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Cleaning the PC

If you've never pulled the cover off your system, you might be amazed at all the dust and dirt that has accumulated inside.

Computer power supplies have fans that suck the air out of the system chassis. This causes air to flow into the system wherever it can. This air is then expelled, creating a current of air flowing over and around the components inside the case. This serves to cool down the electrical components that generate a lot of heat.


Cool Off First!

Keep in mind that cool is used here as a relative term; the insides of your computer get hot, so don't ever work on a system until it has been powered down and had time to cool to room temperature.


Dust, dirt, hair, and anything else that can be found on the floor around the system gets drawn in as well, and stays there.


Off the Wall - Clean Is Cool

Your computer needs to be cleaned from time to time, not just when you open the case up for an upgrade. Once a quarter, open up the system case and blow out all the dust bunnies. If you're working in an exceptionally clean environment, you probably could get away with twice a year. It's not that we're neat freaks; dust is a real problem because it's a great insulator. Dust builds up on the chips and boards inside your computer and similar to a cozy wool blanket holds in heat, which is the primary enemy of your computer. Heat shortens the life of electronic components and can exacerbate the problem of thermal distortion. When you heat things, they expand. Conversely, when you cool them, they shrink. This happens to everything inside your computer. The more expanding that occurs when things are hot, the more shrinking that occurs when you shut down your system. Things work loose, crack, warp, and so on—all of which are bad for your computer. Keeping your system free of dust helps the cooling efforts of the system fan and increases the life of the system.


After disconnecting your system and before performing the upgrade, take the computer outside and blow it out with compressed air. Most computer supply stores sell cans of compressed air in various sizes. You definitely want to do this outside if at all possible because billowing clouds of dust will result.

Make sure the entire system has cooled to room temperature before you blow it out because the compressed air chills whatever you spray it at (the air spray can itself actually gets so cold it might become uncomfortable to hold). Hitting something that is hot with an icy blast of cold air causes it to contract suddenly, and that can damage the circuit boards and electrical parts in your system.

You might be tempted to break out the trusty household vacuum cleaner to get dust out of your computer and avoid having to move it outside for cleaning. However, two problems exist with this method.

First, the business end of a vacuum cleaner is hard metal (or a hard plastic attachment) and too large for the purpose, thereby increasing the chance you'll whack something delicate inside the case that should remain whack-free. Second, even if you have a mini-vac designed for this type of work, it simply can't do as effective a job as a can of compressed air. Air cans come with small pipettes (little plastic tubes) that fit the nozzle and enable you to direct the air stream between circuit boards and in very tight places where dust and debris accumulate.

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