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How To Thoroughly Clean Your Dirty Desktop Computer

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Just like your car, your house, and even yourself, your computer needs a good cleaning every once and a while to prevent overheating and dust build up. It’s easy to do and it only takes about 20 minutes, so today we’re going to cover how to effectively clean the inside of your desktop computer.

Editor’s Note: This article shows how to completely clean everything inside of the computer. You don’t necessarily have to remove the RAM and video card if you don’t want to. We do recommend cleaning your computer on a regular basis.

How often should I clean my computer?

Depending on your environment, you may need to clean your computer more often (or less often) than others. Computer placement is important to consider; keeping your computer on the floor allows for dust, hair, skin cells, and carpet particles to get inside easier. But if you keep your computer above the floor, like on your desk, particles are less prone to gaining access inside your computer.

If you smoke near your computer, cigarette ashes and chemicals can build up inside your computer’s fans and other places. Ridding your computer of these things every 6 months can increase your computer’s performance.

If you’re a pet owner, there is no denying the presence of shedded fur from your pet  that gets on your floor. The inside of your computer is just as susceptible to fur clogging fans and other areas of your computer.

It’s also not uncommon to eat or drink next to your computer, but be aware that you should clean your computer and its peripherals more often if you do.

With all this being said, if you found yourself guilty of anything mentioned above, we recommend cleaning your computer every 3 to 6 months. As always, if your computer starts getting hotter than usual, open it up to check for any dust or hair buildup and then clean it.

Preparation

Do not open your computer while it is running or with any cables attached to it. It is always safer to remove all peripherals such as USB cables, audio cables, video cables, and especially the power cable.

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Do not attempt to clean your computer with electricity flowing through its circuits. Be sure that the power cable is unplugged.

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Now move your computer to a well-ventilated area such as your backyard or garage. This is especially important to consider if your computer has built up a lot of dust that will blowing around. Breathing all that old, accumulated dust just can’t be good for you.

If you’re limited on space just be sure to keep a vacuum (not for cleaning the inside of the computer; more on that soon) nearby for a quick clean up afterwards. And if you’re worried about inhaling dust, you can always stop at your local hardware stop to pick up a cheap dust mask for less than $5.

Tools

Before you begin opening your computer’s case, you’ll need to gather your cleaning tools. We highly recommend not using a vacuum. This can create a static buildup and could potentially fry important electrical components on your motherboard, video card, and other places. It’s just a bad idea, so spare yourself the agony and pick up a compressed air can.

There are a few tools you will need to clean your computer:

  • Hardware set that includes screw drivers
  • Can of compressed air
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Zip ties (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Cotton swabs (optional)
  • Thermal paste (optional)
  • Pencil or pen (optional)

One of our readers, Carlos, suggests using a small paint brush to sweep away dust where compressed air just can’t reach. Some of these tools are optional, so don’t stress out if you don’t have them. We only had a few ourselves, and still managed to do a great job.

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Now that you’re in a well-ventilated area with all your tools gathered, we can start the preparation process by opening up your computer’s case. All computer cases are different. If you’ve never opened yours before and are having trouble opening it, consult your computer’s manual or try searching online for guides specifically about your opening your model.

The case we’re using is a Sigma Luna WB, and, just like most cases, all it takes is unscrewing two screws, sliding the side-panel outward, and our computer was opened.

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Once inside your computer, you may have to disconnect any cables that connect to your side panel.

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To make the cleaning process easier, it’s best to take out any components that can be easily removed. Most desktop computers allow you to remove RAM sticks, video cards, and hard drives.

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We recommend not removing your CPU because thermal paste that is used to transfer heat from the top of the processor to the fan needs to be replaced every time the fan is removed. If you are equipped with thermal paste and want to remove your CPU, just be sure to clean off the old thermal paste on your CPU with rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth. Then apply a fresh coat of thermal paste once you’re done cleaning your computer.

Most people shouldn’t need to remove their CPU and CPU fan. It just doesn’t make sense considering barely any dust makes its way into the CPU socket. Then again, if you’re cleaning your computer, why not go all the way? The choice is yours.

Cleaning

To start the cleaning process, begin with the peripherals we just removed. Grab your can of compressed air and hold the trigger to release a burst of air onto an area with a lot of dust buildup. We’re cleaning an old video card that never got a lot of attention, so there was some dust clumps that were accumulating around the DVI ports. If you’re cleaning a video card with a fan, you can use a pen or pencil to place in between the blades to prevent it from spinning while blowing the compressed air.

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Next, we move inside the computer case. Let’s start with removing any dust particles that may have found their way inside the RAM slots. Take your compressed air can, aim it at a RAM slot, hold the trigger, and move it down the entire slot. Repeat this for every slot in your computer case.

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Now we’ll move onto the bigger equipment inside such as your CPU fan and power supply unit. Again, it’s recommended to use a pen or pencil when cleaning fans to prevent the blades from spinning. Use your compressed air can to blow out any loose dust particles.

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You can also use a cotton swab to clean the fan by rubbing the swab against the blades to stick the dust particles. It’s a little tedious, but it makes for a nice, clean fan in the end.

The bottom of your case will undoubtedly have dust buildup. You can begin with blowing the dust away with your compressed air. If there is still dust stuck to the case, you can use a damp cloth to wipe it. Make sure your cloth is not wet, but damp. Repeat this step for all the nooks of your case until there is minimal or no amounts of dust left.

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Finally, don’t forget to also clean out any other fans, ports, or enclosures as described above.

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Decluttering Cables (Optional)

This next step is optional and is recommended for custom built computers. Unlike professionally manufactured computers, custom built computers don’t arrive with nicely tucked away cabling that fits just right. So the best way to make your case more secure and organized is to use zip ties. You also don’t want your CPU fan or any other fans scraping away at cables if they’re not neatly tucked away.

To start you’ll need a pack of zip ties. It doesn’t matter what size they are as long as they can fit around all your cables. We’ll be using 4-inch zip ties.

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Begin by disconnecting all cables that will need to be tied. Be sure to write down how they were connected for reference later.

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When you have a cable or set of cables grouped to your liking, wrap a zip tie around it and run the thin end through the fastener. Then tighten the zip tie by pulling the thin end until you can no longer tighten it. Grab your scissors and cut the excess.

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Repeat this step for as many cables as possible. You can then tuck them away to reduce their visibility and give your computer’s guts a cleaner look.

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The Aftermath

Plug your cables back into their correct sockets. Refer to your document from earlier if you don’t remember where each cable goes. Also remember to put back any removed peripherals, such as a video card or sticks of RAM, back into their appropriate sockets.

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Your computer, inside and out, should be looking as good as new. We’ve rid our computer of dust, hair, skin particles, and much more. Your cables should be neatly managed and out of the way of fans and other sensitive equipment. If you were having heating issues before, you’ll begin to notice that it’s thing of the past. And don’t forget to clean your computer every 3 to 6 months to keep that performance up!

On the south side of Chicago born and raised. On the computer is where I spent most of my days. Nerding out, haxing, maxing my CPU. And all writing some How-To's is now what I do.

  • Published 09/8/11

Comments (65)

  1. Diane

    I was wondering if could clean my laptop the same way?

  2. Groff

    When I installed a new PSU, I cut and capped all un-needed wires to reduce clutter. A bit of an extreme measure, but took a LOT of wire out of my case.

  3. GuiltySpark

    Strange thing is in the CompTIA world they don’t recommend cleaning the inside of your case with a can of compressed air as it just blows around the case, so you have to buy a special none ESD vac, they also recommend against using CC air on your fan, instead use a soft bristle brush.

    Personally I don’t think it matters, I even know a guy who uses a Henry vac cleaner with a bendy straw sticking out of the thin tube wrapped in tape to hold it in place, seems to do the job.

    But nice and informative Good job Patrick. :)

  4. herval

    thanks for the great tip!

  5. ColdEmbrace

    Great your computers clean. Please remember to put everything back. -cough- like your graphics card

  6. bython

    And now a inside clean guide for the iMac please! (sarcastic)

    A pro tip: do not blow to close with compressed air especially on fragile things like a ventilator.

  7. GeorgiaCowboy

    After disconnecting ALL the cables from from the computer, especially the power cable, PRESS the POWER BUTTON AGAIN for a couple of seconds to discharge remaining current.
    Ground yourself to the chassis and/or use an antistatic wristband.

  8. Pat D

    Don’t forget to release any electricity still held – I was taught that after removing the power plug to hold the on button to discharge it. Also be careful not to touch or play with the capacitors and to check to be sure they are not leaking – Have rounded tops or a brown or yellowish ooze – this means you may need a new mother board or have a knowlegable tech replace them.
    Love your web page
    P

  9. Laura

    Is there any chance of you providing a clean up method of the stuff in the computer that slows its memory down?

  10. John Tod

    You mention not removing the CPU cooling fan because it is unnecessary. I was having overheating problems with my laptop and our local computer shop told me basic tips on opening up most laptops and cleaning the insides but also to remove the CPU cooling fan module, clean and replace the paste on top of the CPU because it dries up over time and reduces its efficiency. He was right. The paste was dried so I cleaned and replaced it. The laptop has been running nice and cool ever since. I think replacing this paste should be part of any occasional clean up. The heat conductive paste should be available at any good computer retailer/repair shop.

  11. Rob

    I’ve always read that SATA hard drive cables should NEVER be bent in sharp angles and “bundled” tightly. The blue cables in the pictures above show what I mean…..

  12. Lisa

    Mkay. I need to know about this “paste”. And about laptop maintenance. I’m a cheap momma and have been using my crap laptop for four years. It runs so flippin’ hot I get marks on my legs ( yes wearing shorts and working with laptop on legs). I’ve transferred all my heavy hitting apps to an external hard drive thinking that would cool my legs off. Nah. Fan runs hard.

    So – can I get a basic 1, 2 , 3 tutorial post right here from some kind soul who takes pity on a “hot” momma with burned thighs?

    Crap laptop is a Dell Inspiron Vista OS (yes, I know – plz don’t tell me how crappy Vista is, I already know.

    Need to know how to open the case. Clean whatever I need to clean. And paste whatever I need to paste.
    Thanks to the kind soul who replies.

  13. James

    I’m not sure i agree with this at all! I would recommend against opening up computers and pulling out components to the majority of users as more than likely when they turn it back on they will have some kind of problem. As a tech respobsible for around 200 computers it would be ridiculous for me to start opening up and cleaning inside computers every 3-6 months as suggested. Many computers will function fine with some dust inside and suffer no problems at all – i would be inclined to think that any problems which occur are more likely to be caused by other issues than the dust.

  14. Ken Shearer

    Please, Do Not use 3M Dust Remover – they add what they refer to as a bittering agent. This noxious chemical is the most nasty thing I have ever came across. Tt takes days to wear off and when you go to reclean the computer months later it leaches in to the dust, you breathe it into your lungs and really get sick.

  15. Parsnip

    If you’re disconnecting cables whose destinations are not obvious, try to label both connectors first: A-A, B-B… (or with words if there’s room).

  16. johnq

    Yeah, James, I agree. You also run the risk of dust and dirt falling into crevices once you pull the stuff out, and sometimes it doesn’t come out with compressed air. If you want to keep your stuff looking pretty that’s one thing, but if fans are not blocked I usually leave this stuff alone. I clean my case when I upgrade my mobo every 2 years or so.

  17. Patrick Bisch

    @James, I would also agree with most of what you said. This article is intended for people who have opened their computer before. And let’s face it, most people who are reading How-To Geek have done this at least once. It’s recommended that people who smoke near their computer clean their it more frequently (every 3 months) than those who do not (every 6 months). I agree that some people, depending on their environment, could even get away with cleaning their computer every year. It’s all relative to the user’s situation. You are right though; a little bit of dust is not something to worry about and users should eliminate all other symptoms before opening their computer. Thanks for the comment!

  18. Patrick Bisch

    @Rob, I’m not sure about that. I’ve bought servers before that come manufactured with bent SATA cables.

  19. Patrick Bisch

    @Lisa, I wouldn’t recommend opening your laptop. Some (not all) laptop motherboards leave the CPU out in the open – meaning that there is nothing transferring heat above it. In this situation the thermal paste would almost be pointless. Thermal paste is meant to “seal” the tiny gaps between a CPU and a fan (or heatsink) and allow for heat to transfer a lot easier.

    However, a How to Apply Thermal Paste article may be in the works soon ;) but it may be only for desktops. Check out our article on how to diagnose and fix an overheating laptop: http://www.howtogeek.com/67660/how-to-diagnose-and-fix-an-overheating-laptop/

  20. Jeff Burns

    Yes, James is correct. The informal rule of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to this as well. Start moving things and you are just asking for trouble. I routinely blow the accumulated dust out of customer machines that I work on at my shop. That’s about it though. Messing with all the stuff in this article is a waste of my time and my customer’s money. Also, I do NOT use the compressed air cans, as shown, for two reasons. First, if you are blowing close enough to do any good at all, it is blowing extremely cold on the components. You will even see the components frost up! This is, in itself, a potential problem. Second, the cans simply don’t have enough power to actually blow the stuff out of there. I use a commercial compressor to do this job and just blow it out from 18 inches or so away, so as not to blast any particular component. It’s a two minute job (done outdoors, to avoid the cloud of dust it usually generates) and works very well. I have done hundreds of computers this way and have never had a problem. And about the paste on the CPU – yes, it will be dried out and yes, any time you pull the heat sink off, you will need to replace the paste BUT, the new paste will be “baked” dry almost as soon as you start using the computer again. Why do it at all?

  21. Snowbound

    Would suggest those who recommended not cleaning the inside of a computer case to take a look at computer whose user is a smoker. Those computers can become so filthy inside due to cig smoke that it almost requires a HazMat suit.

  22. Missa

    I examined the system unit and power supply, take the vacuum cleaner nozzle and take off using a hose tidy up all the dust. PC clean my time of 1.5 years, simply because that dust is a little bit.

  23. Bob Dawes

    Before re-seating any plug-in boards and memory modules, I clean the edge connectors with a soft technical drawing eraser to remove any corrosion that may have built up. Just be sure to properly support the items on an anti-static surface before doing this so you don’t bend them. I find that this can resolve intermittent computer re-boot and start-up problems as well.

  24. Ken

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say again, so listen up. Keep your room/workspace clean and your PC will remain clean. PC will only suckup what’s there. Laptops if used outside of the home always remove heat sync and fan and use only the hotair that comes out of your mouth to blow out the build-up. Once every 6 months. Total 10 mins work time older laptops longer. ;)

  25. Eric

    If a computer sits on the floor it tends to get vey dusty inside. I have cleaned hundreds of computers most with air cans and never frosted anything thing up (keep the can turned upright), I have always been able to thoroughly clean with canned air and never one issue even with removing parts. To leave a pc uncleaned is really not good practice IMO.

  26. Patrick Bisch

    @Eric, I couldn’t have said it any better myself :)

  27. Al Howard

    I always thought that you were supposed to use isopropyl alcohol instead of rubbing alcohol, at least that i was taught in school. Also, i think that CompTIA says that you can used compressed air in the cases, just go gently over the fans(or like mentioned use a pencil/pen to keep it in place).

  28. John

    I know it’s bad mojo, but I always end up breaking out the vacuum cleaner. As long as you’re careful it should work great. Just save sensitive areas for compressed air. Also, the plastic cover on the front can go through a dishwasher rinse cycle OK. I’ve done this to probably at least 100 PCs in my time and never had any problems.

  29. Carlos Ferrari

    I would add a paint brush to the tools listed ’cause it can be very useful.
    If you can get one medium sized and one smaller, even better!

  30. Patrick Bisch

    @Carlos, great tip! I added it towards the end of the list. Thanks!

  31. RNR1995

    I must disagree with this article
    1) unless you are having issues or replacing components there is usually not that much dirt inside your PC, unless you have pets or live in a dirty house
    2) canned air just blows dirt to places you will never see it, like the backside of your motherboard etc. Dust IS conductive
    3) Ground yourself before unplugging the unit, to the unit, with a grounding strap
    4) Use a quality vacuum like this one to clean your equipment
    3M 497AJM 120V Portable Electronic Vacuum Cleaner
    also a camel hair brush or a high quality paint brush will do in a pinch

  32. David

    I like to pull cards and memory out before doing a clean-up but I rarely need to take the cooling fan/CPU off unless it’s part of an upgrade. As someone noted, Thermal Paste is a very thin gap filler to provide efficient transfer of heat between the top of the CPU and the base of the cooler heat sink (not sync LOL).
    I have taken coolers off where the previous installer must have thought “if a little is good, a lot must be better”. Generally, a pea-sized blob evenly smeared out to within about 5mm from the edge of the CPU top is plenty. Just make sure to clean the old crud off beforehand (and I believe, don’t touch either the old or new stuff – it’s toxic?).
    As for compressed air, I have used it and wasn’t impressed with redistributing dust into the rest of the case. I just use a vacuum cleaner and haven’t had any problems. Nor do I use a static strap, and I work on carpet. From probably a thousand computers, I know of no zap deaths from Mr Static. HOWEVER, I would never, ever touch the edge connections (the gold tips) of any component whatsoever or the SMD parts (the tiny rectangular blocks on any of the circuit boards/memory sticks), or the chip ‘whiskers’ (the fine silver wires coming from the chip on to the circuit board). In other words, just don’t touch anything conductive – that’s where Mr Static will bite.

  33. Glenn

    For years I used to when cleaning a computer take the power supply out, take the lid off and give it a good blast with compressed air to get rid of all the dust. I also used to take the fan out, peel the sticker off and put a drop of oil into the bearing and then seal the bearing up again with a slice of insulating tape. Also works well with processor fans. I wouldnt recommend doing it to a PC thats under warranty, but after that I would. Ive never had a PSU fail and never had a CPU fan make an ounce of noise, even ones that were years and years old. I had a PSU fail not that long ago because the fan siezed it overheated and cooked.

  34. snert

    I smoke and have several cats and a couple like to lounge on top of my desktop which is on my desktop.
    Once a month I use a rechargable handheld DustBuster to clean my computer’s innards, outards, and anything else I can reach.
    I have a 4′ 3/’8 plastic hose rigged that I can poke nearly anywhere I need to while the DustBuster sits over there making noise. I’ve used this set-up for over a year with no problems. Static doesn’t seem to be an issue.

    , quit making mistakes.

  35. snert

    Oops. Mistakes.
    It’s a 4′ 3/8″ hose.

    >, quit making mistakes.< was part of something I didn't delete entirely

  36. Dave Fox

    Hi. I’d just like to say that if you do want or need to pull the CPU that you be very careful. Make sure when you remove it that you pull STRAIGHT UP. Also never set it pin side down. The pins are very delicate and bend easily, and once bent it’s almost impossible to straighten them out. Oops. New CPU if not new CPU and motherboard. Also I would take a picture of the interior if there is any doubt as to where everything goes back in. I’ve been doing that a lot more with repairs besides electronics such as transmissions and engines(auto and lawn mower), etc. Just Sayin’. Dave

  37. nt0xik8ed

    dust? i can’t even stand the sight of a finger print on mine.

  38. Jeff Brown

    Just don’t blow compresed air right in the fan like in the video card picture I recomend holding the fan with your fingers or something, sometimes you can fry a bearing spinning it to fast with the air.
    and in the power supply I just stick a screwdriver in far enough to hold the fan still when I blow it out,

  39. Carlos Ferrari

    @Patrick: glad I could help. :)

  40. Shaun

    The reason you don’t use compressed air on fans is that it can spin them faster than they can handle and could burn out your fan. Though from experience of 20 some odd years of fixing computers I have yet to see that happen. I would recommend just holding the fan still while using the compressed air if you are worried.

  41. jon_hill987

    I ALWAYS leave the power cable plugged in when working on my computer, all be it off at the socket, so the case is earthed, it makes it easier to ground myself when working on sensitive parts.

  42. Anand Tulpule

    It is a very informative article

  43. Shawn

    Hmmm…what’s missing from this article? A LOT!

    1) Clean out the intake (vents) and exhaust (vents) on the case;

    2) Why remove the peripherals from their slots? Where electrical contact meets electrical contact in the slot, there will be no dust accumulation. To the author: That is like asking someone to remove an entire window pane from it’s “mounting” just to clean the window (the important part);

    3) Thermal paste to clean a computer? Uh, to the author again: WHY?!?!?!?!? There is an ART to applying thermal paste as well as three different types: Metal-based, ceramic-based and silicon-based. You never told anyone the difference. Will you be paying for their new processor when they use too much metal-based thermal paste between their processor and heat sink and it oozes out (shorting the pins). I think not. Continues in note 4:

    4) There is NO reason the remove the heat sink from the processor to clean it. It is MUCH easier to flip a level and remove the processor with the heat sink. If one chooses to put new thermal paste on, you not only need the right TYPE of thermal paste (also referred to as “TIM” (Thermal Interface Material) AND you need to know how to apply it. It is not some kind of glue. Here’s a lesson:

    Despite the fact that the bottom of your heat sink and the top of your processor both LOOK flat, in reality, they are covered with pits and crevices. When put together, those pits and crevices contain AIR! Solids conduct energy (heat) better than liquids; liquids conduct better than gases. The paste, when properly applied, should actually appear transluscent on top of the processor. The paste is ONLY meant to fill in the (microscopic) gaps and crevices and NOTHING ELSE. Where at ALL possible, you want the solid material of the heat sink to touch the solid material of the top of the processor. It’s just not 100% possible given the microscopic imperfections of the manufacturing process. So, thermal paste is better than air. You also made no mention of how to reseat a heat sink on a processor, which in ALL cases should be flat surface to flat surface; not starting at an edge (this results in an uneven spread).

    This article, dunno where all this information came from, but there were things in it for the beginner, things in it for the advanced, lots of unnecessary things and no indication which steps should be performed by what type of people with what type of expertise.

    A MUCH better title for this article would have been: “How to Make Your Computer Look It’s Best When Trying To Sell It”. I’m opinionated, I realize this, but this is certainly NOT an article about general computer maintenance and cleaning!

    Ya know, a general warning about compressed air was certainly warranted, also! Keep the compressed air away from kids! (did you even research any of this?) The refrigerant they used in cans of compressed air sold for cleaning out computers has become the new “high” for adolescents. Many, many unnecessary deaths.

    p.s. Applying a good heat sink and CORRECTLY applying the RIGHT kind of paste took my processor from averaging 62-65Celsius to the point where I can NOT, under the HEAVIEST of loads, get it to run hotter than 41-42Celsius. Don’t just gunk on the thermal paste and think that more is better. There really is a correct process and method to this.

  44. 99er

    @Shawn, if your going to try to act like a know it all at least learn to use proper grammar.

    Ya know… pfffft

  45. Jeff Howard

    I keep many different colors of Sharpie fine point pens at my desk to use on wire connectors. Mark red/red on one set of male/female connections, blue/blue on the next male/female connection, etc, etc,etc… I use alcohol swabs to clean the connection area first to make sure the colors stay. I use the silver Sharpie some too on a black connector, but be careful using these because they are metallic and will conduct.

    I use the alcohol swabs to clean my laptop screen also and it does a great job. I’ll use two different swabs and then lightly polish the screen with a kleenex. But DO NOT use a paper towel because they’ll slowly scratch the screen.

  46. BrainInjury

    I live in San Diego County and the power went out at 3:40 p.m. perfect time to clean the p.c. No problem with anything. I didn’t use and air, brushes or chemicals (well i’m not saying), just my own hot air and a very soft handkerchief I stole from my Dad about 20 yr.s ago. If anything needs to be blown out of the damn thing I take it to a Pro and let them ruin it for me. I’m tired of having to explain why I erased my memory!!!!! Good info people. ! step forward and 2 back. I enjoyed reading your feedback. Thanks

  47. Al Howard

    @Jeff,

    To clean a monitor or laptop screen, you are supposed to use a lint free cloth. Also, if required make it so damp that you can barely feel it.

  48. David Morris

    There may be some instances where compressed air is necessary, but an appropriate vacuum cleaner will actually remove the crud instead of just blowing it around the room.

  49. Bob Bobson

    Yup, the video card is indeed missing in the after photo.

  50. AbyssDepot

    I clean computers and laptops using a small leaf blower. I take them outside and clean over 95% of the dust out in about 30 seconds… and the power of the blower removes dust and debris from the areas that you can’t see or get to without removing or breaking down the components. And without proper experience or grounding procedures, it’s possible to damage the components by removing them for cleaning… so I would not suggest for the average user.

    And regular vacuum cleaners are bad news as they have a huge static electricity issue… touch something and you could discharge some nice voltage onto a component and the system won’t boot up after your ‘cleaning’.

  51. Steve-O-Rama

    Another +1 for it’s very bad advice to recommend disconnecting the power cord.

    There is no other path to ground other than the fingertips of the human working on the PC if the cord isn’t there, so what you guys are recommending may in fact cause ESD damage to the PC components. Granted most parts are well guarded against ESD threats, but a) you never know how well designed (or not) the parts are, and b) ESD damage can take a considerable amount of time to show its ugly effects.

    Since MOST PCs have a PSU with a power switch, simply turning that switch to the off position (the “O” side pressed, its opposite being the “I” for on) will keep you safe AND your computer’s chassis properly grounded. While we’re on it, it’s also a great idea to at least touch the chassis before anything else to dissipate any potentially-harmful level of charge you may have in your body. One step further is to use an ESD wristband, but for PC work, this may be overkill.

  52. Rick S

    I break every rule in the book. lol.
    The smoke from my cig goes right into the comp air intake and my place is so dirty the CPU fan starts to speed up to cool an over heating CPU that’s plugged with dust every three months.

    I have used my vacuum cleaner but like my industrial air compressor best. Nothing like overkill.
    I don’t spin the fans anymore because the motors have magnets in them and might produce over voltage.
    I also include my power supply in the cleanup.
    Year seven and no problems. Ya ya I know it’s time for a new one, But this one works so well.
    Nobody can figure out why this thing is faster than all my friends new ones. I don’t know what I did by mistake to make it so fast.

    That’s a good article but most people shouldn’t remove any parts. I think that’s asking for a problem because a lot of people force, bend and break things.

  53. CrioStage

    I just want to add my experience to the post. I saw an picture in this post where you are blowing an air fan with the can of compressed air, i think its not an good idea to do that because you may harm the fan engine.

    At work i had to clean up a couple laptops heat sink and i did like you just showed (i did it long time ago not like after reading this), and those fans simply stopped working, my theory on this was that the compressed air forced the fan engine to rotate more that he actually could and i broke it in the cleaning process.I started to use an small screw driver to not allow the fan to rotate while i m cleaning it with the compressed air can, and now nearly all of them survive the process and work properly now.

    Also thanks for the tutorial.

  54. mnnetonka

    Wow-I learned a lot from all the comments and thought the tutorial was great, it was missing some important information. The posts did a great job filling in the blanks. I’d like to comment on some and add a few of my own.

    Ken Shearer: “Please, Do Not use 3M Dust Remover – they add what they refer to as a bittering agent.” [I remember reading somewhere that not all canned air products are the same. One brand, "The Blaster by Belkin non-abrasive and moisture-free product" sounds like what I read about, but there are plenty that are advertised as "moisture-free".]

    I think someone mentioned–and I also read somewhere else that, “Keep the can of air upright, or you can risk having fluid come out of the can onto your components. It could possibly ruin something. Also, those compressed air cans are not meant to be tilted while using, else you will blast the very cold liquid propellant out the spay nozzle. This alone may not hurt much (it can ‘burn’ you, though), but condensation that may form on the frozen surfaces may create a conducting path between electronic components. You might blow out components if you turn on the power before the condensate has a chance to evaporate.” I also think it’s recommended to use short bursts so minimize freezing potential and hold it at least 3+ inches away from anything. I like to put a damp paper towel at the bottom of the case to catch as much as possible that might migrate back up into something it shouldn’t.

    Bob Dawes: “Before re-seating any plug-in boards and memory modules, I clean the edge connectors with a soft technical drawing eraser to remove any corrosion that may have built up. Just be sure to properly support the items on an anti-static surface before doing this so you don’t bend them. I find that this can resolve intermittent computer re-boot and start-up problems as well.” [I like this one--even though someone said that plugged in components wouldn't need to be unplugged and have the connectors cleaned, I read that dust can, indeed, force itself into the connection socket and it's a good idea to blow it out and I like Bob's recommendation on cleaning the edge connectors]

    Another tip I read: Connect your PC power cable again and switch on the PC, while it is open, for just long enough to see that all the fans you identified above are spinning. [I learned this the hard way--had a PSU overheating--thought it was dying and purchased expensive replacement. Found out I had left a Q-tip in the fan blades during last cleaning, so naturally, no fan--big Duh!]

    Thanks all!

  55. Jerry

    99ER: before you criticize someone for their grammar, stop using “your” when you should use “you’re”!

  56. 99er

    @Jerry, this isn’t about me. It’s about Shawn being a know it all.

    Your move Shemdly.

  57. Buddika

    99er , You’re a foolish F***ing man

  58. 99er

    @Buddika, Watch your language sir. this is a family friendly website.

  59. Keith

    After 17 years of servicing computers, today In a regular home environment I have seen the impossible.

    The machine is 4 years old, and had a bad power supply. I took the machine apart and thought the lady was a liar about the age of the computer.

    So I looked up on the warranty and she was correct, but the machine is Brand New inside. Not a “SPEC” of dust anywhere,

    So I took the bezels and covers off to reveal anything, again no dust, She is 60ish in years and there is no way to clean a 4 year old computer this good even with a q-tip.

    When I deliver it I am asking HOW???

  60. RapidTec.net

    If you don’t hold the fan blades when you blow them with compressed air you can damage them.
    Due to spinning the fans too fast and damaging the motors by spinning at too fast of an RPM.
    True. Do a goggle search about it You’d think this guy would know that.

  61. Computer repairs

    as a PC tech with 20 years experience I can assure you a can of compressed air is not gonna do the job, and if the can is tilted even by 5 degrees many brands release a refrigerant that can kill of your mainboard.

    This is really bad advice

  62. Ashok

    is it necessary to do all this , u know , i used my vaccum cleaner to clean all the cpu and it works all fine , i was aware setting the temperatures and force of prior !

  63. herval

    wow, this is a good info., thanks!

  64. Demetri

    What about a step-by-step guide to cleaning a laptop? Would be very useful!

  65. snert

    A clean is a happy computer.

    Take it completely apart and put it in the dishwasher.

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