Vacuum Your Computer: PC Cleanup that You Can Perform

This computer maintenance is not only things you should do with files, hard drives and programs, but with the physical parts of your computer such as the tower, keyboard and monitor to keep it healthy for a good long time.

There are many things you should be doing with your computer to keep it running correctly and looking like it just came out of the box, or almost.

Some of the things you will need to perform this routine maintenance on your computer are a vacuum with a nozzle attachment or crevice tool, one with an even smaller end would be all that more helpful, some window cleaner, a couple of rags or paper towels, some tweezers, and some rubbing alcohol. A screw driver of the kind that matches the screws on your main frame or tower.

We’ll start with the physical things that you should do on a regular basis, say twice a year to keep your computer in top shape and in better working order.

Start with the power off to all the parts of the computer, tower or main frame, monitor, printer, scanner and any peripherals.

This is important as we will be poking inside some of these, so pull the power cords out of the wall. Unplug them so you cannot get hurt by electricity.

First we’ll start with the tower or main frame. You will need a vacuum with a nozzle attachment or crevice tool for this part. Your main frame is the heart of your computer. In side are all the components that make your whole system work. There is also dust in there.

You can clean this out if your careful. First you need to get the cover off. The manual that came with your computer should have instructions for getting this off but we’ll go over it here.

There is one cover that all manufacturers of computers have made easy to come off for maintenance, usually with only one screw holding it on. You need to figure out which cover this is. There are two usual ways to do this, either the cover is on the side of yours or on the top.

For towers, they are on the side, usually the left as you are looking at the front. On the back of the computer on the left side look for a screw or ribbed round thing. It will be holding the cover on. There will be either one or maybe two or three on that side. Usually one, unscrew it, some kinds you can use just your fingers but others you need a screw driver. When you have the screw loose, it might not come off completely, try pulling back on the cover, there should be a tab or dent in the cover to do this. The dent is a big clue as to which side comes off easier.

If your computer is one of the flatter kinds, the cover comes off by removing the screw or screws that are at the front or back of the top cover. Look at the back first, if you can see screws that hold it on then these need to be removed.

If there are no visible screws on the back look at the front, if you can’t see any on the front look for little square covers with a small slot in them. Using a slotted screw driver, try pushing the slot up or down. The screw on this kind will be behind the little covers.

Once the screw is out push the cover back or forward, whichever way it goes.

Once open, look around. See what all the things inside look like so that when you close the cover after cleaning you can tell if it is the same as when you opened it, just less dust bunnies. There will be some wires from the power supply that are not hooked to anything, these are for future things you can put in your computer.

I will give you a quick tour of the inside of your computer for your help in understanding what all that stuff is.

When you get the cover off you should have easy access to the insides of your computer. You should see a large flat board with lots of small square things, chips, and it should have flat ribbon cables and other cards plugged into it.
This is the mother board, the place were all the other things in your computer are plugged into.

The processor or brain of the computer will be the square thing with the fan or fins on it for cooling. Sometimes you will not be able to see the processor because of the cooling fan or fins are completely covering it.

The memory modules are the flat cards about an inch by three or four inches long. They will be green boards with black chips on them and plugged into white or brown connectors.

There will be a large silver box with a fan of it’s own that the power cord at the back of your computer goes into. Wires of many colors go out of this and into other things inside. This is the power supply and does exactly that, gives power of the correct kind to all the things inside your computer.

There will usually be small cards such as the modem, sound card, and video card in there plugged into the motherboard.

The drives will be easy to tell, they are usually stacked one on top of the other. The smaller one that does not have a door to put disks into is the main drive.

Once you have the cover off you can see what I mean by dust bunny attack. If your computer has never been opened before you probably have lots of dust inside. You can vacuum this out with the nozzle of your vacuum. Just ensure power is off and unplugged and you don’t bang the nozzle around the inside.

This might be a good time to decide if you want to invest in some dust covers for your computer if you see a lot of dust inside. Even some cheap covers or towels would help to keep the dust out. Use them when you are not using the computer and the power is off.

Start at the cover and work your way around the whole inside. Don’t worry about sucking any parts up into the vacuum, they are all secured with tabs and pressure on the connectors. Your vacuum will not be able to suck any parts up.

Run the nozzle around and over all the parts and suck up all the dust. You can turn the computer around and on its side to get all the areas clean. Be careful not to snap or pull any wires or bump into anything hard inside. It takes some work to unplug stuff but you want to be careful.

Dust in enough quantity will do bad things to your computer. It can clog the fan and prevent proper cooling. It can even start to ruin the electrical connections. Dust can carry electricity in ways your computer was not meant to experience. If you get enough dust in your computer you can have problems that are not easy to diagnose or repair other than getting rid of the dust.

Once you have all the dust you can vacuum you can get any that is stuck to flat surfaces such as the sides of the power supply or drives and covers. Use a paper towel or piece of a rag and wipe off the dust. Then vacuum up any that you knocked off.

Once you are all done getting the dust off the components and parts inside use the vacuum on the outside and fans. Put the nozzle right onto the fan that is on the back of the computer. The fan will probably spin and make some neat noises but don’t worry. It’ll get the dust off the fins for the most part.

When your all done, look around carefully inside the computer. Look for anything that you have left inside. This is a final inspection before you close the cover. See if there are any clumps of dust or hair, pieces of paper towel or anything else that shouldn’t be there.

When you are sure there is nothing in there that is not supposed to be you can put the cover back on. Just go in reverse to put it on and secure the cover with the screw or screws.

Now we will go to the outside of all the things of your system. Clean them all with window cleaner or a surface cleaner. Wipe and scrub off all dust, marks, smudges and such. Get all those crevices and cracks with q-tips and small pieces of rag or paper towel and tweezers.

Use small pieces on the areas of the keyboard that are between the sections of keys like the number pad and the arrows and those special keys above the arrows. Pull any lint or hair from between the keys with the tweezers.

You can pick up the keyboard and turn it over, then shake the board to get any stuff from between the keys. Unless you are very clean and neat in your home, stuff will come out.

If you have a scanner clean the glass with a glass cleaner. This will improve your scans.

If you have a printer, look inside the cover and get any clumps of paper or dust. Here you can vacuum out the area under the cover to pick up dust and bits of paper that pull off the pages when printing.

Here you need the rubbing alcohol and some paper towels. Pour a little amount, shake the bottle upside down on a piece of folded paper towel to partly soak a piece with alcohol. You want a little alcohol on the paper towel but not so much that it drips out of the rag or towel.

Use the tweezers and clean the inside under the cover. You will need to use clean pieces of towel and keep at it. Clean any black or colored areas until you get a majority of the extra ink inside cleaned out. You will not be able to get it all but this will help with smudges on your paper.

Make sure when your done that you don’t leave any pieces of paper towel behind. You can even hold the printer upside down and gently shake, being careful not to drop the printer, to dislodge any bits of paper towel.

The monitor, not the flat ones, can be cleaned and even vacuumed out some. For flat monitors you can just clean them off with cleaner. For the larger monitors with the CRT or big glass thing on the front you can do the following.

Use the nozzle or hose and suck out where the slots are all around the monitor. DO NOT OPEN THE MONITOR. There is a large capacitor inside that can hold lethal voltages and should not be tampered with. This device even holds the voltage like a battery after power is removed. You should not open the cover of the monitor unless you know what your doing.

Wipe off all parts of your computer and inspect for any damage. You can tidy up those wires and such at this time. Use those little plastic ties or plastic cable ties available at Walmart in the electric section to keep the cords and wires neat and easy to get to if you move things around or change out one part of your system.

When your all done, plug things back in and turn them on. If something doesn’t work, ensure you plugged it in. Inspect what you did and see if there is something you unplugged when you were inside the main frame or tower. You should have been careful when you were inside but things happen.

Go back and see if you had accidentally unplugged something. If nothing seems wrong start the help and support of your computer and go from there. The only problem I have ever had with doing this is that I don’t plug something back in when I’m done.

After things are up and running do some work at cleaning out those areas inside the computer you can’t see.

Go to the recycle bin and empty it. Go to your browser and clean out the temp files, history and cookies. Go to your browser, like Internet Explorer, and open it. Go to the tools then options and delete these things. If you let these files build up it will slow down your browsing and computer.

Double click on my computer, right click on your hard drive and click properties. Run the disk cleanup to clean out files you haven’t used and need to get rid of to make your computer run faster and better.

Many problems with computers come from some of these simple things.

When all is done, you can be proud that you are preventing future problems with your computer and helping it to last a good long time.

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