How to Clean the Inside of Your Computer

Computers attract dust bunnies like magnets to metal, but this doesn’t mean they’re a compatible match. An overload of dust in your computer’s crevices means a drop in performance and potential overheating. Luckily, this can be fixed with a deep clean of your computer hardware. (Don’t worry, this isn’t as scary as it sounds.)

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to safely clean the inside of your computer.

You will need:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Q-tips
  • Can of compressed air
  • >90% isopropyl alcohol (optional but effective)

Start by powering off your computer and unplugging any attached cords.

Before removing the case to delve into those sensitive computer components, you’ll want to ground yourself by touching a metal surface. Grounding means to negate electrostatic discharge that you may accidentally transfer to computer parts, potentially rendering them useless. Although this is quite rare, it’s better to be safe in this regard.

Remove the outer case using a screwdriver and have your can of compressed air ready to do some serious dust sweeping.

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Most cans of compressed air come with a straw to attach to the nozzle, which is helpful for precise cleaning. If yours did not come with one, don’t worry, it’s completely optional.

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When using compressed air, be sure to hold it at least six inches from any computer parts in an upright position. (holding the can in any other way or playing with it is asking for permanent skin, eye, or computer damage.)

Using short and quick bursts, blast any areas of caked dust: fans, power supply, motherboard, and around the perimeter of the tower/laptop.

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For a deeper clean, unscrew and remove the CPU, graphics card, hard drive, and fans. Blow away any dust from these parts and if needed, use the Q-tips to clean away stubborn dirt.

Q-Tips are best used for difficult crevices as long as you’re not aggressively rubbing the cotton against the computer parts. You wouldn’t want any loose cotton bits floating around on the circuit board(s).

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Stray cotton can be managed by dipping the Q-tip in >90% isopropyl alcohol, which is used to safely rub away any hard-to-remove stains.

Alcohol-dipped Q-tips are also great for cleaning fan blades and hard-to-reach spots on your motherboard.

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If you’re feeling overly ambitious, you can even give your motherboard an alcohol bath. Be sure to use at least a 90% alcohol solution and remove any excess parts before doing this. Soak the board for a few minutes (or longer depending on how badly soiled your board is). Remove the board and ensure it’s completely dry (this should be fairly quick due to the potent alcohol content) before re-installing it in your computer.

Following these steps, your PC/laptop should run more smoothly thanks to its new and improved dust-free environment.

Computers are hard-working machines that need a little love sometimes. Ensure your PC/laptop runs at its best by cleaning it at least once a year (twice a year if you have pets and three times if your cat likes to sleep atop the tower, like mine).

Image Credit: Circuitry

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