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May 23, 2008

How to Clean the Inside of a Desktop Computer

Is your computer making noises or humming? Is dust collecting visibly on the external fan surface? Have you gone more than two months without cleaning the inside properly? Dust inside your computer can lead to component failure, fan failure, and slow performance. Keep your machine running smoothly and safely by taking the time to dust the interior. Don't wait until a fan dies and your machine overheats!


1. Retrieve necessary tools: You will need to have a can of compressed air or a small air compressor, plus a screwdriver if you must remove screws to open your machine. A small vacuum might come in handy for cleaning up the mess you make around the computer, but should never be used inside it. Wearing a dust mask is optional, but can save you a bit of sneezing if your machine is over due for cleaning.

2. Shut down your machine: Turn off your computer and any surge protectors or alternate power sources it may be connected to. Most computers also have a "master power switch" on the back. Although the majority of users simply leave this switch on, flip it to the off position for extra safety.

3. Disconnect all peripherals: After your machine is shut down, unplug all cables connecting it to external components and power sources. DO NOT LEAVE ANY CABLES CONNECTED TO YOUR COMPUTER WHILE YOU CLEAN IT, ESPECIALLY POWER AND MONITOR CORDS.

4. Move to a suitable work area: If you have not cleaned your computer in a while (or ever), it would be a good idea to move to a suitable workspace. While you can clean your computer where it sits, this usually isn't ideal. Despite what you might assume, the job can be very messy and you'll want to work somewhere where you can adequately ventilate dust.

5. Open your machine: Once you have a suitable workplace, open your computer. This will vary greatly depending on your machine. If you have a users manual, consulting it would be a good idea. Most machines have screws holding a side panel down. After removing these, you can then slip the side off your machine.

6. Prepare to clean: After opening the computer, get your can of compressed air, or ready your air compressor. Additionally, you might want to wear a dusk mask. Never touch the inside of your computer unless it is absolutely necessary. You may discharge a static shock to vital internal components and damage them. If you must touch the inside of your machine, discharge any static by tapping your finger to the computers metal case before unplugging it.

7. Begin dusting: Use your compressed air to blow out the inside of the your machine. It is usually a good idea to start on the upper region of the computer, then work your way down. In this manner you can sweep out all the dust that settles on lower components in one run. Do not worry if you cause the blades of internal fans to spin. This is expected and it is important to keep these components clean. Be thorough, but do not press on cords or components. Also keep your air source a moderate distance from the component you're working on. NOTE: Always hold your can of compressed air upright. If inverted, it can be let out as a liquid which can cause severe damage to your computer.

8. Clean up your work space: The initial run will churn up a lot of particulates. Depending on your workspace, you may need to get a small vacuum and clean the area around the computer. Do not use a vacuum on the inside of the computer. You might want to consider leaving your machine open while you do this. Airborne dust inside the computer will begin to settle and you can make your effort exceptionally productive if you make a second run.

9. Close your machine: After you've finished dusting, replace the side of your machine and any screws. Once the machine is tightly shut, return it to its usual spot and reattach the power cord and other cables. (You might consider cleaning this entire area to remove excess materials that can contribute to dust intake.) If you flipped the master power switch on the back of your machine off, be sure to turn it on again or your machine will not start.


* Wearing a dust mask can save your a good deal of irritation and sneezing, especially if you have breathing or lung conditions.
* Cleaning your machine outside can save you a lot of clean-up, IF you can ensure a stable and clean spot. An open garage and clean work table would be an excellent cleaning environment. However, be sure that there are no extraneous materials (wood chips or twigs) that can enter your machine. Particles such as this can cause major damage.


* Never use a feather duster, Swiffer-type product, or vacuum inside your computer. Such tools can generate static charges which have the ability to fry internal components.
* Blowing on the inside of your computer is not recommended. This does very little and you run the risk of accidentally spitting on internal components. You might also churn dust up into your face.
* Never touch internal components. It is not necessary to touch anything inside your computer while cleaning it. The less contact you make the better.
* Although the process above is very safe, dusting can still lead to anomalous errors. While rare, dusting can sometimes cause just the wrong particle to settle in just the wrong place. However, the benefits of cleaning out your computer far outweigh the risks. In addition, NOT cleaning your computer can eventually lead to overheating and component failure.
* Always hold the can of compressed air upright. An inverted can of compressed air can let out bursts of liquid which can damage electronic components.

Things You'll Need

* Canister of compressed air or small air compressor.
* Suitable workspace with adequate ventilation for dust.
* Screw driver and any other tools necessary to open your computer. This will vary according to the machine you have. Some computers do not need to be unscrewed to open.

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