Spring cleaning – inside your desktop computer

How to safely clean the interior of your computer tower:

dirty pcIf you use a tower or desktop computer for your home or office, chances are you have never opened it up to clean out the interior. Dust, hair, carpet fibers and other contaminants can clog cooling fan housings and air vents causing excess heat to build up which can lead to computer damage.

Chances are no one has ever opened your computer tower solely for the purpose of cleaning it. But remember, like any other machine, it requires regular cleaning and general maintenance in order to protect you investment. An interior cleaning should be done at least once a year in offices and about every 6 months in homes, particularly with pets and carpeted floors. Cigarette smoke and ash can also add to a computer’s interior contaminants.

General safety tips.

Before you begin any interior maintenance on a computer, be certain the unit is turned off and disconnected from electric power before removing the side panel for cleaning. The best advice is to disconnect the power cable from the back of the PC as well as from the wall outlet, just to be certain.

Remove all other connected devices as well – USB accessories, monitor cables, mouse and keyboard connections. This will make the unit easier to handle.

Move the unit to a dry, flat, clear surface with plenty of light. Avoid doing this kind of work on carpet or plastic surfaces. Wood or stone surfaces are best, such as a dining table or countertop.

Also, once the power cord has been removed and before opening the case, press and hold the power button on the front of the tower for approximately 10 seconds. This will discharge any remaining power from the board to prevent accidental damage.

Cleaning the PC

canFirst, put down the compressed air can and step away from the computer! You read that right, never, ever use a compressed air can to clean your computer. These products are fine for cleaning a keyboard or mouse, but not for the computer itself and here’s why.

When you blast air into the computer case dust and debris will scatter throughout, passing across metal and plastic parts. Just as you pick up a static charge by shuffling your feet on a carpeted floor, these particles of dirt will become charged as they pass across the chassis of the computer. The charged particles then come to rest on electronic components and tiny circuit paths, often of opposite polarity. Over time, and sometimes instantly, the debris can actually cause a short in the circuit and damage your computer beyond repair.

To clean the interior of your computer case, the best option is to remove the side panel and use an ordinary household vacuum cleaner and hose. The ideal device is a low-powered car vacuum with a hose on it.IMG_3324

Instructions on removing the side panel from your computer are generally included with your system’s original instructions. Generally only one side of the tower will be easily removable. You can identify which by locating the connectors for video, audio and USB on the back of the computer. The removable panel will be the one opposite this bank of input adapters.

To remove the panel, most manufacturers include either a quick-disconnect slide or button on the top, rear of the tower, or you may need to remove a screw or two before the panel will slide free. Take your time in locating everything and be careful to keep track of any screws you remove.

Once the case is open, place the unit on its side, motherboard side down, and carefully vacuum all of the dust bunnies and other contaminants away from the computer’s vents and air chambers. Be sure to open cooling ducts and vacuum out any fans and heat sinks (the louvered aluminum radiators you see projecting up from the board).

A word of caution however – never use a shop-vac or other high-powered vacuum device inside the PC. High powered devices can actually lift solder and other tiny components right off the circuit boards doing irreparable damage to the unit. Additionally, be careful not to disconnect any cabling and make sure all cooling channels (the plastic air ducts) are replaced after cleaning.

When all dust and debris has been vacuumed out, reassemble the computer and reconnect it to its accessories and finally the power. Power it on and you should be good to go.

For more information on computer cleaning, contact us at GLD Enterprises Communications by calling 937-902-4857 or go online to gldenterprises.net.