Even if you have a squeaky clean house, chances are dust and other debris have accumulated in and around your computer. This may not seem like a big deal at first glance but it can be detrimental to performance and even cause permanent damage.
**Please, we are not responsible if you damage your computer while trying to clean it. We try to offer advice how how to prevent damaging your computer while cleaning and performing maintenance, but please use common sense when working with electronics and if you are unsure about what you are doing at any point, please have a professional do the work for you.**
**Also, please remember to be careful whenever your working around power sources. To avoid electrical shock, always unplug your electronics before performing maintenance of any type!**
Remember, that before beginning any project that involves performing service on your computer or any electronic devices, you should always avoid “ESD” or electrostatic discharge. As you walk around your home you can build up an electrostatic charge. When you come in contact with another object that has a lesser charge, the electrons move to that other object, which in this case could be the sensitive components of your computer. If this discharge occurs you will likely damage your computer. In order to avoid ESD, use a “Grounding Strap”. A grounding strap is a wrist strap that has a cord attached to it. This cord will have a clip at the end of it that you can then clip on to the chassis of the computer. This strap will help prevent static build up.
OK, with all that aside let’s jump right into it.
-Keyboard and Mouse
To clean your keyboard, you can use a slightly damp cloth, or a duster. I would not recommend using a harsh cleanser with ammonia that could cause fading. There are many products available that are made specifically for cleaning electronics, opt to use these instead. If you find that there is debris inside your keyboard, you can use compressed air to remove it. Whether your just cleaning the surface or deep cleaning debris from under the keys, I recommend keeping the keyboard upside down to prevent more debris from getting inside.
To clean an optical mouse, you can again use a cloth and light cleanser for the buttons and the pads on the bottom of the mouse. You can use a cotton swab to carefully clean the optic lens on the bottom of your mouse. Take caution when wiping the optic lens with cotton, if your lens is recessed into the mouse a little, you don’t want to get cotton jammed in there.
-Cleaning your Monitor
An often overlooked part of cleaning the monitor is making sure that the ventilation on the monitor is clear of dust and other debris. Ventilation is important as it keeps our electronic devices cool. To clean the screen always apply the cleanser to the cloth first and never directly apply to the monitor itself. Use a cleanser that is safe for use on monitors and screens.
-Cleaning Your Computer
You can use the same light, electronic safe cleanser on the exterior of your computer, again remember to apply cleansers to the cloth first and not directly on your electronics. Make sure to clear anything blocking your computers ventillation system.
Many of the same cleaning techniques that are used for the desktop can be applied to laptop computers.
Use a lint-free cloth, I wouldn’t recommend paper towels as thy can leave paper fibers all over your laptop and paper towels can be a bit too abrasive.
You can use a store bought electronics cleanser or a 1:1 ratio of water and white vinegar to clean LCD screens and and the exterior of your hardware.
Compressed air works really well for keyboards and touch pads, you can use cotton swabs for the difficult stuff. You can use a light cleanser, as mentioned earlier to clean keyboards that are really messy.
Make sure your laptop can breath! Check the fan exhaust on your laptop and ensure that there isn’t anything blocking it. You can use compressed air to remove debris from cooling vents but be careful not to blow any cleaning solution into the laptop, make sure the area is dry before using compressed air. Follow the directions on the compressed air bottle and never turn it up side down, this will cause the propellant to come out of the nozzle which could damage your computer.
Check usb ports, power connectors, and any other port on you laptop and make sure it’s free of debris.
Experts who feel extremely comfortable with what their doing can actually open their laptop up and clean the cooling system internally. This method is not recommended for casual users.
*As always, spray the cleaning solution onto the cloth not your electronics.
You can take some preventative measures for minimizing the amount of dust you encounter in the first place by not using your laptop on the floor or in dusty areas of your home. Make sure clean the area around your laptop, if you do all the hard work of cleaning your laptop and then set it down on a pile of dust, it’s going to be clogged up again within a few days. Never block your laptops fans and cooling system, make sure you have an clear perimeter around your laptop so it can properly cool to avoid overheating.
*This is where the risk of damaging your computer is the highest, if you don’t feel confident in what your doing, please skip these steps and have a professional clean your computer for you.
Before beginning to clean your computer, I would recommend that you move to an area where you don’t mind having dust get blown around.
Once you find a good cleaning location, open up your computer. If you are unsure how to do this check your computers user manual. Once inside, you can use compressed air to clear debris from your systems fans and other components inside your computer. You can also use a vacuum to remove dust as well, just be careful. I prefer to use a combination of compressed air and vacuum. I start by sweeping the compressed air across the components I am trying to clean while holding the vacuum a short distance away to suck up the blown debris. This method is similar to sanding devices that collect dust with a vacuum as you sand. There are vacuums made specifically to clean computers that you can buy at many electronics stores. Remember to never place the vacuum hose directly on or above your computers components.
Make sure you get in between hard drives and the small spaces inside where dust accumulates. Check your I/O ports, like your USB ports and headphone jacks and make sure they are clear of dust. Check the fan on your power supply and make sure its clean, and don’t forget about the other side where the air intake is. Sometimes you just cant get where you need to in order to get to the gunk, if this is the case you can also remove components to make cleaning them easier, like your graphics card for example. You should not use liquid cleaners on the inside of your machine as you could damage the components inside.
The name of the game here is to remove dust, and most likely dust is going to be the major debris type that you will encounter during this process. Remember, you should never place cloth or any other objects directly on of in front of your computers ventilation, these can be just as detrimental to your computer. Make sure the are around your computer is clear and try to keep your computer off the floor if you can. Even if you can elevate it slightly, it may prevent all the dust and or pet hair from the floor from getting into your machine.
Under normal circumstances you should perform cleaning maintenance on your computer once a year, in some places like auto detailing shops, you may want to clean more often to prevent unnecessary wear and tear. Just like us, our computers and other electronics like TV’s, stereos, set top boxes,Blu Ray players, DVD players, gaming consoles, modems and more, need to breath. All of the aforementioned devices have the potential to short out or overheat if covered with objects or loaded with dust.