Save Time Money and Aggravation – Physically Clean Your Machine

Clean and maintain your computer, in 5 easy steps.

Spring cleaning

Recently, I was reading an article by another Blogger, in which he described and illustrated the “inner workings” of a typical PC. What I found surprising, was the number of comments from his readers, which made it clear that they had never seen the inside of their own PC.

Comments like – “Wow! Mind boggling to see what is inside the computer”; “Thanks for letting me see the inside brains of the computer”; “That’s all that’s in there? I was expecting more stuff.”

Computer maintenance involves not only keeping a computer clean of malware; viruses, Trojans, spyware, and adware, but in addition, keeping the physical machine clean. 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. In fact, in the last year I have seen 4 CPU’s, and a few graphic cards, toasted by excessive 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.

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.

To make it easy to remember, I schedule my computer maintenance and cleaning at the Spring and Fall time changes (this year I’m a week ahead), just as I schedule smoke detector battery replacement.

Tools you’ll need:


A can of compressed air

Cotton swabs

Rubbing alcohol (70% is fine)

Paper towels or anti-static cloths


Make sure you disconnect the machine from the wall outlet before you begin maintenance and cleanup, and try to avoid touching the components inside the case.


(No, this is not one of my machines).

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 takes 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. Never touch the back of the monitor. 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.

To be certain you are doing all the right things to ensure you have “a healthy, smooth-running computer”, checkout TechPaul’s article – Elementary, My Dear Watson.

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Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, computer repair

15 responses to “Save Time Money and Aggravation – Physically Clean Your Machine

  1. Liam O' Moulain


    I’m one of those people who has never seen the inside of my computer. Guess I better get at this, huh? You’ve given me another Sat. job! lol


  2. TeXaCo

    Great article Bill, I try to clean my computer every two months or so. I think it has more dust than under the bed.


    • Bill Mullins

      Hi Tex,

      When I read your comment (more dust than under the bed), I had a bit of a chuckle.

      This morning, just as I sat down to write, I got called away. By the time I got back to my machine, my opening lines – “Think of a place that hides more dust than the space under your bed”, had disappeared into the ether. It must be true through, that great minds think alike. lol

      Cleaning your computer every two months, makes me wonder if you have a cat. In any event, I congratulate you on your preventive maintenance schedule. This is one area where being careful, pays off.

      Thank you for visiting again.



  3. vhick

    I’m always clean my PC one a month. Most likely 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 because of very hot temperature. A cable management inside will help to maintain the file of the parts.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Vhick,

      I hadn’t considered the dust and the heat problems that can be encountered in a tropical environment – thanks for pointing this out.

      You’re right, cable management is an important issue – poorly managed cables can restrict airflow.



  4. TeXaCo

    “Cleaning your computer every two months, makes me wonder if you have a cat”

    How dare you accuse me of having a Cat! Men are dog people! …………..ok I have three cats, shhh but all outside cats so that makes it ok? although they do like to come in and lounge around every once in awhile or daily, however you look at it.

    Do I lose my “Man Card” for that?

    Alright, I’ll stop 😛

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Tex,

      You get to keep you’re Man Card – we’ll even add a distinguished “bar” to your card! Cats are very cool, I have 2 myself (the truth is of course they “have me”). There’s something very cool about an animal who lets you know that they are putting up with you, and not the other way around.

      Thanks for the early morning laugh.



  5. Hi Bill

    “Never touch the back of the monitor”? It’s certainly safer to touch the rear plastic case than to touch the screen itself. I dust the whole thing.

    And if you can even find a can of compressed air in the shops, they cost a fortune.

    Dave K

  6. John Bent

    Hi Bill
    Just cleaned my old Dell PC for the first time ever. No screwdriver required, just a push button at top and bottom and the whole side lifted up like a suitcase.
    I suppose you need to be careful not to open the case until the warranty has expired?
    My new PC is an all-in-one, so presumably not so easy to clean the inside, a bit like a laptop/notebook.
    One good tip I learned to prevent a laptop overheating during prolonged use with mains supply is to take the battery out. This could have saved me the cost of a new battery if I’d found out sooner.
    Kind regards

    • Bill Mullins

      Hi John,

      I’ve got an old Dell OptiPlex (still runs like a charm), which opens just like yours – I love the convenience.

      Your advice on laptop overheating sounds very sensible – thanks for that.



  7. Georg Lechner

    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.

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