Posted on: February 16, 2009 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 1

Computers are one of those things that a lot of people cannot live without. They are also, at the same time, one of the things that we tend to least pay attention to when it comes to maintenance and cleaning. However, computers, like all other kinds of technology, also needs their share of hardware maintenance every now and then. People have a bad tendency to forget about it because they don’t see it and dust buildup isn’t readily apparent. However, this may affect your computer’s overall performance, cause overheating and can be a fire hazard. Convinced? Then get to cleaning!

What You’ll Need

Here are some things you may need before trying out any of the suggested methods for cleaning.

  • Cannister of compressed air, available in any hardware store. Small electric air compressors will also do.
  • Anti-static wrist strap
  • Dust mask
  • Anti-static cleaning cloth
  • Natural fiber brush
  • Cleaning fluid
  • Keyboard vacuum with a non-metallic nozzle
  • Small plastic containers

Getting Down and Dirty

  • Read the instruction manual. Your computer’s instruction manual usually includes instructions on how to clean your hardware properly.
  • Power off your system. You wouldn’t want to be accidentally zapped and do damage. Unplug the main power cord. Remove all the cables attached to your computer, USB drives and the like. Take note of where they were plugged in, although most cables are color coded.
  • Work in an appropriate space. Don’t work on a carpeted area else static electricity murders your computer’s electrical system. Work in a wide area where you can easily clean up afterwards. Have small plastic cases for you to place the screws in so they won’t get lost.
  • Carefully remove your computer’s CPU case. You’ll need the proper screwdriver for this part. Unscrew by hand and the panels will come off. Just don’t remove the part where the motherboard is attached to.
  • Put on your static wrist strap. This is to prevent static energy from harming your computer’s components. Don’t touch anything until you’ve put this on. Also, don’t forget to put your dust mask on.
  • Vacuum. Using a keyboard vacuum or any vacuum on a very mild setting and vacuum the fans, vents and the exterior of the case. Don’t use it on the motherboard or on your hard drive. Don’t stick it too close, but keep it at a distance where it can still do its job.
  • Air it. Hold the canister of compressed air some distance from the case. You don’t need to have strong bursts of air, just enough to blow the dust away and out of the case. Use this on the parts that you didn’t use the vacuum on, namely the hard drive and the motherboard. It’s best to use the air in short, quick bursts than long ones. Holding the air too long can cause condensation and damage to your CPU. You can also use this as a go-over to what your vacuum has already cleaned.If using compressed air is a little intense for your needs, you can employ a plastic medical plunger or syringe (without the needle, of course!) to do the trick.If you can, you can also take the CPU out of the case to reach other hard-to-reach corners.
  • Brush it. You can also use a natural fiber brush and gently brush away the dust from the fans, vents, hard drives and motherboard. You have to use natural fiber to keep it static free.
  • Test your cleaning fluid. No matter how sure you are that your cleaning solvent of choice is safe for computers, it’s always best to check it first by rubbing a cloth with the solvent on a tiny corner of whatever surface you’re cleaning. Wait for a while to see if it has any negative reaction.
  • Cleaning fluid. You can clean your vents and the exteriors of the case using an anti-static cloth with cleaning solvent. Don’t use this on the motherboard or hard drive, just the exterior. Don’t spray nor let the cleaning fluid drip directly on the circuits as it will cause damage.Check first with your computer hardware shop if the solvent of your choice is computer-friendly. If you’re still unsure, you can use water instead.
  • Leave it to the professionals. If your computer needs more heavy-duty cleaning, it’s time you consider going to the professional. Cleaning circuit boards and electronics require professional training and specialization, especially when it comes to delicate hardware. Sometimes, here are just some things that are better left for others to do.
  • Clean the panels. Since you’re already cleaning the interiors, you might as well clean the exterior of your computer as well. Same rules apply: Use a static wrist wrap, and don’t use a cleaning solvent directly on anything.
  • Put it all back. Put back the panels carefully, and re-connect your computer cables and plugs.
  • How often? Do your computer cleaning twice a year to keep it running at its best.

Keeping the Dust Away

  • Elevate your computer. Dust bunnies are less likely to settle in the night in your computer if you don’t allow them direct access. Put your computer on top of a desk or a counter, anywhere other than the floor.
  • Have a second fan installed. Installing a second fan to blow out old air instead of just circulating it around will prevent dust from settling in your computer’s nooks and crannies.
  • Cover your PCI slots. Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) are the little socket-like devices that allows your computer to connect with other kinds of hardware. Make sure that your computer’s PCI slots are covered once a PCI card has been removed. Leaving them open leaves a doorway for dust to get in your computer.
  • Good ventilation. Keep your computer in a well-ventilated area. A well-ventilated area means that air circulates around the room, making it less likely for dust to settle on the small corners of your computer.

Don’t Do These

Here are some things you shouldn’t do while cleaning your computer and keeping it clean.

  • Use a hairdryer. Hairdryers blast hot air and using it on your computer’s hardware can and will cause damage.
  • Blow on the dust. Blowing on the computer is generally a bad idea, because your breath has tiny droplets of saliva in it that can cause damage to your computer’s interior.
  • Lose your user’s manual. User’s manuals have the best method in cleaning the computer you’re using.
  • Smoke. Don’t smoke in the area where your computer is.

Computers may seem disposable, but buying a new one every two years can be straining on anyone’s pocket. The one thing that stands between you and your computer’s long life is having its chips overheat. Dust keeps heat in, making the system hotter. Cleaning your computer hardware regularly and making sure its cooling system is in top condition goes a long way in preserving your computer. And these days, you really need one to get around. Good luck!

Click here for more information about how to get rid of dust inside your computer

1 people reacted on this

  1. Um. First. I’m looking for tips because my PC randomly freezes. I cleaned out my vents and fans (they were horribly dusty), and hope it won’t freeze and need a manual shut-down. If it does, I’ll see if my 2008 ram cards are the problem.

    Oh, yeah, and thanks for this article I guess. First, by the way. 2 years later. lol

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