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picture of inside a computerNot everyone thinks about this, but your computer gets dirty just like the rest of your house. Like most machines will tell you, a clean computer is a happy computer. That doesn't mean you can just wipe off the outer case of your PC and clean the screen on your monitor. Those tasks are fine to do but if you want to keep a computer happy, you'll need to go a little deeper inside. The cooling capacity of your computer is crucial to its health and performance. Additionally, a build up of dust within the sensitive components of your computer can actually leech performance every millisecond your system is operating.

You may want to start the project by taking a few digital pictures of your system from all sides. You may be detaching numerous cables and it's nice to have a diagram when it comes to putting things back together.Taking pictures of your system is a good idea anyway, in case of unforeseen mishaps leading to insurance claims. Take your pictures, print them out and then prepare to clean that computer using the following outline.

Clean inside that computer(click thumbnails to view gallery)

PC gutsPC killed by dustBig fanMany wiresWall computer

The very first thing you should do is unplug your computer from its power source. Unplug both the PC and the monitor. You can get by without detaching anything else but the job is actually much easier if you remove all connecting cables. Move your PC to an open area on your desk or even to a larger table. You will want to be able to move the unit around some while you clean it.

Start by removing the outer case of the computer. The majority of units no longer have screws holding the case shroud in place and there should most likely be nothing extra attached to it. You may find that you'll need to set your computer on its side, or you may need to use a "lift and slide" motion to remove the outer casing but basically, your computer should open up quite easily.

Once you have the casing removed, start by cleaning the inside surfaces of it. You may want to take the casing away from your work area to clean it so dust from it doesn't fall onto your exposed computer components. Use a damp cloth to wipe the inside surfaces of the casing, no extra cleaners are needed. All you are doing is removing dust. You shouldn't encounter any actual residues while cleaning your machine. When the casing is cleaned to satisfaction, set it aside to dry.

To clean the sensitive components of your computer's interior, I recommend that you NEVER use compressed air, especially not the stuff that comes in spray cans. I'm sure that a hoard of geeks will flog me for that opinion but I have seen moisture come out of those cans one time too many, and moisture is one thing you absolutely do not want to spray into your computer guts.

I use my vacuum cleaner to clean computer interiors. Just a regular old vacuum cleaner with the slotted wand attachment. The vast majority of your computer interior is very durable and as long as you are careful not to strike anything hard, there should never be a problem. A soft bristled brush with two inch bristles will reach into the deeper crevices and help break loose any dust which the suction alone won't pull out.

Do a good job of cleaning the computer cooling fan. Remember that cooling is essential to the health and performance of your machine. Use the soft bristled brush to clean both sides of the fan blades. If your cooling fan is equipped with an air filter (rare in home computers), you will want to clean that also, possibly even by washing it in warm water. If you have a filter and you wash it, be certain it is completely dry before you replace it into the unit.

You may find that there are some stubborn deposits in various spots on you computers circuit boards. You may use a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol to gently scrub specific areas if needed. The key to this whole process is that you want no foreign material residing in between circuits which are supposed to be isolated from one another. You don't want dust or residue acting as a "jumper" between circuits.

Remember to clean all the cable plugins inside and out. Most plugs are sealed, so they shouldn't really have much dust in them. However, the USB connection on our machine tends to get very dusty inside because it is not sealed and air gets pulled into our computer through it.

Cleaning the optics on your exterior disc drives is important also but that goes beyond the scope of what we have examined here. When it comes to cleaning optical drives I recommend that you research the subject to find the products that work safely and effectively. You may wish to consult with our friends at Engadget to get some tips about those.

Once you are satisfied that your computer interior is as clean as you want it, it's a simple matter to put your unit back together. Be sure that your outer casing is dry if you washed it and be very careful not to pinch any wires as you reassemble the machine. The whole cleaning job, from start to finish, should take no more than an hour to complete. Be sure to reattach all cables in the positions that you removed them from.

The chances are that from your desk chair, you won't notice any big change in your computer after you clean the inside of it. You may notice that it's a little bit quieter and you may notice that it seems to be just a bit snappier. The truth of the matter is, your computer really does enjoy being clean inside and after you clean it, if you look at it from just the right angle, there's an outside chance that you just might catch it smiling at you.


  • william Schmidt

    Great whether it is Dust off or a vacuum cleaner the first step in a dust free computer tommorow is getting that case off and cleaning it. I just use windex and a little wd-40 with a towel because I saw a oil computer on the internet on Utube. Well ok just kidding! It was a joke. But after the stress of having to see the crap that got sucked into my computer I always make sure to kick back listening to classical music music since DIY dating on the internet never works. So like I Did it myself I actually did all this and then bought a computer dust cabinet from Thompson Industries to prevent having to go through this suffering again I have real serious allergies and the pollen and dust mites that I sucked out of there were causing me all sorts of trouble. The Valley Plastic TM computer cabinet by thompson has its own air filter that is disposable costs about $0.50 each and is made from a 3M product so it work great with its cooling fan. If you are serious about DIY and I think most of us are that is great its an American trait I think but who wants to go through this every 3 months? I sure don't and thanks to Thompson I don't have to. Thomspon is the worlds leading light in a dust free computer tommorow servicing thousands of DIY guys just like you and me who have enough basic common sense to recognize the problem with computer dust and then take action. Its got that bullet proff Kevlar in it to make it real lightweight and durable I got a buddy in the Army who is a mechanic and he bought one for the mechanic bays and so they are pretty popular with mechanics and tinkerers like you and me.

  • Phishie

    An air compressor is the way to go. Canned air sucks though. It's really expensive and doesn't last as long as you need it to. I used a portable 3 gallon air compressor when I clean computers. If you have a compressor with a pressure knob, set the pressure to 35-40psi and the air will come out with as much force as a can of compressed air and also allows you to conserve air versus using 125psi of pressure.

    And about using a vacuum cleaner.... I'd think compressed air was 10x safer than that. When I clean computers I touch as little as I can. Having those bristles scratching everything up seems too dangerous. Oh ya, compressed air is quieter too (as long as you don't have to turn on the compressor).

  • erin mcmullen

    thermal heat transfer of the cold side of a peltier junction TEC is used with a new filter from Dupont called HMT

  • Kate Hearst

    Hello I just wanted to adrress a few key points on the Valley Plastic Tm PC Computer Dust covers and How to keep a computer clean with the use of plastic Computer covers. They are commonly know as Nema 12 or Nema 4 enclosure systems available on the website

    The following text is the rebuttal from another forum in general which is related to the debate here on cleaning with: dust OFF cans,an air compressor, or a vaccuum cleaner or shop vac. Remember ther computer is sensitive electronic equipment but it was never manufactured with an air filter in the Chasis. So people with shops, CNC equipment, use our enclosures in two ways:
    1 with the dust filter and fan assembly positive air flow NEMA 12
    2. doing away with the fan and using a regulator hooked up to the air compressor line in the shop (solvent vapors, beef processing plants, and other Hazardous areas). this is a NEMA 4 enclosure

    In both scenarios there is the use of positive air flow that means the air pressure is greater in the box than at the exits so the air plenum only draws the filtered air through the intake ( fan or compressed air) These boxes do not overheat as no matter who makes them as long as the fan is a greater CFM than the fan in the computer as a general rule of thumb.

    So this way or solution is the affordable in the long run for everyone in my opinion. Gamers with clear plexiglas can sandblast their name on the Acrylic or Plexiglas Window(s) and light it up with one of those neon fans. Shop owners and computer owners get less depreciation and maintenance costs even Gamers are spending $60 and 1-3 hours ever few months on those cans, because most homes do not have a shop air compressor around the home.

    Anyone have any tips to make cleaning dust/dirt/whatever out of my case easier? Also, are there any particular parts?

    A> Cleaning your pc regularly is a great thing to do. I do it in a regular basis. If you don't pay attention to your computer, dust bunnies can come our of nowhere, and make your PC their home. It is funny; I started noticing weird things like system instability and random BSOD. I formatted the computer, and it still happened. When I finally open the computer, i saw that there was dust everywhere, which hindered the air flow of the computer, and caused the system to heat up.

    B>Second, many cans of air, and a vacuum with a hose attachment. Your going to want to remove the fans, and make sure the blades are cleaned from both sides

    c> basic maintenance of cleaning out your machine, especially if you spend anything higher than $60 on a case. Many cases offer filters, but others have the options to add filters. I personally stick with canned air.
    D> Valley Plastic™ computer covers prevent any dust, oil and other abrasive airborne contaminants found in the workplace from damaging computers and related equipment. It also prevents air from escaping, therefore overheating your components and destroying them that way. Hey, at least now you know WHY your computers are dying in the office. E> use an air compressor to clean my pc for a lot of dust can't be removed with compressed air. Yet, compressed air is just fine

    Referencing paragraph D, The Valley Plastic TM PC Computer Dust Cover ref D is a NEMA 12 rated Type industrial enclosure for shops not offices. The axial tube type fan is 75CFM but can be as high as 150CFM air flow. The fans inside your computer are about 25CFM. So there are no Dust Bunnies breeding there! The air filters are HEPA air filters same as in your household furnace and they have a frame to seal air tight inside a vacuum air fitting as shown, which seals with a clasp.

    The dust cited in paragraph A is prevented by changing the air filters once a week in some of the real dirty shops. It is done. All those unsafe cans of Dust OFF mentioned in paragraph B are not necessary because the dust particles are entrained or trapped along with the Dust mites and Bunnies ( in home uses) in the top air filter. Referencing paragraph A cleaning your PC is never a great thing to do! Also it is never safe without a grounding strap because of the static.

    Referencing paragraph B there is no need to waste all your time or money, cleaning your Computer with vacuum or can of compressed air. The axial fan direction in the outer dustproof cover is blowing into the box. So the Valley Plastic Tm Computer cover creates a vacuum allowing only the purified air to pass into the box . You are never going to want to remove the fans in your computer because there is no need. You just need to change the air filters when they are visably dirty.

    So our product is adaptable to every environment even the hazardous area where they need the air compressors to purge the enclosures because of corrosion issues. Priced at $365 it is worth it $100 for the add on for the Hazardous areas.

    Our firm is a new venture. However, If you want to shop around try Their boxes are also fabricated plastics and the catalog offers a diversity for industrial users and will give you the best match for all the possibilites that businesses may choose to solve the problem by Prevention.

    The question is what depends on what. If you realized the computer was pulling in dust from the fact that there is negative air flow from the fans in it you would try a filter first. Then because of the pressure drop a filter added by double sided tape will still lead to overheating. So then it would lead you to decide to try the dust Cabinets. Then performance and cost is very important. Dustshield boxes can cost as high as $800 or more we sell as low as $299

  • Jack Mccurdy

    This guy is an idiot, he is instructing people on how to ruin their computer. A vacuum creates static electricity. This will fry sensitive components, I read about victims of this risky technique all the time. The rapid air flow through the plastic hose is the culprit. The canned air technique is overly expensive but safe. If any of the liquid comes out it is not water, it is the propellant and it evaporates quickly and completely. Like another poster said just keep the can upright. An oil free air compressor is the way to go, just make sure you drain the tank regularly. you can even add an inline water catcher for a few extra bucks. Compressors also have a pressure regulator, so you can set the air pressure to a safe level. This guy needs to research his advice for at least five minutes, before giving advice that is so bad that you run a huge risk of bricking an expensive piece of equipment. I wonder how many people have fried their computer because they read this article.

  • Peter

    If you have access to an air compressor that's really the way to go. Any time I have to open a machine at work, I take it out back and use the air compressor to blow out all the dust. It works great and is fast too. Dust gets in places you wouldn't imagine. I know many people who say you should use air moving that fast, but I've been doing it with 50+ machines for years with no problems.

  • macleod

    You act like a vacuum cleaner is safe to clean your computer when you criticize the best way to clean a computer, compressed air. If you have an air compressor, even a small one, it will let you blow out that dust without harming the computer. You just have to be careful about how hard/fast the air is coming out. Like the first comment says that is the best way. Only the air is touching the components, not a vacuum that can lead to static electricity that will kill the computer just as quickly as that compressed air you are so terrified of using. If you use the canned compressed air you just have to make sure not to shake it or turn it upside down or sideways while spraying and no liquid will come out. I just thought it was a bad idea to say why you fear compressed air but not even mention the dangers (considerable ones) of cleaning your computer with a vacuum. It is a disservice to your readers to not mention that as this could lead to some messed up computers!

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