Daylight Savings Time Ends – It’s That Semi-Annual “Clean Your Computer” Time Again

imageTo make it easy to remember, I schedule my computer maintenance and cleaning, at the Spring and Fall time changes. Since we’ve adjusted our clocks back one hour today (here in North America), it’s time to rerun a primer on how to do a top to bottom physical cleanup of your computer.

Spring cleaning

Over the years I’ve noticed that many computer users are not too concerned with keeping the physical components clean; and they need to be concerned.  Computer maintenance involves not only keeping a computer clean of malware; viruses, Trojans, spyware, and adware – but, keeping the physical machine clean as well.

As regular reader TeX pointed out last year, when I ran this article – “Think of a place that hides more dust than the space under your bed.” He’s right – a computer system can collect an an amazing amount of dust.

image

No, this is not one of my machines. Winking smile

Physically cleaning your computer is potentially one of the most important cleanup jobs you’re ever likely to do. Here’s why – heat.

Heat is a component killer, and it’s the chief cause of CPU failure in computers. CPU failure, caused by dust clogged vents, which leads to reduced air flow, is a more common occurrence than many realize.

Killer Dirt = Killer Heat

Overheating of the CPU will, at a minimum, cause the system to behave erratically; the computer spontaneously switches off, or restarts; frequent “blue-screen” error messages, and more.

Here’s a comment from my Australian buddy Mal, on last year’s reposting of this article – “Earlier this year, my computer started beeping at me. It was an alarm to say “I’m overheating”. I took off the cover and cleaned out all the dust, which was everywhere.

When I turned it back on, the temp at dropped 30 degrees Celsius. No wonder the machine was screaming at me. So a good timely article on your part.”

Keeping your computer in top shape, with a regularly scheduled cleaning program, will prevent the inconvenience of having your system go down, and in the long run save you money.

Tools you’ll need:

Screwdriver

A can of compressed air

Cotton swabs

Rubbing alcohol (70% is fine)

Paper towels or anti-static cloths

Water

Make sure you disconnect the machine from the wall outlet before you begin maintenance and cleanup, and be gentle when touching the components inside the case.

Open the case:

If required, use the screwdriver to remove the side of the case that’s opposite the motherboard. Blow compresses air over the components and interior of the case, keeping the can upright and nozzle four inches away from components.

Clean the power supply and the case fan with a shot of compressed air. Next, blow compressed air into the CD/DVD drive. Give the inside of the case a wipe with a slightly moistened cloth before replacing the cover.

Clean the exterior:

Wipe the exterior of the case with a slightly moistened cloth; repeat the wipe with a dry cloth or paper towel. Be sure to clean all case openings using this method.

Clean the keyboard:

Since the keyboard gets more physical contact than any other component, if you can, clean it on a monthly basis. Blowout in and around the keys with compressed air monthly and on your scheduled cleanup rub down the keys and case with a clean cloth slightly dampened with rubbing alcohol.

Clean the mouse:

Like the keyboard, the mouse gets substantial physical contact and requires cleaning on a monthly basis. If you have an optical mouse simply wipe it down just as you wiped down the keyboard. If you have a mechanical mouse then you need to remove, wash, and then dry the ball.

Next, clean inside the mouse with a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol. Finally blow compressed air into the opening and then reassemble the mouse.

Clean the monitor:

Never spray liquid directly onto the screen. Instead, moisten the cloth, or the paper towel, with the cleaning solution. Spraying the screen directly runs the risk of liquid penetrating into the monitor components.

Wipe the screen gently to remove dust and fingerprints. For laptop screens, buy a special cleaning solution available at computer stores. Do this weekly.

I know this is a no-brainer, but before you plug the computer back into the wall outlet, be sure all components are thoroughly dry.

Previous postings of this article drew some very valuable comments from regular readers, including the following:

Vhick:

I always clean my PC one a month. In a tropical country like here, dust is everywhere. Clean, turn around, and there’s a dust again. PC cleaning inside and out is must here, because of very hot temperatures.

Georg L:

Cleaning is nice, but when doing so, one should also change the heat sink compound between hot semiconductors and the respective heat sinks. The CPU is most critical in this respect.

Volatile components evaporate over time, turning the compound into an effective heat insulator with a plaster-like texture. I suggest a change every second year in moderate climates, and an annual change in the tropics.

Just to follow up on Georg’s comment – earlier this year, a reader explained that he had rebuilt his machine and replaced all components (other than the CPU), and yet, the machine still locked up after just a few minutes of operation. I passed on Georg’s advice and voila – problem solved!

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25 Comments

Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, Save Your CPU, Windows Tips and Tools

25 responses to “Daylight Savings Time Ends – It’s That Semi-Annual “Clean Your Computer” Time Again

  1. Darryl Gittins

    Replacing the heat sink compound seems crazy but it occurs to me the the couple of times that I’ve stripped down an expired system, the heat sink compound had indeed dried out. So I think I’ll put a tube of compound on my shopping list.

    Thanks!

    • Hey Darryl,

      It’s amazing that a thin sheet of compound can have so much impact but, having gone through the “heat woes” a few times, a tube of compound can come in pretty handy.

      Bill

  2. Darryl Gittins

    A tip – “Clean the monitor”. Be careful what you use to clean it though. Many articles online and in magazines
    contain misinformation about this. For example, Apple says “” “Use only a damp, soft, lint-free cloth or LCD cleaning product” ” and “” “Don’t clean the screen with a cleaner containing alcohol” ” to clean the screen. That’s good advice, except many “” “LCD cleaning products” ” contain isopropyl alcohol, which can damage a screen with repeated use, depending on what it’s made of. Even a glass screen can be damaged because it has a coating that can be dissolved.

    The best thing to use is one of those micro-fiber cloths you get with your glasses. Be careful to keep the cloth clean, as a speck of sand imbedded in the cloth could scratch.

    If the screen is really filthy, dip a lint free cloth in a sink with mild diluted dish soap and warm water (before you wash the dishes), wring it out thoroughly, and then wipe the screen. It works nicely on crystal wine glasses, and also on an LCD screen.

  3. Hey Bill. I forgot to turn back the clocks! Got up at 8 o’clock, didn’t realise it was only seven! LOL :-)

  4. Glad to see you back here… I knew the time change would drive you out of the cave : )

    Rick

  5. Bill,

    On a more serious note… Dust will play havoc to a PC. A dust build up is like placing a blanket over the computer’s components. I recently experienced an issue where my PC was unexpectedly shutting down. Drove me nuts… I ended up blowing out the dust inside the PC and reseating the memory modules and checking all connections. Haven’t had a problem since…

    Rick

    • Hi Rick,

      Recently had the same problem with a high-end game – kept crashing. Dust in the vid card fan. Blew it out and like magic, no more crashes.

      Best,

      Bill

  6. Hi Bill,
    Daryl;s advise is excellent, I’ve heard people using distilled water and microfiber as well for the monitor.
    Carey Holtzman formerly of Computer America is famous for recommending a low powered electric leaf blower to clean PC’s, I’ll pass on the blower but I’ll take your advise, she’s been a little noisy lately.!
    Mark

    • Hey Mark,

      Distilled water and microfiber sounds like it would be ideal for monitor cleanup – will definitely give that a try. This is a new one for me so, I appreciate you passing this tip on.

      I’ll pass on the leaf blower though – I’ll stay with the canned air. :)

      Best,

      Bill

  7. Georg

    Hi Bill,
    …and if you remove any heatsinks to change the heat sink compound, it’s also a good idea to clean the heatsink itself. Make sure to remove any fans before you continue with the suggested cleaning method.
    I use an ultrasound cleaning device (the one that I also use for my eyeglasses), with a few drops of dishwashing liquid in luke-warm water. Then I dry the heatsink with a hairdryer, and back it it goes where it belongs, not forgetting to reattach the fan. This, I found, is the only way to remove the gunk from heatsinks with otherwise inacessible narrow fins.

    All the best

    Georg

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  9. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Actually that pic up there looks very much like the inside of someones computer I recently looked at. I think it had spiderwebs too lol. No wonder it was a clunker. It ran like crap because it was full of crap, literally.
    Cheers

  10. Hey Bill,

    Good to see you found your way back, missed ya.

    As a matter of fact, I recently did some hardware changes on the comp and noticed it was filthy inside, although not as bad as your picture, I think I saw a stray tumbleweed flying around in there. Thanks for the reminder to clean it out.

    TeX

  11. Max

    Hey Bill. I just snapped this pic of a dead machine I was given to recycle. The owners were unaware that the side panel was removable. This is an extreme case, but they’re lucky it didn’t burn the house down. Machine was a Dell Dimension 2400.

    http://i57.photobucket.com/albums/g220/cutlass420/Still0063.jpg

  12. Maybe I should have said, rolling around? LOL

    maybe I should just let the comedy to the professionals?
    :)

    TeX