How To Clean A Computer – The Ultimate Guide

While a lot of time is spent cleaning our offices and homes, it is often the case that our computers are overlooked.  According to You should see cleaning your computer is not just about making it look great, as it is more about keeping the hardware under the hood clean which can stop issues related to it running properly and even prevent your computer from overheating.

When your computer is in use, static electricity is generated, which attracts hairs and dust.  Unfortunately, over time, these start to clump together and block up case fans, the heat-sink and a multitude of other important components of your computer.  As well as being gross and unsightly, it blocks airflow and eventually can cause overheating.  So it is vital that you schedule regular clean-ups for your computer.  If you don’t know where to begin or how to effectively clean your computer safely, then you are in luck as you will find our ultimate guide to cleaning a computer on this page.

What You Need

  • Compressed Air
  • Rubbing Alcohol (Or even Vodka)
  • White Vinegar
  • Distilled Water
  • Microfibre Cloth
  • Cotton Buds
  • Scotch Tape

Computer Case

We will start with the most important and biggest part of any computer that needs to be cleaned.  If your computer has been sitting around for many months, it is likely that it is packed full of dust so much that even the intake fans with filters are.

Before you start blowing the dust out, you need to take it outside to ensure that the dust goes and stays out.  But even before this stage, you need to disconnect your computer completely.  This means not only taking out the power cable, but the USB peripherals too and any other audio or external equipment you have connected up to it.  Remember to ground yourself while pressing the on/off button and holding the power supply to discharge any remaining power still in the computer.

Wiping The Casing Down

Next, you need to give the case’s outside a thorough wipe down, cleaning the whole of its exterior, including the feet too.

Clean All The Dust Filters

You now need to take off all the case’s removable dust filters and wipe away built-up dust.  Although you can do a good job using your hand, use the compressed air to give it a quick blast too.  Foam filters on the other hand, can be cleaned by rinsing them quickly under the tap in a sink.  Remember to clear the dust out away from the already clean sides, or else you will make both sides dirty giving yourself more work than unnecessary.

Preparing To Clean The Inside Of The Case

Before you start spraying away at the inside of the case, you will only make a big mess if you do it without some preparation.  Start by wiping the inside of the case by hand.  This gives you the chance to disconnect any of the larger components such as the heat-sink (but only if you have bought some replacement thermal paste), RAM modules and the graphics card.

Dust always builds up between the cracks behind these components, so removing them will make the job of cleaning the motherboard a little easier.  Before you blow at the GPU and other fans in the case, hold a pen in the fan to keep it in place and spinning too fast, as this could damage the motor.

If you find any additional large dust clumps, grab them and wipe them away using a damp, but not rubbing alcohol-full, damp but not soaked cloth.  Once you have done this, then you can use the compressed air can to spray at the corners and areas you may have missed, along with the motherboard as a whole.  If there are very hard-to-move particles of dust around the expansion slots of the case, take some cotton buds and dampen them with alcohol and rub them out.

Pack It All Back Up Again

Once the computer has been cleaned inside and outside, put everything back in the right places.  It may be worth checking your wiring too, while you are at it. 

Keyboards And Mice

Once you have finished cleaning the actual computer tower case inside and out, you need to move onto the peripherals you use.  Considering how often these are touched by you and anyone else who uses your computer they can be particularly gross.  Besides, there are a multitude of tiny nooks and crannies where dust, crumbs and other disgusting stuff can build up.

Keyboard Cleaning

Start with the keyboard and wipe it down with a damp cloth.  As ordinary plastic is less sensitive than the likes of microchips etc. you can use virtually anything to clean the keyboard such as a microfibre cloth, old rag or even a clean sock (if you like to recycle clothes and use them for cleaning).  Once the dust and grease has been wiped away from the top, flip it upside down and give it a good old shake to remove any loose bits of debris that may be stuck in-between the keys.  Then take the compressed air and black the keyboard to remove any other bits of food, dust and hair that may still be lodged in-between or even under the keys.

Remove The Keys

While the above should deal with around 80% of the keyboard, you could also remove the keys to gain access to the backboard of the keyboard.  A key puller will generally remove most mechanical keyboard keys.  However, if you misplaced yours or own a membrane switch keyboard, you can use a letter opener or even a flat-head screwdriver to gently wedge them under the keys to remove them.  NB:  It is a good idea to take a picture of the keyboard’s layout before you start removing the keys, so you remember where to put them back.

Mouse Cleaning

Cleaning the mouse is virtually the same process as cleaning the keyboard as it needs a good wipe over.  Pay especially close attention to the non-stick pads underneath the mouse as dust and other messy stuff accumulates there easily.  If you find that debris or anything else is trapped in the scroll wheel, flip the mouse upside down and turn the wheel or blast it with some air to remove anything lodged inside.  For an optical sensor, use a damp cloth or q-tip to thoroughly remove any leftover mess.

Monitor Cleaning

As monitors and screens are very sensitive, you need to use gentle cleaning methods.  Avoid using window cleaning solutions, and also avoid using alcohol or Ammonia-based cleaners too as they can break down the coating of anti-reflective material applied to screens and cause clouding or other kinds of damage.

The most effective cleaning solution to use is one that you can easily make yourself, using equal parts of distilled water and white vinegar.

However, before you damp anything down, wipe the surface to remove any grit or dust that could scratch the screen.  Another important rule is to avoid spraying or pouring liquid onto the screen directly as drops can make their way into the panel via any gaps around the bezel.  Drip solution onto a cloth, then wipe the display in a circular fashion, as this stops streaks. 

Cleaning your computer is a lot more involved than you might think, but it’s not rocket science.  By following the advice and tips in the guide above, your system will not only look as good as new again, but may even run better too.

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