dust from the nooks and crannies of your drive bays and fan cover(s).
5) Carefully open your system case
6) Suction any dust from the case cover and anything you see exposed around the perimeter.
7) Suction any dust you see around system components using tiny back and forth motions. Include the fan from the inside. If the fan is caked it may be necessary to remove it from the case and clean it thoroughly. If the dust doesn't all come off you can use a cleaning swab(s) slightly dampened with the Isopropyl alcohol.
8) Once all the dust is removed from the easy to see areas you can take it further if you like by using the artist's brush next to the components. Loosen the dust with the artists brush while utilizing the vacuum and crevice tool to suck it out when loosened. Again, be careful not to knock into anything with the tool or the vacuum hose.
9) If you feel confident enough you can carefully remove your peripheral cards one by one from the corresponding slot on the motherboard. Use the cleaning sticks and alcohol to remove oxidation and dirt from the contacts along the edge of the card. Set it down momentarily to dry while you suction any dust from around the card slot and the slot itself using the method in step 8 above. Be sure there are no cotten fibers from the cleaning stick left on the contacts. Replace the card carefully and make sure it is fully inserted the full length using a firm but gentle pressure on the card into the slot.
10) Re-attach any cables you may have removed to the back of your computer and without putting the case back on. Reboot the computer. If everything is running okay, shut it down. If not check to be sure your cables are in their proper place and try again. Worst case scenario, one of your peripheral cards may need to be re-seated into its slot. Recheck the above. If everything is working, shut it down, replace the case..you're done!
If CSI holds auditions in your town, try out as coroner. You now have some experience finding those elusive dust bunnies!
Submitted by: Rick O.
Since this is your first time ever opening the system, we are going to make 2 assumptions. 1 its going to be very dirty inside and 2 youre going to want to do your best to preserve it. So with that, before you begin you should have several things ready. The tools you need to open the case if needed and remove components, compressed air for blowing out the hard to reach places, electronic cleaner (from Radio Shack or someplace similar) for areas you may never be able to reach (buttons, slots, inside of the power supply, etc..) and a vacuum for the bulk that is easily accessible. Find a well ventilated area to work like outside or in a garage - it will get dusty. Keep it unplugged. Use much caution in grounding yourself and keeping everything free of static electricity.
Open the case according to manufacturers instructions. Use your vacuum to remove any large bulky clumps of dust. Begin removing the large components like internal drives and expansion cards. Depending on the amount of dust you may want to remove the cpu fan and other chassis fans as well. If you do remove the fans, you have several options for them. Blow them out if not too dusty, replace them if real dusty or use the electronic cleaner to try and get some inside the fan where the bearings are. You can even put a drop of 3in1 oil in the fan. Do this by removing any stickers on the fan itself and look for a tiny pin hole. Put one drop in then rotate fan manually until it feels smooth. Use your compressed air can to blow off all components that you remove, including inside CD-Rom drives and such.
The power supply is a special case; you want to use the vacuum first to suck out as much dust as possible (BTW you dont have to remove the power supply from the case). Then you want to use compressed air to blow out as much as you can, then finally the electronic cleaner. Blow out all heat sinks and expansion slots with the compressed air. Finally you can use the electronic cleaner in the slots. Reassemble the computer with everything going into the same slots as they were removed from while leaving the case off, plug it into a power source and turn it on. Examine all fans to ensure they are spinning fast and are not making any unusual sounds. If any of your fans are not working, rattling or making funky noises, you should consider replacing all fans in your system. Wait for your drive lights to settle down (without a keyboard or mouse the machine should not boot to windows so as long as your drive lights are not blinking, it is safe to power off the system by pulling the power cord out.
This is extreme cleaning for a filthy system. If you get into the habit of cleaning every 3-6 months, soon you wont need to bother removing components. A simple compressed air can and visible inspection for dust and faulty fans will do.
Hope this helps, Ive preserved many a computer in this fashion, easily squeaking out a few more years of use out of old system that were otherwise considered to be on their last leg.
Trouble Shooting CD/DVD drives occasionally, if there was a lot of dust in the system, you could have trouble with optical drives because there is a possibility of loosening up dust that was inside the drive and it blocking the laser. Typically, ejecting the drive bay and blowing it out again (while powered on and together) will dislodge the dust and the drive will begin operating again.
Submitted by: Leonard R.
Dust can certainly cause problems but with a few modifications and regular cleans the problems will all be eradicated. Modern computers produce heat, in fact quite a lot of heat (300+ watts) and they produce this heat in small areas (the processor, graphics card, northbridge and power unit) therefore a method of dissipating this heat is required. The most common method is a lump of metal with hundreds of grooves running through it which is called a heatsink. The heatsink is attached to the hot parts usually by compressive spring mechanisms and there is thermal paste in between them to ensure good thermal conductivity. When clean, a heatsink is a cheap efficient way of removing heat, but as they get dirty they cant dissipate the heat as well and eventually get so dirty that they can insulate the heat in. I have seen many computers encrusted with dust and the owners have been having problems with their computer acting slower, noisier and freezing more often. This is because when your processor gets too hot as a last attempt to save it your computer slows down its speed and puts the fan into overdrive. If you hear the fan suddenly go into overdrive and have not heard it before it is a good indication that your computer is hot and dusty.
To remove the dust the easiest way is to use a vacuum cleaner. All you do is remove a couple of screws and the side plate should come straight off giving you access to all the internal components. Take your vacuum cleaner and suck away all the dust you can, however be careful to not actually touch any circuit boards. When it comes to cleaning the heatsinks, first clean those that do not have any fans on them and then clean the ones with fans. When you do clean the heatsinks with fans put your finger on them to make sure they dont spin as this can generate a current and damage the motherboard. If you do a quick pass over every 6 months then the dust shouldnt build up and you will have no problems.
As for prevention of dust well there are different methods. There are filters on the market but they reduce airflow so much that it is the same as if you had a dust filled machine. However the most effective method is also the cheapest, its free. The most effective way of reducing dust is to move your computer somewhere else, namely off the carpet. Carpet traps dust like anything and a bit of airflow around your computer kicks it all up for sucking in. Therefore you can almost eliminate dust by moving your computer off the floor and onto the table, in fact anywhere where dust doesnt settle well is good and this can be the most effective method by far. Finally good airflow helps. Replace those cheap fans with higher quality quieter fans with greater airflow; dust cant settle if there is a steady airflow. Also dust settles less on copper heatsinks than on aluminum, consider replacing your heatsinks.
So in conclusion, vacuum up, put your computer high up, and put a bit of money up.
Submitted by: Konrad N.