If you have a desktop computer, chances are you take care to keep liquids from spilling on it, or try to avoid using it to prop up heavy furniture. While those are important things to remember, many of us forget to protect our towers where it counts the most – on the inside. This post is about something which can seem daunting but is actually quite simple: taking the tower apart and cleaning it.
You might be thinking, hey isn’t that someone else’s job? If you have a maintenance contract on your machine, then by all means please take it in to your service center and have them do it. If you don’t have anyone to take care of your tower for you, then you will have to do it. A computer is a collection of parts, stored within a box, which is kept cool by an internal fan. That same fan, which blows air onto the processor, also pulls in dust. Dust settles on your components and acts as an insulation, both gumming up your works and keeping the parts from being able to cool down. In short, dust will doom your computer to an early death.
I built my own tower about nine months ago, and when opened it up last week, this is what I found:
Clearly, the dust bunnies have invaded. How long has it been since you last opened your tower? If that answer is longer than six months, it’s time.
I’ve simplified these instructions as much as possible. Sure, there are steps you can take (and products you can buy) to clean your parts even further, but these basic steps will help quite a bit without making the process too complicated or expensive. Before you start! Check your owner’s manual. If the manufacturer has provided specific instructions, follow them. If your manual doesn’t tell you what to do next, or if you no longer have your manual, move on to step 2.
- Step 2: Gather your supplies before you get started. I used a can of compressed air and a handful of Q-tips, plus a hand-vac for cleaning up after. You might also want a dust mask (if you’re allergic to dust or not working in a well-ventilated area).
- Step 3: Turn your computer off. Disconnect your peripherals – your monitor, printer, Ethernet cable, and so on – and your computer’s power cable, so that the machine is completely free of external attachments.
- Step 4: Move the tower somewhere comfortable. I used my kitchen table, since the room is large, there’s an overhead light, and easy access to an outlet.
- Step 5: Remove the computer cover.
- Step 6: If you have grounding equipment, like a wristband which connects you to the chassis of the machine, use it. Otherwise, ground yourself by touching a metal part of the tower. You don’t want to shock the computer (think static electricity) or yourself.
- Step 7: Spray compressed air on the fan blades, power supply chassis, drive chassis and circuit boards. Anywhere you see a clump of dust, spray it. Using your fingers, pull out any large clumps of dust, and sweep out whatever falls to the bottom.
- Repeat Step 7 as often as necessary.
- Step 8: Using your Q-tips, carefully brush off dust that the canned air didn’t shake loose.
- If you have components, such as a video card (I did) which are difficult to get to because of the angle that they’re attached the board, you can remove it to clean it. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, don’t! Better a little dust than a snapped board.
- Step 9: Using the canned air again, be sure to get the edges of the tower, and even the outside of the case. Dust sitting in nooks and crevices can get pulled into the machine by the fan once you turn it back on, and we don’t want to give the dust bunnies any ideas, do we?
- Step 10: When you feel the computer is as clean as it can be, reconnect any cards or cables you took out in the cleaning process, replace the cover, and reconnect the peripherals.
Finished? Great! You have now successfully tackled a computer maintenance project that will help your machine to live a longer and more productive life.
Just remember to check again in a few months. Those dust bunnies are persistent …