Dust and debris are your computer's worst enemies. As the amount of dust grows, covering fans and components, it becomes increasingly difficult for your computer to breathe and stay at a suitable temperature. This puts a lot of effort on your hardware and causes a reduction in the useful life time. Cleaning it regularly can significantly extend the life of your computer, and if you know the process well, this will only take a few minutes each time. Read step 1 below to get started.
Part 1 of 4: Clean the cabinet or tower
Step 1. Prepare an area where you can blow powder
You will use compressed air and a vacuum cleaner to remove most of the dust from inside the computer, so you should prepare an area where you can blow out dust without worrying about getting other things dirty. A good alternative could be a garage, or a workbench. You can also go outside if it's not raining.
Try to set up a table so that you can easily access the computer without having to bend over or leave it on the floor
Step 2. Gather your supplies
You will need a Phillips screwdriver, compressed air (you can use canned air or a compressor), a small vacuum that can go into tight cavities, a toothbrush, and 99% isopropyl alcohol.
- Don't use an old metal-tipped vacuum as they usually don't have a good ground and could damage your components. The best option is a new handheld vacuum with an extendable plastic hose.
- The toothbrush should be new and have soft bristles.
Step 3. Turn off the computer and unplug all peripherals
Turn off your computer and disconnect all cables from the back. Make sure the monitor, all USB cables, Ethernet cables, speaker cables, and everything else are unplugged. Flip the power supply switch and remove the power cord as well.
Step 4. Turn the computer on its side
Lay the computer on its side, on top of your table or workspace. Make sure the connectors on the back are located as close to the surface as possible. These connectors are plugged into the motherboard and can help you verify that the side panel you are removing is correct.
Step 5. Remove the side panel
Remove the screws that hold the side panel in place. You can find these screws along the back of the computer. Newer cabinets or towers have thumb screws and can be removed without using tools. However, if it is old or if the thumbscrews are too tight, you will need a screwdriver.
Leave the screws separate so you don't lose them
Step 6. Vacuum the powder a bit to start
Depending on how much time has passed and the environment where it has been, you could find yourself in a pretty ugly picture. Dust tends to clump and cover components, so the interior may be covered in a thin gray layer. Use the vacuum to make a pass through the interior, sucking up large accumulations of dust that are on the components and in the cavities.
When you go to move the vacuum cleaner inside, be careful not to hit any of the components with the tip. Many of the components inside are very fragile and if you bend any of the pins or connectors you could render the hardware unusable
Step 7. Use compressed air to blow the powder out of the cavities
Take your can of compressed air or your air compressor and blow out the cavities that are hard to reach. Use a vacuum cleaner to help reduce the amount of dust that disperses in a cloud.
- Avoid making long, sustained blows. If you do, the can will get too cold and you won't be able to hold it.
- Do not blow compressed air on the fans. If you blow on the fans, you could make them spin faster than the speed for which they were designed and could damage them.
Step 8. Clean the fans with the vacuum cleaner and rubbing alcohol
Use your vacuum to remove large amounts of dust from the fan blades. Dip your toothbrush in rubbing alcohol and brush off any dust that is still adhering to the blades.
- You could access the fans more easily if you remove them first. You will need to remove the screws that hold the fan to the chassis and then disconnect the cable that connects the fan to the motherboard. Make sure you take a good look at where the fan was connected so that you can easily reconnect it when you're done cleaning.
- Make sure to reconnect the fan in the same direction it was originally installed. The fans spin in one direction, and reversing it could have a direct impact on your computer's cooling. Most fans have an arrow printed on the top of the case, indicating which way they rotate.
Step 9. Remove the components for a deep clean
Although vacuuming and dusting is usually sufficient for basic cleaning, you may want to remove the individual components to make them sparkle again. Make sure you have a ground connection before touching any internal components. When you remove the components, put them on an antistatic surface, such as wood or rubber.
- You can remove the graphics card by removing the screws that hold it to the case, loosening the flap underneath it, and pulling it straight out very carefully. You may need to disconnect power cords in order to remove it completely. Leave the graphics card on the cleaning surface and use the alcohol brush to remove difficult-to-clean dust.
- Removing the hard drive and optical drives may make them easier to clean as they often get stuck in hard-to-reach trays. Typically, to remove these drives you must open both sides of the enclosure or tower so that you can reach the screws that hold both sides together. Most optical drives can be removed by pulling them from the front of the enclosure after the screws are removed.
- Removing the processor (CPU) fan will allow you to clean the cracks in the heat sink as well as brush off any dust on it. Heat sinks can come attached in a number of ways so be sure to read the manual before attempting to remove them. Some require you to remove a bracket from the back of the motherboard. If you remove the processor fan, you will need to apply a new coat of thermal paste to the CPU before replacing it.
Step 10. Clean the dust from the grills
Depending on the cabinet or tower you have, there may be vents for the fans and to allow air flow. Use the compressed air to blow from the inside of the cabinet outward, and then use a feather duster to clean the outside of the grill.
Part 2 of 4: Clean the keyboard
Step 1. Unplug the keyboard
Even if you only plan on vacuuming over the keyboard, it's probably a good idea to unplug it first. This will help reduce the likelihood of electrostatic discharge.
Step 2. Use the vacuum cleaner
You can do a quick cleaning on your keyboard by running the tip of the vacuum cleaner over the keys. Press the keys inward so that you can reach all the cavities.
Step 3. Shake the keyboard by holding it upside down
Keep your keyboard turned upside down on a surface that is easy to clean or that you don't mind getting dirty (for example, outside). Run your hand over the keys while holding the keyboard upside down and as you do so, shake it. You should see the little debris coming out of it.
Step 4. Remove the keys
If you want to do a deep cleaning on your keyboard, you will need to remove each of the keys in order to clean them and access the internal parts of the keyboard. Removing the keys is a bit of a tedious task, but it will save you from having to replace the keyboard if it stops working.
- To remove a key, you must press down on the key in front of it. Insert a flat object, such as a car key or flat-head screwdriver, under the key to be removed. Very carefully pry the key up by pushing it up until it pops off. Repeat this process until you have removed all the keys.
- Spacer bars can be difficult to remove, so you may want to leave it as is.
- Take a photo of the keyboard before removing the keys so you have a reference to easily figure out where each one should go.
Step 5. Disassemble the keyboard
Once you have removed all the keys, you can move the keyboard cover aside. Turn the keyboard upside down and loosen all the screws that hold it together. Separate the different parts by observing well where each thing is connected.
Keyboards can be disassembled in different ways and some may not be directly disassembled
Step 6. Wash the components
Once you've disassembled the keyboard, you can begin washing most of the components. Anything that is plastic can go in the dishwasher or be hand washed. The keys can be individually hand washed or you can place them in a closed basket inside the dishwasher.
- Most keyboards have a rubber contact that works like a spring. This contact is not electrical and you can put it in the dishwasher or clean it with hot soapy water.
- Don't wash anything that has a logic board or circuit, and don't wash any wires. You can clean around them by hand using rubbing alcohol and a brush.
Step 7. Reassemble the keyboard
Once you've washed everything and allowed it to dry for a long time, you can put everything back together. Reassemble the keyboard making sure to put all the components in the same way they were before separating them. Look at the photo you took of your keyboard to check the order of the keys.
- You can reposition the keys by pressing them directly in their corresponding place on the keyboard.
- Before putting everything back in its place, make sure everything is completely dry and cool. A little bit of moisture could ruin the keyboard when you plug it back in.
Part 3 of 4: Clean the mouse
Step 1. Unplug the mouse
Before you start cleaning the mouse, be sure to disconnect it from the computer. This will help you avoid damaging it during the cleaning process.
Step 2. Clean the buttons
Use a cloth or brush moistened with alcohol to rub the buttons. Use a toothpick to run it through the space between the buttons and to remove debris from inside. Clean all surfaces that touch or rub the mouse during use.
Step 3. Clean the lens
Turn the mouse over and look at the lens below it. Blow out excess debris with the compressed air, then run an alcohol-dampened cotton swab around the lens to remove any sticky grime.
Step 4. Clean the rubber stoppers
Most mice have small plugs on the bottom. These allow the mouse to glide over the mouse pad. Use a cloth dampened with alcohol to wipe off any dust and debris adhering to the earplugs. Also clean the base of the mouse.
Step 5. Clean the mouse pad
Depending on the pad, you may have a thin layer of dust and debris on its surface. Most pads are dishwasher safe, but you can also wash them by hand.
Part 4 of 4: Clean the monitor
Step 1. Turn off the monitor
Make sure your monitor is disconnected from the computer. This way you can avoid generating static.
Step 2. Wipe off the dust with a dry cloth
Use a microfiber cloth or other soft material to gently wipe it over the screen. Don't pick it up anywhere or try to brush off the grime. Simply wipe the cloth back and forth over the screen to collect dust.
Don't use paper towels, toilet paper, or face towels as they are usually rough and could damage the screen
Step 3. Make a cleaning solution
You can buy specialized cleaning solutions but you can also make one yourself quickly and inexpensively by mixing distilled water and white vinegar in a ratio of 50 to 50. Dampen the cloth or spray it with the solution and carefully wipe it across the screen.
- Never spray the cleaning solution directly onto the screen as it could seep in and damage the components.
- Avoid using ammonia cleaning solutions, such as Windex, or ethyl alcohol.