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Keep Your Computer Clean

A long time client wrote me: "Admission of guilt. I was just going to start complaining about how my machine was slowing down when it kicked off automatically. When I tried to start it back up it stopped at the initial screen and said it had gone into an automatic shutdown for overheating and to service the machine."

"I took it apart and blew the thing out - air intake fan case screen had nearly been fully clogged with dust... Anyhoo, when I put it back together and started it up it worked just fine. "

Not only did the computer start working again, but it speeded up to like new speed. Computers will compensate for overheating by slowing down. I recommend cleaning out your computers either annually or twice a year depending on the amount of dust you have.

Dust not only clogs the intake and fans, but it coats the motherboard and video card and the dust holds heat in. Heat is the number one enemy of computers.


Approach #1 - Simple light cleaning

With the simple light cleaning, we can solve 80% of the problems with only 20% of the work and risk. Here we disconnect the computer and bring it out into the open. We touch the case to discharge any static electricity. Then open it up, and again touch the back of the case by the power supply. Then, using compressed air, and keeping the can level blow it out in short bursts.
  • Clean the vents so air can get in easily. In most cases, air flows from the outside front through the computer and out the back. There are also side vents, and often a vent over the CPU. Make sure these are clear.
  • If you spray fans, hold the fan so it doesn't spin. This can be done with a piece of wood or pencil or your finger. The important thing is not to let the fan spin too fast. If you hold it, then it won't spin at all.
  • Try and spray the power supply from the inside out, rather than spraying all the dust into the computer.
  • Spray the heatsinks as well.
  • Spray the electrical components and drives.
  • Close it up.


Approach #2 - A more thorough cleaning

In addition to the light approach above, I like to use a vacuum cleaner to actually suck out dirt. I have a special one for this purpose and use the plastic crevice tool. I use a brush on the intake holes and on the fan blades and heatsink blades. Video cards with fans need to be removed and blown clean with compressed air while holding the fan still. I also use a qtip like cleaner except instead of cotton on the end it is a foam material. Do not stick a metal vacuum cleaner nozzle into your computer. Do not stick any metal part in for cleaning as you could short components.

Here are links to a good tutorial and also a sequence of three short videos: In Depth Tutorial with pictures http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/cleaning-the-inside-of-your-pc/

In depth Videos:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO6Iz5I0-Cg

Part 2http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXG9vGfKYno

Part 3http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw23MAe-6oo


 Cleaning Rules:

  • Always unplug it first!
  • Be careful.
  • Don't touch any electronic parts with metal!!! If you use a vacuum to suck out the dust, then use a plastic head.
  • Static is a big danger. Don't electrocute your computer. The best way to avoid this is do not touch any part except for the case itself and don't move around much.
  • NO WATER, just vacuum and⁄or blow
  • Use pure compressed air. Hold the can level and use SHORT bursts of air.
  • If you use either a vacuum or compressed air on the fans, then don't get them spinning faster than they are meant to spin. Either blow very short bursts (1⁄2 second) or hold the fan in place.

If you want me to do the cleaning, I will, but the light cleaning can be done by any normal person. There is no need to do anything but open the case and blow or suck air without actually touching anything. Usually you do not need to remove anything.


Date: March 2008

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