Digital Cleaning Tips

Technology is wonderful, isn’t it? We all love movies, video games, computers, PDAs, televisions, CD players, and telephones. We could not live without the Internet, the ability to fax, and satellites. More and more our lives are lived on a platform held up by electronics. However, most electronics do not maintain themselves. Dust, liquids, static electricity, and other dirty situations can be the ruin of expensive equipment. A few household remedies can save you thousands of dollars in repairs or replacements.

The Heart of Your Computer, DVD player, or Your CD Player: Cleaning the laser’s lens

One of the most common problems plaguing the electronic world is also one of the most easily fixed. Are you continually disappointed when your DVD player won’t play your favorite movie, even though the disc isn’t scratched? Perhaps your CD player won’t play your favorite CD, or your computer simply won’t mount the disc you put in its drive. You have tried everything short of getting the device repaired. Those expensive cleaning kits don’t work, right? The solution is simple, and better yet, cheap.

Disc drive cleaning kits don’t work well for one reason: they don’t dissolve or break up any dirt attached to the lens of the laser. They simply wipe it away. This doesn’t help if the dirt, soda, sugar, or whatever, is actually stuck on the lens. To fix this, open up your disc drive so you have access to the laser’s lens. Many CD players, DVD players, and video game consoles allow for easy access to this lens. All you have to do is pop the top or eject the CD tray. Many computer, however, require that you remove the casing. Either way, you need access to this lens. Once you have access, apply a small drop of isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) to the tip of a Q-tip. In circular motions, clean the lens. After five to ten rotations, rotate the Q-tip in the opposite direction. Repeat the process with a dry Q-tip to absorb any leftover alcohol. If you choose, you can also purchase a can of compressed air to blow off any last remaining bits of dust. You can try doing this with your breath, but be sure not to spit on the lens.

The Static Shutdown: Making sure that your computer and its monitor are safe

Has your computer shut down for no particular reason? Has your monitor burnt out? Or worse yet, have the insides of your computer just stopped working? There are many possible causes of such problems, but one major factor is the dust buildup on the chips, processors, and drives of your computer. This can build up static electricity, and once it is released, the surge of static electricity can destroy many components.

This, too, is an easy fix-and you don’t need to be a professional. If you suspect that dust buildup may be a problem, or if you just want to make sure your computer is safe, purchase a can of compressed air and you are halfway to solving the problem. Once you have a can of compressed air (available at many grocery or appliance stores), remove the cover to your computer or monitor. This is the hardest part. Read your computer’s manual before proceeding and touch a grounded metal object, because if you accidentally touch the wrong computer component, the electrical charge of your body can ruin it. Once the inner workings of your computer or monitor are exposed, carefully use the compressed air to blow out all the dust. Don’t hold the can too close, as the air moves with velocity and could possibly damage the internal components. It is best to hold it at least six inches away from what you are cleaning. Once it is clean, put the casing or cover of your computer back on, and you are all set. This process works for any DVD player, video game console, television, sound system, etc.

Cleaning Displays Safely

Fingerprints and dust are the primary offenders in the realm of digital displays. It really is a bummer when you are watching that horror movie and you can’t get your mind off the hand print in the middle of the killer’s face. I know cleaning the display seems mindless and easy, but beware, as damage is easily done. When cleaning a display, avoid spraying water or cleanser directly on the display. Excess liquid may run down the screen, and possibly into the electronic components. This can short out the system and then you’re out a lot of money. Instead, dampen a cloth and wipe the screen. Be sure to power down and unplug the display before cleaning it.

In addition, only use cleansing products recommended by the manual that comes with the product you are intending to clean. Some cleansers include chemicals that may have damaging effects, so if in doubt, use only water. It is particularly important not to use any sort of aerosol spray, solvent, or abrasive. A rough cloth can also be damaging, so be sure to use a lint-free, smooth cloth or paper towel.

Disaster Strikes: Spilling liquid on your keyboard

Don’t eat or drink while using your computer. Right, like you are going to listen to me. If you choose to drink coffee or chew that donut while typing away, be sure you are careful. It is quite the mess to be cleaned up if you spill liquid on your keyboard, especially if you are using a laptop. If cleaning your keyboard is a matter of removing dust and crumbs, simply flip it upside down and shake it slowly. Use a can of compressed air to dislodge anything stuck between the keys.

Liquid, however, is a different matter. If you were careless and accidentally spilled any liquid on your keyboard, quickly unplug it and flip it upside down. Let the excess pour off, but make sure you let the keyboard dry upside down. This is to let the water accumulate and drip off, rather than pool and short out any components. If you plug your keyboard back in and it doesn’t work at all once it is dry, you have broken your keyboard and you’ll need to buy a new one. If it still works, then you are lucky. If it works, but the keys are sticky (i.e. you spilled soda on the keys), your cleaning has just begun. Use a butter knife or a flathead screwdriver to pry off each key. Try not to pry off the oversized keys unless necessary (space bar, shift, enter, etc.), because they are more difficult to reattach. Use a soft, lint-free cloth and cotton swabs to clean the mess. Mild cleanser or water works best. Reattach all the keys by firmly pressing them in place. If you forget where the keys were originally placed, take a digital picture of your keyboard prior to removing the keys.

If spilling on your keyboard is a common problem and you want to avoid the cleanup altogether, purchase a flexible plastic cover for your particular keyboard. It will save a lot of hassle.

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