Dealing with dust in your PC
There are three main problems that dust can cause inside your machine.
- Dust blocks air vents
When an air vent gets blocked, it stops hot air coming out of your machine and prevents cold air from coming in.
- Dust blocks fans
Fans can get clogged up by a build up of dust. This hinders the passage of air and can slow down or even stop the fan from working.
- Dust creates an insulating layer
Dust can get everywhere, covering circuit boards, drives and filling heat sinks. This stops heat from escaping.
It is a lesson learned at school, if you heat a wire, it builds up electrical resistance. This is bad news for a PC and will slow it down. In a worst case scenario, it could permanently damage your computer.
How to remove dust from your PC
For a deep clean, make sure you switch off your PC first. Then unplug all of the cables from the back and front.
Start by removing any dust from the air vents that are accessible from the outside. You can use a vacuum cleaner for this if you wish. The main thing is to get those air vents clear.
Once you are satisfied with that, you need to prepare for the next step. Computers are very sensitive to static electricity, which can cause serious issues for the chips inside. Ground yourself before doing anything else. I usually touch a radiator (if it is cold) or something similar.
Carefully remove the side panel from the PC. You may need to loosen or remove a couple of screws, or it may simply unclip.
You can try blowing the dust out, although I would caution against this if you want to avoid getting any in your mouth, eyes, nose, hair… pretty much everywhere. If you blow the dust, do it in a well ventilated open space (outside is a good place if it is not raining!).
My preferred method is to very carefully use the vacuum cleaner, with a plastic attachment on the end (to avoid static and scratches). Be extremely careful and gentle when doing this, as you do not want to damage any of the components inside.
Some dust will remain in the really hard to get to areas. To deal with this, you can buy an air duster. An air duster is a can of compressed air, which you can squirt into your machine.
Before using an air duster, make sure you read the safety instructions on the side. So for instance, the advice on the can shown above instructs you not to use it on live equipment (make sure it is unplugged), to allow the machine to cool down before use, don’t spray near a naked flame (it is highly flamable), etc. Use common sense!
Also, spray in short bursts. As compressed gas exists from a tiny nozzle, it expands extremely fast and thus cools down. A lot! In fact, if you use it for any length of time you will notice ice forming on the end of the nozzle. The same can happen inside your computer, as the cold forces the moisture in the air to condense. If you just use short bursts of air, the moisture will quickly evaporate again.
If you have any questions about cleaning your PC, please get in touch.