March 2, 2012

How to clean out your desktop computer

I know a lot of people who go the entire lifespan of their desktop computer without cleaning it out. To me this is a horrible offense (almost as bad as my parents leaving their computers on all the time) and it can really gunk up the performance of your computer! You don’t have to be super computer savvy to do this, and you don’t have to have a souped up custom computer either. Every computer needs a little cleaning love, here is a quick and easy way to clean your computer (this is not a very in depth cleaning, just one to get the major gross stuff out)

Things You’ll Need:
Dust Remover
Small paint brushes (I used makeup brushes…but they act pretty much the same)
Screwdrivers (for opening your case)
A mini flashlight or a well lit room
A workspace off the ground
A plain pencil
Paper towels

Grounding your computer

You might have heard horror stories about how static electricity killed a computer. Avoiding this is actually very simple. I used to be very paranoid about my computer getting friend,and would use grounding bracelets (which are still a good idea) and would yell at people if they walked near my computer in socks. You don’t have to have anything to fancy to avoid frying your computer. Don’t open up the power supply, and don’t rub your face on a balloon and then put your fingers in your computer. Try to keep in contact with a metal part of the computer at all times. This ‘grounds’ you while you are working with internal components.

How to make cleaning easier in the future

There are a lot of factors that add to yucky dust bunnies in your computer. If you can avoid it, do not have your tower on the carpet (I unfortunately do not have a big enough desk to have it anywhere else). If you have pets, smoke, or live on a dirt road (don’t laugh, I used to) then you will have to clean your computer more often than someone that does not have those things. If you move your computer around a lot like I used to for LAN parties, you also want to be careful of different dirty environments your computer will be exposed to.

Step One

The first step is to unplug everything from your desktop. Next move it to your work area, being very careful not to drop your computer. Full towers can be very heavy, so make sure your work area is at a good height for lifting. Next it is time to remove the side. My computer does not have screws involved with opening one side, but most regular desktop computers do. If you have fans on the side of the computer, you might need to carefully detach them from the motherboard. I have fans but they are not hooked up on the side (mostly because I poke around in my computer so much) check the side of the computer for dust and clean it of, and set it to the side.

Step Two

Fan cleaning! One of the dustiest, yuckiest looking parts of your computer will be the fans. Your computer has several fans. There are typically case fans, a CPU fan, and a power supply fan. There are some times more fans than this but the same process applies for all fans. DO NOT spin the fan with the dust remover/air spray. This may seem like a good way to just expel all the dust, but it can really hurt your computer. Use the eraser of the pencil or a finger if the fan is big enough, and hold it still while you dust off the blades with the brush and then blow the rest of the dust away. If it is a fan like a case fan blow from the inside out, you don’t want to blow any dust on the upper fans into the computer.

Step Three

The same concept of brushing and then blowing works for the rest of the computer. Remember to always keep a hand on the metal exterior, and don’t wear a sweater. Try to keep your hair away from the computer if you tend to have static prone hair. You might find dust bunnies, loose screws, or other loose pieces. My computer has been modded a lot, and the slots for extra components have mostly all been pushed through, but apparently since the last time I opened my computer up a few came loose. These shouldn’t be just lying around in your computer, take them out and SAVE THEM because you never know when you’ll need ‘that one screw’ when you’re working on your computer.

Step Four

Once you feel like you have cleaned out all the dust bunnies and hair gremlins, you can wipe down the exterior of the case with a paper towel. There will probably be quite a mess of dust on your work area, try not to blow it back in to the case and replace the siding. Make sure that the screws are snug. Once your computer is plugged back in, make sure all the fans that are plugged in are working the way they are supposed to.


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  3. RAY16 - March 8, 2012 11:46 pm

    An alternative to compressed air that I used for years until it finally broke down (which reminds me, I need to get another one) is to use a foot bellows. Helps avoid deep vein thrombosis by getting you off your ass and using your legs for a bit, it lasts way longer between replacements and you don’t have to worry about moisture flying out of the nozzle at steep angles like you do with compressed air cans.

  4. Foxx - March 4, 2012 8:35 pm

    Dust remover is canned air (I should have specified that) Yeah, the dust bunnies can sometimes just skitter into a different place if you’re not careful. Some people say you can use a cordless vacuum cleaning but I’d rather not risk the static.

  5. IronJade - March 4, 2012 2:52 pm

    Should also do a “How to keep your video card from burning out”…. my mom could use both rofl….

  6. ScrotusKilmystr - March 2, 2012 8:57 pm

    great article!
    I would also add that if you have access to compressed air (can or compressor) blowing it out is a great way to loosen up the dust bunnies but beware the dust has to go some where! Also, I like to run the sweeper inside my case with a bristle attachment but don’t get to crazy just a light sweeping will do wonders!


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