Thursday, August 09, 2007

25. How To Clean Your PC

By: David Wurst
From: Directron


You are finishing up a 10-page report for school or work when suddenly your computer shuts down on you. Frantically you throw your arms up in the air and yell at your computer because you forgot to save. You check and find the power is still working, power cords are plugged in correctly, and you know you just ran a virus check last night. So what could possibly have shut the computer down? DUST!

Clumps of dust can nestle around your processor, cuddle up to your power supply and choke ventilation. Computers can become havens for dust and other natural-borne air pollutants when not properly cleaned. In this guide, Computer Cleaning 101, we will teach you how to properly clean your computer system, manage cords and restore the natural brilliance to your computer system!

Let's start off with a brief explanation of how dust collects in and around your system. Static electricity. Yes, you can blame static electricity for attracting dust to your computer. Why? Well, when a computer is in operation it creates a field of static electricity which attracts dust particles in the surrounding environment. A CRT or LCD monitor also creates static electricity. In fact, if you put your forearm up the monitor screen you may feel the little hairs on your arm rise! This is a perfect example of the static field encompassing your monitor.

Not to worry though, you won't have to spend hours on end cleaning your computer system to prevent hardware failures and loss of ventilation. If your computer is in a clean environment you shouldn't have to clean it out more than three or four times a year! A clean environment in our opinion is one without tobacco smoke, large amounts of pet dander or outdoor pollutants (smog/road dirt/sand). If any of these conditions are present in the computer?s environment more frequent cleanings should be considered. Let?s discuss these conditions that affect the quality of a computer?s environment. Smoke; smoke can seep into the openings of your case and settle on your motherboard and other hardware. Smoke is also responsible for discoloring keyboards, mice, cases, screens and wires. Pet hair; this can be worse than dirt because of how much larger it is. Hair can easily block the ventilation of a computer system.

Cleaning Supplies

Here is a small list of supplies that you should have handy before cleaning:
  • Anti-Static Wrist Guard
  • Compressed Air
  • Cotton Tip Swabs
  • Glass Cleaner
  • Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (80% dilution only!)
  • Lint-Free Cloths
  • Paper Towels
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Tweezers

    Let?s Start Cleaning!


    Everyday you have to look at the cables laying around your computer station, so why not clean them up a bit? Cables can get in pretty sad shape after a little while. They can become discolored, worn and even tangled with other cables. If you find any cables that are frayed (refer to picture) please replace them. They are a safety risk if not replaced. This task takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete if you have your supplies ready.

    1. Unplug all the devices connected to the back of your computer. Make sure not to drop them into an unreachable area, this can be quite the annoyance!
    2. Dampen one of your lint-free cloths with some isopropyl rubbing alcohol.
    3. Run the cloth along each cable until stickiness and discoloration is gone
    4. Taking one device plug at a time, try to untangle the wire so that no other wires are wrapped around it. Use a twisty tie and bundle up any extra wire that is not needed. Plug the device back into your computer.
    Note: If you notice any dirt inside one of the plug heads use a little compressed air to blow it out.

    Case Cleaning:

    This is where the dust goes at night to cuddle up with your processor. Dust is not your friend, it is not something to be laughed at, and it deserves respect. This is war ladies and gentlemen! Load up with some compressed air because you?re heading off to the frontlines! Actually, cleaning a computer case isn't that difficult. In fact, the entire process won't take more than about 20 or 25 minutes if the dust is really bad.

    1. Turn off your computer.
    2. Remove the side cover of the computer case, exposing the motherboard and other hardware components.
    3. Inspect all cables and connections. Be sure to look for cables that are frayed, loose, pinched, snug or otherwise damaged. If you come across any cables that are damaged in any way or form you should immediately replace them. If a cable is frayed do not attempt to patch it up with electrical tape, this is very dangerous fix. We also advise that you replace snug cables with longer ones before it accidentally snaps.
    4. Now its time to get out the compressed air. Shoot the canned air at everything in your computer. Pay special attention to the heatsink and fan on top of your processor. This area collects a lot of dust. Some other areas to focus on are add-on cards (audio/video/modem), case fans, hard disks, power supply and removable media drives (cd-rom). A vacuum may help suck out the dust while you knock it loose with the compressed air. Caution: Follow the directions on the back of compressed air! Do not spray hardware at close range! If you choose to use a vacuum, do not attempt to vacuum anything in your computer!!!
    5. If you notice dust in the PCI and AGP slots of your motherboard it may be wise to remove each add-on card and shoot some compressed air into the slots to break away the dust.
    6. If your case has an air filter remove it and run it through warm water to remove the dust. To dry it simply use a cloth (lint-free if possible) and gently dab away the excess water. Place the filter back into the case.
    7. Replace the side cover of the computer, but check first that there aren't any cables that are lying next to any fans. Fasten the cover and restore the power.

    Ball Mouse Cleaning:

    You hold onto your mouse everyday, oils off your hand get onto the mouse and overtime will discolor the plastic of your mouse. If you use a ball mouse there is more to worry about than just discoloring though, because dust doesn't leave anything alone! If you don't already have one, we recommend you buy a cheap mouse pad. Cleaning a ball mouse usually takes about five to ten minutes.
    1. Disconnect the trackball mouse from the back of the computer.
    2. Dampen one of your lint-free cloths with some isopropyl rubbing alcohol.
    3. Clean the outside of the mouse with the damp cloth. Pay extra attention to the mouse buttons. Locate and remove the circular disc that holds the trackball in place. There should be a set of arrows on the disc indicating which direction to turn.
    4. After removing the circular disc place both the trackball and the disc on a clean surface.
    5. Use the same damp, lint-free cloth containing isopropyl rubbing alcohol and gently dab at the inside of the trackball cage. Be careful not to get it too wet.
    6. Inside the ball cage you should see two rotating wheels. Most likely these wheels have a layer of dirt around the entire surface of the wheel. You can easily get this dirt out by using a tweezers. We recommend a tweezers because it will decrease your chances of dropping the dirt deeper inside the mouse.
    7. Put the ball mouse back together and reconnect it to the back of the computer.

    Optical Mouse Cleaning:

    You should exercise more caution when cleaning an optical mouse. You do not want any cleaning products to come in contact with the optical sensor on the bottom of the mouse. If anything does come in contact with the sensor you may experience difficulties when attempting to move the mouse cursor. It is also very important that you don't use any paper towels or non lint-free materials when cleaning the mouse. Lint or paper fibers could find their way to the optical sensor and impair mouse precision. Cleaning an optical mouse shouldn't take more than five minutes.

    1. Disconnect the optical mouse from the back of the computer.
    2. Dampen one of your lint-free cloths with some isopropyl rubbing alcohol.
    3. Clean the outside of the mouse with the cloth. Pay extra attention to the mouse buttons DO NOT attempt to clean the optical sensor!
    4. Reconnect the optical mouse to the back of the computer.

    Keyboard Cleaning:

    Keyboards also collect the oils off hands. The keys may become harder to read over time because they tend to collect brownish colored grime where you would usually place your fingers. Cleaning your keyboard can rid yourself of sticky keys. This entire process should take no longer than five minutes.
    1. Disconnect the keyboard from the back of the computer.
    2. Hold the keyboard upside down over a desk or counter and smack the bottom of the keyboard to knock out any filth.
    3. Lay your keyboard back down on a table.
    4. Use compressed air and shoot it between the keys to get out anything loosened, but not removed from the good smacking you gave it. We recommend shooting the compressed air into the keyboard using a crisscross pattern. This way you will get both the rows and the columns of keys.
    5. Use your isopropyl rubbing alcohol dampened cloth and clean the surface of each key along with the surrounding areas of your keyboard. This should restore the natural brilliance of your keyboard!
    6. Reconnect the keyboard to the back of the computer.

    Monitor Cleaning:

    That's right, its due time that the fingerprints and dead gnats are removed from the computer screen! We will focus on cleaning the outside of your computer monitor. Please do not attempt to open the inside of your monitor for cleaning purposes unless you are an experienced technician. Even if you unplug your computer screen there is still a high amount of electricity in the monitor! Cleaning a monitor should take no more than five minutes.

    1. Turn off your monitor if you feel uncomfortable cleaning it with the power on.
    2. Spray the monitor glass cleaner. Use a lint-free cloth and rub the monitor and screen in a circular pattern to remove the dirt and grime.
    3. Restore power to the monitor if need be.

    Note: Exercise caution when cleaning the screen of your LCD monitor. If you press too hard you may damage the screen!

    Laser Printer Cleaning:

    Yeah, it's a tedious job but someone has to clean the printer! If you are unsure of the location of various parts in your printer please refer to the owner?s manual or CD that came with your printer. This process should take no longer than ten minutes.
    1. Unplug your laser printer.
    2. Spray the outside of the laser printer with glass cleaner and rub it with a lint-free cloth.
    3. Use your compressed air and open up all the trays and doors on your laser printer. If you find dust anywhere attempt to blow it out of the printer, never into it. If you can't get the dust out with compressed air feel free to use your lint-free cloth.
    4. There is a fan in all laser printers to help vent the inside. Locate the fan on your laser printer and blow compressed air at it to remove the dust.
    5. Look for toner spills and vacuum them up if found. Toner is very dangerous to your health so DON't USE COMPRESSED AIR!
    6. Clean the rollers with isopropyl rubbing alcohol.
    7. Clean the ozone filter with some compressed air. The filter can be replaced if need be.
    8. Restore power to the laser printer.

    Cleaning Fax Machines & ScannersKeep the fax machine in top notch condition, you don't want it failing on you right when you have to fax something to a friend or business! This shouldn't take more than five minutes to complete.
    1. Unplug your fax machine or scanner.
    2. Spray the outside of the fax machine or scanner with glass cleaner and rub it off with a lint-free cloth.
    3. Use compressed air to blow out any visible dust within your machine.
    4. Both fax machines and scanners have lenses. Remove the glass cover and spray glass cleaner on them and wipe it off with a lint-free cloth.
    5. Clean the rollers with isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Restore power to the fax machine or scanner.


    Congratulations! You are now a professional system cleaning technician! Hopefully you enjoyed freeing your computer of all that filth and restoring the original look and feel to your system. We recommend that you clean your entire system following this guide at least every three to four months. If you have trouble finding spare time to do a thorough job cleaning than at least try to clean out the inside of your computer case. Otherwise clean the entire system on a regular basis and remember, a clean computer is a happy computer! Don't you want your computer to be happy?

    How to Keep Your Computer Clean Here are a few of our tips on how to keep a computer cleaner, longer!
    • Clean the entire system at least three or four times a year
    • Place computer in a well ventilated room
    • Position the case on top of a shelf, never on the ground
    • Place plastic computer bags over the case and monitor when not in use
    • Always use a mouse pad, whether you own a ball or optical mouse
    • Upgrade your computer case to one with at an intake and outtake fan, including an air filter
    • Never allow anyone to eat at your computer workstation
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