Keep it Clean

It has been said that everyone collects something, even if it’s just dust.

I’ve written extensively about keeping your computer clean digitally, today we’ll talk about physical cleaning. External cleaning is easy with a dustrag or damp cloth, as long as you don’t get any liquid inside. Put your cleaning solution of choice on the cloth, not sprayed directly on the case. It’s also important to clean the inside occasionally.

Computers collect dust very efficiently, thanks to the several fans that most of them have. They suck in cooling air, the air exits, but some of the dust doesn’t. The problem is, dust is an insulator, just like the fiberglass that keeps your house warm in winter. The dust will make your computer run hotter than it should, plus, it can also lead to early fan failure by gumming up the bearings.

Desktop computers are pretty easy to clean, although there are a few gotchas. Looking at the back of the computer, there will be a couple of screws or a latch of some sort on the opposite side from the majority of the ports. Removing the screws or unlatching the latch will allow you to slide off the (Usually left, as seen from the front) side panel to gain access to the inside. Do not remove any screws except along the back edge, otherwise your fans or power supply might fall out! Some other dos and don’ts when cleaning:

  • Do clean the interior once or twice a year. More often isn’t necessary.
  • Do be sure the machine is unplugged and not just turned off before cleaning.
  • Do use only “canned air” to blow dust out of the machine.
  • Do hold onto fan blades (with your finger or a pen, etc.) when blowing fans out to keep from over-spinning the fan. This can damage the fan motor.
  • Do be sure, when replacing the computer in it’s usual spot, that you are not blocking air vents on the side, rear, or top. Leave at least 3-4 inches of clearance.
  • Do Not use a vacuum cleaner – It can create lots of static electricity, which kills microchips.
  • Do Not use air from an air compressor – It’s not clean air. It can have moisture or oil in it.
  • Do Not use any sort of liquid cleaner whatsoever inside the case!
  • Do Not perform any further disassembly beyond removing the side panel. It’s not necessary and can cause damage.
  • Do Not, if you can help it, smoke around your computer. The crud from smoke can gum it up beyond help.

Laptops are considerably harder to clean. Cleaning should probably limited to blowing some canned air into the vents periodically. Fortunately, if you avoid using them on the floor or bedspread, they will stay cleaner longer.

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