Cleaning the Inside of a Computer

When I read the phrase “tech tips” I usually don’t think of hardware related stuff like this, but this still seems like useful information none the less …

The insides of computers get dusty and grubby, it’s just a fact of life.  Running all those electrical components builds up tiny static charges which draw in dust that clings to the circuit boards and metal structures inside the case.

There’s no way around this either as your PC’s case has to have vents and air-holes.  If it didn’t the whole thing would overheat and, unless you had a very elaborate heat-pipe system in place, your computer would constantly crash.

The thing is though that with dust clogging up the innards of your PC it’ll crash anyway, or at the very least heat up too much and be automatically shut down by your motherboard’s BIOS to prevent the components melting.  As an example of this, just look at the processor heatsink in the photo below.  This was taken of one of my own computers just this morning.  Underneath the fan the processor heatsink it caked in thick layers of dust.  Under this circumstance the heatsink won’t be able to vent any heat properly and the fan will just be something that spins around uselessly.

You can’t escape dust from entering your PC either.  Some people say you should keep it on a desk or lifted up from the floor by a small stand.  These things, while they may delay the inevitable, can’t prevent the build up of dust.  Other people say don’t keep it on a carpet and instead try and put it on a laminate floor.  Laminate and wood floors are even worse though.  You may not get thick carpet fibres in the PC but at least a carpet can trap a lot of the dust in the room.  With a wooden floor there’s nowhere for it to go except for inside your computer.

So we reach a point, as we all do from time to time, when you need to clean the inside of your computer, as I will have to do today.  I thought I’d share with you then my tips on the best way to do this.

First of all you should make sure that the computer is switched off and unplugged from the mains electricity supply before you take the side off the case.  You should then make sure that wherever you clean the PC, which should be in a place perhaps near an open door as it’ll get messy, it should be well supported on a clean, flat surface.

The best start is with a good strong puff of breath.  You’d be surprised how much dust this will actually clear.  Some people at this point may be inclined to stick a vacuum cleaner in the case, but first I’d recommend a small, unused, paintbrush.  This is a great way to get rid of most of the dust from the components themselves.

This won’t get the dust up from the inside bottom the case though and won’t help with the processor heatsink where you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) remove the fan.  Here you’ll need that afore-mentioned vacuum cleaner.

You should always make sure, when using a vacuum cleaner inside a PC that you observe the following rules.

  1. Always use the vacuum on it’s lowest suction setting
  2. Have a small, soft brush attachment fitted to the end of the hose

With these two rules in place you’ll be able to gently brush over the components inside the case and remove the dust.  The processor heatsink can be more stubborn but for that I’d recommend the long thin nozzle attachment which you can point inside the fan to get at the dust directly.

You do need to be very careful when cleaning the inside of your PC as the components inside, especially those on the motherboard and plug-in cards are tiny and sometimes very fragile.  Always be very gentle and take your time.

You should normally do this with a PC a couple of times a year or so depending on where you keep the machine and how dusty it gets. Doing this will help prolong the life of your computer, help keep it operating at its maximum speed, help keep it quiet and probably most importantly have the side-effect of reducing your electricity consumption.

© Mike Halsey (MVP) for gHacks Technology News | Latest Tech News, Software And Tutorials, 2011. | Permalink |
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