Monthly PC Tips

Clean Your Computer

September 2011 – by Per Christensson

Just like all electronics, computers get dirty. The more you use them, the dirtier they get. While most computers can handle small amounts of dirt, built up grime and dust in your computer can eventually cause problems. Therefore, keeping your computer clean can help you avoid hardware malfunctions and keep your machine running smoothly for years to come.

If you've ever cleaned your house, you know how dust can quickly build up on flat surfaces. The same is true inside your computer. To make matters worse, the fan (or fans) that cool your machine blow dust particles into your computer. While most of this debris flows in and out of your computer without settling, small amounts do stay in your machine and build up over time. If you have had your computer for more than a year and have never cleaned it, you may be surprised how dirty the inside of your computer is.

If you use a desktop computer, it may be worthwhile to remove the case so you can get at the dust from the inside. Make sure you first turn off the power and unplug the power cable. Then remove the case, following the instructions in the manual that came with your computer. Use a compressed air duster to blow out all the dust you can find. Don't touch the components if possible, but it may help to use a damp rag to clean the dust off the inside of the case.

Important: Blasting compressed air inside your computer will cause dust to fly everywhere, so you should make sure not to lean too close to the computer. You may also want to have a vacuum handy to clean up the dust blown out of your computer. Before putting the duster away, you may also want to blow out your keyboard, which could probably use a good dusting as well.

If you use a laptop, it may be a bit more difficult to get inside your computer. Therefore, you can start by using a compressed air duster to blow out the keyboard. On some laptops, this may also clean out some components that reside underneath the keyboard. Next, blow out the ports on the side of the computer and the vents on the back, if they exist. It may help to use a flashlight to see where the dust has built up and make sure you clean out as much as you can.

Whether you are cleaning a desktop computer or laptop, a compressed air duster is the main tool for the job. Don't worry about blowing air too hard on the components, since they are solid state devices and are not affected by high air pressure. Just make sure to hold the canister upright, since the cold spray that comes out when the canister is upside down could potentially damage your computer. Also make sure to use a cotton or microfiber cloth to clean your monitor or laptop screen instead of the air duster. If your screen has a few smudges, adding a little water to the cloth should be enough to get rid of them.

No one likes to clean — at least no one I know. But spending a few minutes once or twice a year to clean your computer may add years to its life. I'd say that's worth it.

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