This IT Service Tip discusses how to properly clean the inside of your PC.
The idea of opening up your computer box and cleaning your PC is not something many people want to confront. But it does need to be done, especially if your computer is in a very dusty environment. Computers located in garages, auto repair facilities and wood-working shops are an example.
Here is an example of how dirty a PC can get on the inside:
Another reason to clean the inside of the PC is the fans and heat-sinks which keep the computer components cool can get covered with dust. This accumulation of dust can cause the computer to overheat and prevent the fans from rotating causing them to burn out. As a result the computer may freeze or simply shutdown as a protective measure.
To clean the inside of your PC you’ll either need a vacuum with a small nozzle attachment or a can of compressed air. I also like to use a small brush to help dislodge caked on dust residue. For components with considerable dirt some Isopropyl alcohol, a lint free brush and ear swabs will work fine.
I usually prefer compress air over a vacuum. If you do use compressed air then you will probably want to unplug your computer and bring it outside as you will create considerable dust when blowing air on the components. When using compressed air try to always keep the can upright while spraying because tilting the can too far will cause moisture to spray out of the can.
Prior to cleaning your computer you should make a note of where the cables are plugged into the computer then unplug all cables from the computer box. I generally turn the computer ON after this point to allow residual charge in the power supply capacitors to drain. It usually takes about 30 seconds to drain the capacitors. Then I switch the computer OFF.
I also like to use a grounding strap so I don’t damage components with electrical static from my body. If you don’t have this available then at the very least discharge static electricity from yourself frequently by touching a grounded spot such as a metal table or window frame.
To clean the inside of your PC you’ll need to remove the access panel. When looking straight at the front of your PC the panel on the left is the one you’ll want to remove. This is usually done by removing the screws attaching the panel. These screws are usually located on the back of the computer. Some computers don’t have screws but rather a latch that need to be pushed to unlock the panel. And still other computers have more than one latch which needs to be pressed, one on the top of the case and another on the bottom – then the computer opens up almost like a suitcase.
Once this is done you can take your vacuum or can of air and start cleaning the components and fans. When cleaning components make certain you don’t dislodge cables or push cables or other items into the fan blades. It’s also a good idea to use an ear swab, small wooden or plastic stick to hold fan blades in place while cleaning the blades. Make certain not to push on the fan blades as this could cause the fan spindle to bend resulting in a noisy or non-working fan.
The reason I prefer compressed air over a vacuum is you can use the attached straw to reach very difficult places and blast the area with a high power stream of air. You can also clean inside the power supply rather well without having to take the power supply apart.
Make certain you clean thoroughly the fan and heat-sink on the CPU. On some computers the CPU is covered with an air duct that will need to be opened or removed prior to cleaning it. If this is the case make certain you clean the inside of this air duct as well.
Other components such as the video card will also have a fan and heat sink that needs to be cleaned. In some cases it may be impossible to reach some spots so the component will need to be removed before it can be cleaned. Again, make certain you’re discharged of static electricity prior to handling components.
Sometimes the air vents on the front of the computer can become quite clogged. Check these and hit them with some air or the vacuum. The vents aren’t always easy to see. You might have to lift up the front of the computer to see the air-entry way on the bottom-front of the computer.
Clean as much dust off the fans as you can. If the computer hasn’t been cleaned in a while then some of the dust that accumulates will attach to residue on the fan blades making them difficult to clean. In this case I usually use a small paint brush or cosmetic brush to clean the fans then blow off the excess dust.
If you find you need to use a cloth and cleaning solution to clean some areas then use isopropyl alcohol and a lint free cloth. Put the cleaning solution on the cloth NOT on the component itself and don’t douse the cloth only dampen it. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly and a lint free cloth is less likely to leave lint while cleaning. Again make certain not do dislodge cables or bend fan blades too much while cleaning. I generally avoid using cotton swabs for cleaning as they can snag and leave bits of cotton stuck to components.
Take a look at the ports on the back of the computer. Since air tends to escape through those ports they can accumulate dust build-up over time. Clean them with the compressed air pointed at an angle. This allows the debris to escape as opposed to pushing the debris deeper into the ports.
Once you’re certain you’ve cleaned all the dust you can find, re-install any components you’ve removed, re-seat any cables that have become dislodged and refit the CPU air-duct (if there is one). Plug the computer in (prior to closing the case) and turn it on. Make certain all the fans are clear of obstructions like wires and cables. In some cases while cleaning the computer the cables can get dislodged or even removed accidentally. Make certain the cables and wires are seated properly.
If everything checks out then power down the computer and close the case. Turn the computer on again and make certain it’s working properly.
If everything is working properly then you should be good for a few months (depending on the environment) before you need to do this process again.
Visit our IT Service page.
Contact Us for more information or to set an appointment.