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The Dirty World of IT

Thursday, August 16, 2012
The ubiquity of mobile devices and their ease of use have left many of us with oft-forgotten, but still occasionally used desktop computers languishing in the corner. Turned on or off, these workstations are magnets for dust and debris that can reduce the lifespan of your system and negatively impact performance if not properly maintained. Fortunately, this problem can be resolved with a few simple steps.

Dust and other airborne particles aren’t often discovered in a computer case until it’s too late; after the grinding and vibration from a struggling fan have long ceased. Power supplies, video cards, and the case itself all have fans to provide airflow, cooling components to a steady operating temperature. Static electricity attracts a general buildup of dust and dirt which reduces this airflow causing hardware to overheat and malfunction. Unless you build your own computer, chances are the manufacturer has not provided a fan filter found on some custom built rigs.
True to form, bunnies seem to multiply inside computer cases

Unobstructed airflow keeps computer parts cooled and running smoothly

There are a variety of tools available to keep our computers clean inside and out. The most common is a can of compressed air. While it can be expensive ($5/can), the tradeoff is convenience – it’s portable and found at most grocery stores. If you need to remove any adhesives from the case, 99% isopropyl alcohol is best as it dries quickly and will not leave a residue. Another great product is CyberClean, a reusable, putty-like substance you can smoosh into your keyboard or other areas to remove grime and gunk which could slow down your words per minute. 
As tempting as it may be to take a vacuum to the inside of your case, the belt may cause a buildup of electrostatic discharge which could damage the electronics. Save the hoovering for the aftermath of the dust settling. If you’re really hardcore, you can use an air compressor with a nozzle and set the output to no more than 20psi – we want to ensure all soldered parts stay that way.
Granted this is an older PC, but it was in an office environment, not a home

Once you have turned off, unplugged, and opened your computer, discharge any static electricity before reaching into the case. Using the can of air, use short, sweeping blasts to blow out dust from the inside of the case. Keep the can upright and be sure to gently hold any fans in the center so they do not spin while you are cleaning to protect the bearings.

After you clean your computer, check it one month later. If all seems relatively clean, it’s safe to say you can probably get away with only opening your case a few times a year – more so if you keep your computer on the floor and/or near a heating or cooling vent, or if you happen to catch your pet taking a snooze on your keyboard.
Keep the cat (hair) on the outside of the computer case

If you think your PC is bad give us a call and we'd be happy to take a look at it for you. In the meantme, check out these other cringe-worthy candidates.

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