Spring Cleaning for your Computer

by techtiptom

Originally posted to wibc.com on 04/18/2011

Before getting into the how, we should start with the why.  It’s really important to clean the internal components of your computer from time to time as dust can build up inside, making it more difficult to keep the internal components cool, and increasing the risk that those components will burn out.  When it comes down to it, heat is a computer’s worst enemy, and dust plays the biggest role in keeping things hot.

So what’s the best way to take care of this dust?  Well, start off by picking up a can of compressed air and then follow the instructions below based on whether you have a laptop or a desktop computer.  Note: when using a can of compressed air, do not shake it and always keep the can upright during use.


Attach the included straw into the can of compressed air.  Turn off your laptop, unplug it and remove the battery.

Turn the laptop onto its side with the heat sink, fan and vents in an easily accessible area.  While keeping the can of compressed air upright, blow out the vents and the heat sink until no more dust comes out.  You can also blow out the area where the fan is located, but avoid over-blowing the fan as it could damage the fan (i.e. avoid purposely making the fan spin using the can of compressed air).

Turn the laptop over and open it.  Now you can clean out any crumbs from the keyboard area by doing the same.  Using the can of compressed air, simply blow any crumbs from out behind the keys.

Once you’re done, you can put the battery back in the laptop and plug it back in.

Don’t forget to vacuum the area you just cleaned the laptop in to avoid the risk of all of that dust going straight back in.  You can also run the vacuum to pick up the dust as you’re blowing it out of the computer, but avoid letting the vacuum come in contact with the laptop.


Attach the included straw into the can of compressed air.  Turn off your desktop computer and unplug it.  Ground yourself by touching something metal (e.g. a metal door) to avoid transfering static electricity to your computer.  Then open the case of the computer (usually just requires turning a couple of screws and sliding out one side of the case, or removing the entire cover for the case).

Avoid touching any of the actual internal components of the computer.  Simply take the upright can of compressed air and blow out the internal components using the air.  Direct the straw from the can to difficult to reach areas.  Be especially careful to ensure you blow out any dust on or around the, CPU, graphics card or the power supply unit, but again, be sure to avoid actually contacting these components (let the compressed air do the work, it will take care of it for you).  As with the laptops, avoid directly blowing the air against the fans.  Clean them, but do not purposely spin them with the air.

If you’d like, you can turn on a vacuum while you’re blowing out the dust.  This will keep the dust from resettling back on the computer.  But if you do this, make sure you keep the vacuum at a safe distance from the computer (e.g. 1′).  Vacuums can produce large quantities of static electricity which could damage your internal components if they contact the computer hardware.

Replace the cover on the computer and vacuum up any remaining dust in the area of the computer.  You can also clean the keyboard using the compressed air as well if you’d like.  Plug your computer back in and you’re good to go.


 Clean your computer regularly throughout the year.  Computers kept in relatively dust free environments often only need to be cleaned two to three times a year, but computers kept in dusty environments should be cleaned much more often (e.g. once a month).  A clean and dust free computer will reduce the risk of hardware failures, will keep it running in an optimal state and will help you ensure your computer lasts as long as it can.

Use a can of compressed air rather than compressed air from air compressors.  Air from air compressors can contain small drops of oil or other compounds which could damage your computer components.  A can of compressed air is clean and does not contain damaging fluids when used correctly.  Be aware though, a can of compressed air works using a liquid.  To avoid leakage, be sure to keep the can upright at all times during use.  Always read the instructions on the can for proper directions.