Computers / Tips and Solutions

It's Spring, a Good Time to Clean Up Your Computer

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Springtime is all about cleaning and, while you’re busy folding clothes, organizing drawers, and dusting shelves, your computer sits there quietly collecting even more dust. It’s easy to overlook cleaning your PC, but you shouldn’t put it off for too long. If left alone, a computer will slowly build up dust, which can impede airflow, resulting in higher temperatures and possibly hardware failure. Try swiping your fingertip across the top of it and see how much dust you’ve picked up. Maybe it won’t be a lot, but look at the areas with vents and you’ll be in for a surprise. In this cleaning guide, we’re not only going to cover PCs, but also peripherals. So, gear up because we’re going bunny hunting. (Dust bunnies, of course!)

Desktops

To keep things cool and operational, desktops are outfitted with fans that intake or exhaust air. These fans usually have a grille or dust filter of some sort covering them, that’s probably lined with dust by now. So, your weapon of choice? The Metro DataVac. As opposed to compressed air that comes in disposable cans, the DataVac is a compact dusting unit with a 500W motor capable of producing 70CFM of air flow. Since I own one, I can say, yes, it pushes a lot of air and yes, it’s quite loud when in use. Why would you use it rather than canned air? Because it’s more powerful, cost effective, and comes with multiple nozzle attachments for different scenarios. Now that you’re ready, let’s get to it.

METRO DataVac DataVac Electric Duster Model ED500
  • Turn off your computer and unplug all devices, peripherals, and cables from the desktop, including the power cable. If your power supply has an off switch, turn it off.
  • Move it somewhere you won’t mind having dust everywhere, preferably outside.
  • Connect your DataVac to an accessible outlet nearby or get your cans of compressed air ready.
  • Remove both side panels and the front panel if possible. Dust filters too. Don’t forget to check the bottom.
  • Clean them using the DataVac. Be thorough and be sure to dust both sides. Place these elsewhere for the time being.
  • For the internals, since the DataVac is quite strong, I’d suggest using it in short bursts and not too close to the components. Aim it at wherever you see dust, but not at the fans, yet.
  • Dust the motherboard, ports, the space in-between the RAM modules, storage drives, graphics card, power supply, and so on. You can remove components if needed. (This is where the DataVac’s multiple nozzle attachments come in handy. Some places are hard to reach and some dust particles won’t let go without a light brush.)
Dot Line Small Blower Brush
  • For fans, due to the strength of the DataVac, it’s recommended you hold onto a fan blade when dusting so it won’t spin. While it may be entertaining, having a fan spin the opposite way or too fast can damage its internal components.
  • And that’s pretty much it, but give everything a once-over before you put the side panels back on. It doesn’t need to be spotless. If there are no visible dust bunnies hanging around, you’ll be fine. This is also the perfect time to redo your cable management.

Laptops

On the other hand, laptops aren’t as hard to clean. Many laptops can’t even be taken apart, so there’s no way to clean the internals. If you can though, do it. Same warning applies here—don’t use the DataVac to clean the vents, since it might mess up the fans inside. Instead, use it farther away so the airflow isn’t as strong, or try a slightly wet Q-Tip. The remaining things that you can clean are the exterior, screen, and keyboard. For these, a microfiber cloth will do. Take your time cleaning and be extra cautious on the display so you don’t scratch it. Some water on the cloth can be used on stubborn smudges. Stay away from chemical solutions and rubbing alcohol because they could discolor the system or strip the lettering from keys. Also, consider getting a case or screen protector for easy cleaning and keeping your system looking brand new.

Pearstone Microfiber Cleaning Cloth, 18% Gray

Peripherals

The keyboard is probably one of the filthiest items in your house, especially if you eat food over it or nearby. Seriously. Take a good look and see if you can spot the dust, grime, crumbs, hair, chips, and whatever else is hidden in between the keys. It gets even worse with greasy and Doritos-covered fingers, which invite more dust and things to stick to it. So, what do you do? Throw it away and get a new one? Sure, if you’re using a cheap keyboard. Or get a washable keyboard? (Ehh, pass.)

Adesso Flexible Full-Sized USB Keyboard with PS/2 Adapter
  • Start by taking a picture of your keyboard. If you know where every key goes by heart, good for you.
  • Using a keycap puller, pen, or whatever tool fits the job, remove every single key. (Please note that chiclet keys should not be removed. Instead, clean them with some water and paper towels.)
  • The naked keyboard is appalling, so shake it over a trashcan to remove the junk in there. For things that didn’t fall off, pick at it (ugh) or use a brush. For sticky residue left over from soda and drinks, try using a slightly wet paper towel.
  • To clean the keycaps, throw them in a container of warm soapy water. Let them sit for ten minutes or so, stir if you feel like it, and then hand dry them with a towel.
  • Finally, put them back in place. For the future, get a keyboard cover to keep your keyboard clean when it’s not in use.
Moshi ClearGuard Keyboard Protector for MacBook Pro 13/15" with Touch Bar

While you’re at it, you might as well clean your mouse. Flip it over and clean whatever’s latching onto the mouse feet, the sensor and the area around it, as well as the gaps in between the scroll wheel and buttons. For the exterior, some water on a cloth goes a long way. If you have a device with a rubbery coating, avoid chemical solutions and rubbing alcohol at all costs, because they can strip the coating away. (I learned this the hard way.) Speakers can be cleaned too. Give them a light dusting with a soft brush or a microfiber cloth. Now that everything looks shiny and brand new again, continue practicing good hygiene habits!

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