Gadgetell Guide: Make your computer a lean, clean machine

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Dust. It is definitely not your friend when it comes to your computer. Do you actually take the time to clean it out or is your computer a cavern of dust galore, slowly killing your computer’s insides? Here is a quick guide to help you get rid of some of that icky stuff. Now, keep in mind, there are probably more ways to do this than what I’m going to tell you about. But, I’ve been doing it this way for over 12 years, and it’s always worked for me, and I’ve never damaged or destroyed a component.


So, first up, you want to gather together what you are going to need:

  • A screwdriver
  • A can of compressed air
  • Soft, lint-free wipes
  • Monitor cleaning wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Q-Tips
  • Water

Prep your machine

First, make sure you turn off your computer and unplug it. A clean computer won’t do you much good if you knock yourself on your behind. Next, take the side of the case off of the computer. If you have a newer computer, it’s probably tool-less. Just unscrew the big screws by hand. If you have an older model, you will need to actually use a screwdriver and take the screws out. Make sure you don’t lose them. Set aside the side of the case.

Inside the computer

Start from the front. If you know how to, slide your hard drive(s) out so you can get to the fan better. Take your finger and put it on one of the fan blades to keep it in place while you use the compressed air to blow the dust off the fan blades and the case itself. Remember to spray about 4 inches away. You are holding the fan so you don’t damage the bearings inside of the fan. Take your time and get it all.

Once this is done, you can use a Q-Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean the fan blades to get rid of any dust and grime that the compressed air didn’t get rid off. Use the wet end first, then the dry end. Do not go in there with a cotton ball.

After the front fan is nice and dust-free, move on to the faceplate. Gently spray some compressed air onto the faceplate. I don’t recommend opening the disk drive to clean it up. Instead, use a disk cleaner. My reasoning behind this is that you don’t want to take the chance that any of the small components inside will break or become loose.

Next, spray any cables inside the computer. You are doing this since the dust that builds up around the cables can act as an insulator. And obviously, the less heat in your computer, the better. We aren’t trying to roast a chicken in there.

Then spray your motherboard with the compressed air in a right to left motion, so you aren’t just scattering the dust right back up to the front of your computer. After your motherboard is cleaned, spray any memory slots (again, gently).

Your CPU fan

Regarding your CPU fan, I recommend taking this off. To do this, lay your computer down, and remove the two brackets from the CPU fan. The fan will pop right off of the CPU. Pull the fan out as far as you can, without stretching the wires. Gently remove it, and twist the fan towards the back of the computer. Before you start cleaning the fan, cover the exposed CPU so nothing gets blown in there. You can use one of the lint-free cloths (or even a sheet of paper) for this. Just make sure nothing is actually touching the CPU.

Then to clean the fan, again, put a finger or thumb on one of the fan blades, and blow the compressed air on it from the front. After that, blow out from the back too to remove any dust build-up that might be there. Then remove the cloth from the CPU and put the CPU back in place. Out of all the components you are cleaning in your computer, this is probably the one you want to take the most care with; since even a small amount of dust will fry your CPU pretty quickly.

Next up is the fan outside (on the back) of the power supply. Clean that puppy off, using the same method of holding the fan still. Except, since you won’t be able to reach your finger in there, use a dry Q-Tip, and spray compressed air on the fan. Now that you’ve done this, clean the power supply itself. There will be grills outside the power supply, usually underneath and to the front of the power supply. Blow these grills with the compressed air.

After that, work your way down to the exhaust fan or any other fans you have in the back of your computer. (Most just have one.)

You also want to clean your video card fan if your video card has one. Again, remove the brackets, gently lift the card out of its slot. Hold the fan with your finger and very gently blow the air out of the fan. Put the video card back in.

Blow out any slot covers (from the inside and outside) that are on the back of the computer.

Remove the dust that may have accumulated on the bottom of your computer from blowing it all out with a lint-free cloth. Double-check to make sure all of your components are still secure on your motherboard. Wipe down the inside of the case with a cloth lightly dipped in rubbing alcohol. Put the side of your case back on (hopefully you didn’t lose those screws.) Whew! The inside is done!

Outside the computer

To clean your keyboard, first disconnect it from your machine and then shake, shake, shake. Yep, pick it up and turn it upside down, and remove the left-overs of all the snacks you’ve eaten at your computer. Blow compressed air between the keys, and then you can also use a Q-Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to really get in there. You can also use these to clean the rest of the keyboard or else use a a monitor cleaner to wipe it off.

For your monitor, use either spray monitor cleaner, or else water and a soft, lint-free cloth or paper towel. Monitor cleaner obviously works better to remove the goop, especially if you haven’t done it in a while, or if you are a smoker. Don’t spray the liquid right on the monitor, spray it on the cloth before you wipe.

You can clean your mouse with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Make sure your computer is totally dry, and then plug it back in. Voila! Good to go.

This process should be done on a regular basis, I recommend every other month, especially if the computer is on the floor, or you have pets. Don’t let your computer be your dirty little secret, take the time to keep it clean. It will thank you.

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  • paklekz

    Let's keep our computer clean.

  • Unix Shell Provider

    Wicked post man, that was very well laid out and gave a lot of newer people a very detailed explanation of what need to go down/ Thanks!

  • Sporto

    VERY well written. Dust is absolutely the worst computer killer out there. Besides those who get frustrated with their computers and just decide to throw them out a window.

  • repair guy

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