How to Clean a Desktop Computer

How to Clean a Desktop Computer

It’s amazing to me how many people never think to ever clean their computers. In fact, over the course of my career one of the most frequent problems I have seen related to heat issues and random shutdowns are caused by computers that are just too dirty. That’s why today I thought we should stop talking about cool features and new software and just focus on how to maintain the desktop we own. For the purposes of this guide, we will be looking at a traditional desktop computer, but most of the steps should work if you have an all-in-one desktop as well. Only the locations will be different.

Problems If You Don’t Clean It

Most people don’t believe that cleaning a computer is really important. But if you don’t, you can run into problems. The main problem you will have is heat. The dust that accumulates both inside the case and on the outside of the vents can choke out the air supply. But this air is what is used to cool your computer. Cool air is sucked inside the case and passes over the components and is then blown out of the case as warm air. This dissipates the heat and keeps it running smoothly.

However, if dirt and dust is preventing this airflow, then you can run into problems. If your machine is overheating, then you could run into times when it shuts itself down on you because it is getting too hot. While this can save it from damage, over time this extreme heat can wear out your components. This can include the RAM, processor and motherboard leading to a potentially expensive repair simply because you didn’t want to bother cleaning it.

What You Will Need

Luckily, you don’t need a lot to clean a desktop computer. While you may have some of this stuff, you will probably need to hit an electronics store to get everything you need to do the job right. Here’s what you will need:

  1. Two soft, lint free cloths
  2. A can of compressed air
  3. Monitor cleaner
  4. Furniture dust cleaner
  5. Philips head screwdriver

That’s really all you need. After you get these materials, all you will need is a little time to do it right. Are you ready to get started? Let’s get to it.

Cleaning Your Desktop Computer

Below you will find the steps you will need to perform to clean your desktop computer, cables, monitor and the area around it.

1. Power Down and Disconnect Your Desktop

The first thing you need to do is close all your open applications and files, making sure to save anything that needs to be saved. Once everything is closed and saved, turn off your desktop and any peripherals that are connected to it, including the monitor. Once everything is powered down, go ahead and pull out your desktop, disconnecting any cables that are connected to it. Make sure you don’t forget the power cable, as well. Everything should be disconnected so you can give it a proper cleaning.

2. The External Case

Now that you have the desktop disconnected and moved away from where it usually sits, it’s time to clean the outside. First, wipe down the front and the sides of the case with your soft cloth, removing any dirt and dust on the case. Next, take your can of air and blow out any vents you can find on the sides of your case to remove any dust from the vents. If need be, wipe down the sides and front again to remove any remaining dust.

When that’s finished, turn your attention to the back of the case. This is where everything connects to your desktop. Begin with your can of air and blow out every little nook and cranny focusing your attention on any vents and fans that you can see on the case. Once finished, take your cloth and gently wipe away any remaining dust that the air didn’t get.

3. Inside Your Desktop

Now this section may be a little more difficult, especially if you aren’t used to taking a computer apart. The good thing is all you have to do is remove the case. For this cleaning you don’t need to remove any components. In most cases, there are a few screws that you will need to remove in order to pop the case off, but this varies machine to machine.

Remove the case and place the computer in your lap. Take your can of air and blow out the insides thoroughly making sure you remove all the dust from any fan, heat sink and even the RAM. If you need to, angle the desktop so the dust blows out of the case instead of just around inside it. Focus your attention on all the fans and heat sinks to make sure they are dust free as these components are responsible for cooling your system.

When you are done, close the case and fasten it with the screws you removed earlier. If dust got on the outside of the case again, give it a quick wipe down with your soft cloth.

4. Clean Your Monitor

Now that your computer is done, it’s time to look at your monitor. It’s not hard for your monitor to attract dust and even fingerprints as you use it day in and day out. But cleaning your monitor is very easy to do. Take the monitor cleaner and your soft cloth in your hands spraying the cleaner on the cloth. Then, wipe down the screen of the monitor gently making sure you get rid of all dust and fingerprints. Once the screen is cleaned, then use the same cloth to clean the rest of the casing of the monitor so you can return it to that new look that we all love.

5. Keyboard and Mouse

These two peripherals probably get the dirtiest of all your components, and probably should be cleaned more often than the rest of your system. But, since you are already in cleaning mode, you may as well cover these as well.

For your keyboard, take your can of air and run the small hose across the length of the keyboard between each row of keys. When finished, wipe down the keyboard to remove any remaining dust.

The mouse, on the other hand, is a bit different. For this device, all you need to do is blow out the small hole on the bottom and then wipe the entire surface with your cloth.

Sometimes these devices can get a bit gross so you can add a bit of rubbing alcohol or even the monitor cleaner to give them a good cleaning. Just make sure you allow them ample time to dry before you reconnect them to your machine.

6. Wipe Those Cables

So many people forget that cables can get dirty as well, especially the ends where the connections are made. Since you have everything disconnected, it’s the perfect time to clean those cables as well. All you have to do is run your cloth across the length of the cable to get rid of the dirt and dust on them. What will take a bit of time is the ends of the cable. The ends contain the delicate connectors that make all your peripherals work, so you need to be careful when cleaning them or you could damage the cables. Gently run the corner of your cloth inside these areas and brush away any dirt or dust that works its way out. Make sure to do both ends as well. This will ensure that your cables are in great shape and can communicate properly with your system.

7. Clean the Furniture

While you have the desktop disconnected, now is as good a time as any to clean the furniture in the area where the desktop is stored. This will eliminate dust and dirt around the computer that could make its way inside your computer forcing you to clean it again.

If it is stored on a desk, use the furniture cleaner and your extra soft cloth. Spray the area with the cleaner and then wipe it clean with a soft cloth. Make sure to clean enough of the area around your desktop to keep the area clean for a while. If you are feeling really industrious, take the opportunity to clean your entire desk. Less dirt and dust will mean that don’t have to clean it again for a while.

If you store your desktop on the floor, then you may want to vacuum the area if it is carpet or use a good quality floor cleaner to clean the floor where your desktop spends most of its time.

How Often Should You Clean It?

This is one of the most common questions I’m asked once I explain that computers need to be cleaned in the first place. The answer really depends on your usage, where your desktop sits and your house. Different houses collect dirt and dust faster than others and how much your desktop collects will also depend on where it is located. Other things can factor in as well, such as the age of your house, whether or not you are a smoker, and how clean your house is. My best answer to this question is clean it at least once a month but check it to see if you see dust accumulating on the vents of your case.

Parting Thoughts

Yes there are a lot of pieces to clean on your desktop, but really it doesn’t take as long as it sounds. In probably 15 minutes to a half hour you can have your entire system cleaned and looking like it did the day you brought it home.

Cleaning your computer is easy it’s surprising that more people don’t do it more often. It not only keeps your computer looking like new, but it also keeps your components safe from a machine’s biggest enemy – heat. So what are you waiting for? Start cleaning your computer today so you can keep it looking good and in the best shape it can be.

Do you clean your desktop computer? If so, what do you do to clean it and what do you use? Tell me what you do in the comments below.

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