How to Clean Inside your Computer Case Safely

How often do you clean your computer case, inside and out? Did you realize that having a clean computer is a necessity for the system to run at its optimal levels? Having dust and dirt build up inside your computer case can restrict the airflow and cause serious damage to your components. One common example is when dust gathers on the heat sink and fan. If left there it can eventually cause the processor to overheat and shutdown the computer without warning.

The main factor to consider when you clean inside your computer case is safety. You will first need to be familiar with how to open computer cases and the precautions you have to take. There are important steps to complete before starting to clean your system like removing all plugs from the computer and certain preparation to make sure you do not damage the components inside your computer case.

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Safety Tips To Clean Inside Your Computer

Safety always comes first so here are a few tips:

  1. Follow these steps below carefully. If you miss a step you can ruin your computer components inside your computer.
  2. A computer is an electrical item so this job is usually reserved for a professional. Proceed at your own risk.
  3. If you are cleaning out dust from inside your computer you should use a mask. It is definitely not good to breathe in this dust.

Steps to Clean Inside Your Computer

  1. Shut down your computer correctly.
  2. Remove all power cords and as an extra precaution, turn of the extra power switch which is at the back of most computers.
  3. Remove all devices and cords connected to the computer. This way you can take the main box outside so you don’t make a mess inside the house.
  4. Open your computer case. You might have thumb screws that you can undo with your fingers, or maybe Phillips head screws.

Acceptable Tools to use to clean inside your computer case.

Of course it is preferred that you have the professional tools to clean inside your computer case, however you do not always need all the fancy cleaning tools available. Everyday household items will do. Here is a list of some of the tools I use to clean inside my computer.

Clean Inside your Computer Case

  • Soft paint brush: I use this when an air compressor is not available. Gently brush the dust from inside the case. Make sure you do not accidentally move any wires or connections.
  • Air compressor: I would choose to use this before anything. Its quick and easy and removes dust properly. Do not go too close to the motherboard though. It will work fine from a distance. It is also best to remove the cpu fan and clean that separately.
  • Compressed air can: When you clean inside your computer case, this  disposable compressed air can that will blow the dust out. Be sure to keep the can upright, otherwise it will leak liquid. Always read the instructions on the can. (Pictured left.)
  • Vacuum: Some people use this to suck the dust from inside their computer case, however a normal household one will not do. It is best to use a battery operated, handheld vacuum specifically designed for this purpose. Household vacuums cause static electricity which can damage your computer components.
  • Dust Mask: This is great for those really dusty old computers. I don’t think it would be very healthy to breathe it all in.

Cleaning the Exterior and Components

  • Water: Use water sparingly. It should only be used to slightly dampen your cloth. You do not want water dripping all over your computer.
  • Rubbing alcohol: I always choose to use this before water as it evaporates fast. It is also great for cleaning dirt and oily marks from the inside the computer case, mouse and keyboard.
  • Cloth: (lint free) You should use a cloth to clean the exterior of the case, the mouse, cords, and keyboard. Only slightly damp. Fold your cloth over a few times to get in between the keys on the keyboard.
  • Vacuum: You can use a vacuum cleaner to extract dust and food crumbs from your keyboard. Do not use it to clean inside your computer case as it may damage your components.
  • Cotton Wool or Swabs: Also good for reaching those hard to reach places.
  • Car dash oil: This is great for blending in scratches on monitors and sometimes cases, like a Dell GX270 desktop. Don’t use too much, as you do not want it dripping into the monitor air vents.
  • Eucalyptus oil: I use this to remove permanent pen from monitors or cases.  Just put some on a cloth and rub on the writing and it will start to dissolve.
  • Cleaning your inside your computer case regularly, can prolong its working life. We could all do with less computer troubles and this is an easy task for most people. Removing things like dust, smoke residue, dirt, or pet hair can leave your system to breathe freely.
  • So why not clean inside your computer case now. You will be shocked at the amount of dust and dirt that is in there.
  • Don’t forget to read how to open computer cases. And Dust Build up Inside Your Computer Power Supply

Watch this video on how to clean inside your computer case:

This video will show you how to clean inside your computer case safely. It will also show you what tools to use and then go on to clean a mouse, the old type with the ball, and also an optical mouse.

Do you need IT certification training? Visit this website for more information @ http://www.techskills.edu.

Have you got any tips to share with us on how you clean inside your computer case?

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t know how to clean them! OMG it is crazy! I guess if they have vents you can blow the dust out?

  2. Bob says

    CPU fan and heat-sink cleaning–when reassembling the fan/heat-sink on top of the CPU, there is a thermal cream that should be applied to the surface of the heat-sink where it directly contacts the CPU, in order to ensure efficient heat transfer out of the CPU. Don’t pay through the nose for any fancy “computer-labeled” stuff–it is just zinc oxide, the same as you’d use for skin abrasions and irritations, available OTC at any drugstore.

  3. Peter says

    Interesting about the static from vacuum cleaner. The one I used had a long hose and was kept well away from the computer whilst in use. The human body also contains its own aura of static, this to can damage the internal parts of a computer.

    So if ever you have to do any work inside a computer, leave it switched off but still plugged into the power (once again turned off) then before you touch anything in the computer first touch the metal casing with both hands.

    Even though the power is switched off the power lead Earth wire to your computer is still connected to the Earth of your house power. This will ground out any static from your hands, thus less chance of any damage to the internal computer parts caused by the static from your body. Some technicians when working on the internal part of a computer wear a grounding wrist strap that clips onto the metal case of the computer.

    Regards

    Peter

  4. Peter says

    Hi Mitz, No not all computers contain asbestos dust. I think the computers that I had the dust tested from was from buildings that at some time had undergone repairs or renovation the dust was in the air and covering many surfaces, thus computers take in this dust.

    Many older buildings contained fibro asbestos sheeting; asbestos roofing and some had insulation made from asbestos. Unfortunately in the early years people where unaware of the dangers of asbestos. All one can hope for is this material is no longer used. Still who knows what dust is in computers.

    One of the major problems is many people buy a new computer and do not realize over the years the amount of dust that gathers inside. A yearly service by a technician would help to keep the computer free from heavy dust and consequent overheating. If you should use a vacuum computer to remove the dust, put it on blow (not suction) and do this operation outdoors.

    I have opened up some computers to find dust completely blocking the CPU heat sink and fan. Also that much dust on the motherboard it resembled a carpet.
    After I had given it a thorough clean out and switched it on it was like a living thing that could breathe again.

    Regards

    Peter

    • says

      LOL yes I have seen the carpet dust! I am probably lucky I used to use a compressor to blow the dust at high speed away from me.. I never damaged a part on a computer and I had a rubber nozzle on the end just in case I made contact…

      The water cleaning is the ultimate de-dusting though…But not recommended for the inexperienced. If people are unsure I agree that they definitely should take it to a qualified tech. Even better if they do a water job for you..

  5. Peter says

    Hi, For the last 30 years I have worked with all facets of computers. Since day one any computer that was brought to me was first taken outdoors, covers removed and then all dust blasted out with a reverse vaccuum cleaner.

    The reason being computer fans act like a vacuum not only keeping the computer cool but sucking in dust and also blowing out dust which you breathe.

    Several years ago I decided to set up a small computer company enabling me to work from home. After establishing my computer bussiness I received 6 older ex government computers from another company requesting an upgrade of memory, sound and graphics cards.

    As I have always been curious about dust in computers decided to send samples away to get tested and analised. The result was the dust samples were loaded with asbestos dust. So I returned the computers untouched to the supplier with a warning letter. So one week after establishing my new company I phoned up the government office and cancelled my registration. Sort of health before income.

    Removing dust from a computer can be a difficult task as there are a lot of hidden and unreachable areas such as under the mother board and inside the power pack and CPU fan.

    So what I do in my own case is have two duplicate computers. One I use and the other on standby, stored away. Once every six month the computer I have been using is taken outside, covers removed and then taking the garden hose blast the inside of the computer out with a water jet ‘Yes water’ not really good for electrical equipment but it is the mosrt efficient way to completely remove dust.

    Then this spotlessly clean computer is placed in my steel home garage. Left for six months with the daily heat of the sun on the garage dries out the water completely. So far this method has worked.

    Regards

    Peter

    • says

      Excellent story Peter
      I always tried to be careful when cleaning out a computer but of course over the years I would have definitely breathed some in… I actually gave up repairing computers because I thought something didn’t feel right…I have used water before and I know many computer repair shops do, but this is very dangerous if the thing isn’t dried out right..You sound like you have a good way of doing things..

      Do you think that all computers dust contains asbestos or just some? If so why?

  6. says

    When I used to work in an IT Dept it was amazing how many people would eat their lunch at their desk and the crumbs inside the keyboard were just shocking.

    It got to the point that we only gave them cheap 5 dollar keyboards rather than spend time taking the keys off the clean them.

    It is vital to check the inside of the computer, else one day it will go kaput because of the stupid amounts of dust inside it.

    • says

      My friend is in the IT dep of a massive high school…He says it is a nightmare how the children treat the computers even when the teacher is in the room… OMG I am glad they are not touching my computers!

  7. Lauren says

    Thanks for sharing this. I didn’t realize how important it is to check that the inside of a computer is clean and dust free. I appreciate your tips and will now be able to perform these tasks.