Dymin Blog

How often should I clean my computer?

Posted by Mike Hurt on Apr 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM

Your computer probably sits on the floor, out of the way, or neatly tucked under your desk. You sit down at your monitor and keyboard every day and probably don’t even notice that little box quietly humming away. It sure can be easy to forget about your computer—let alone computer maintenance—that is, until it stops working. Our repair shop sees several computers a week that are diagnosed with faulty components because their owners neglected one simple PC maintenance task. By simply keeping your computer clean, you can avoid contributing to that number and save yourself aggravation and money down the road.

What’s wrong with a dusty computer?airflow.png

A computer’s cooling system is designed with several components working in unison. Intake fans draw cool air into the computer and exhaust fans force it out the back. This channel of airflow reduces the overall ambient temperature of your computer. Some computer components, such as your processor or video card, run so hot that they need their own cooler, a heatsink. A heatsink is a metal block with fins like the radiator in a car. The fins increase the surface area of the heatsink allowing more air to flow over it and dissipate more heat. Many heatsinks also have a fan mounted directly to them to push lots of air across that heatsink.

So where does the breakdown occur by just getting dusty? As dust builds up on the heatsink, air can no longer flow over all the surfaces of the fins. Heat is no longer transferred efficiently and temperatures rise! Dust build-up on the fan blades cause them to work extra hard to spin. It also throws off their balance slightly, causing the bearings to wear down with exponential speed. What happens when the fan says, “No more”? It seizes up. Temps rise even further. When a fan stops, that’s usually a certain death sentence for the component it’s supposed to be cooling. The worst part is: in most cases, you have no way to know, other than when your computer refuses to turn on.


Even if all your fans hang on to life, the increased ambient temperature of your dust-hoarding computer will cause a dramatically-shortened lifespan. The solder that holds all the components of a circuit board together has a very low melting point. This increase in temperature actually causes the solder to become semi-liquid and, over time, can cause tiny fractures in the circuits, spelling the end for your computer.

Not to worry, though! You won’t let my somber stories of computer self-destruction happen to you. There’s plenty you can do to keep your computer happy. Read on!


How often should I clean my computer?

This is what cigarette smoke will do to your computer. Notice the tar?
More often than you think! The average computer needs to be cleaned every 6 - 12 months! Just like you change the oil in your car every 3000 miles, you should try to have a similar maintenance plan for your computers.

Keep in mind your environment. If you use your computer in a place with a lot of dust and pollutants in the air, such as a workshop or basement, then plan on getting it cleaned more often. Do you smoke regularly around the computer? Then make doubly sure to get it checked and cleaned regularly. Pets can also be a high-risk contributor to cooling problems—especially in laptops! Shed pet hair gets sucked up into the computer’s fans and will clog up heatsinks in no time.


How do I keep my computer clean?

If you’re comfortable with taking the side panel off your computer, you can do a lot of this preventative maintenance yourself! Cans of compressed air and a vacuum cleaner will suffice for most cleanings. However, this method is only effective if you’ve regularly cleaned your computer. If dust is caked on, you’re going to need more drastic measures. An air compressor will provide much higher air pressure and can be used, carefully, to clean a dust-laden computer.

  1. The CPU cooler
  2. First, shut down your computer and unplug it.
  3. It’s best if you can take the computer outside. There’s no use cleaning a computer by blowing the dust all over the room, where it will be sucked right back in to the computer’s intake fans.
  4. Your first target is the CPU cooler. This will look like a large, metal block with many fins and a fan fitted on top. You want to thoroughly clean out the fins of the heatsink, as well as the fan itself.
  5. When cleaning any fan, you should use your fingers to hold the fan blades still while blowing air. Spinning the fans to sound like a jet plane can be fun, but will cause havoc to the bearings that keep it running smoothly. You can also snap off a fan blade too, which will earn you a trip to visit the Dymin Techs to get a new fan!

Clean the power supply on both the inside and outside.

  1. Check for any other fans you can see in the computer and give them the same treatment. Other fans will usually be mounted in the lower front of the case, the upper rear, or the top.
  2. Locate the power supply, a box with an array of wires usually at the upper rear of the case. The power supply will have some slits or a fan on both the inside and outside. Make sure to blow out the power supply from both directions to get as much dust out as possible.
  3. A vacuum can be used to rid the remaining dust from the inside of the case.

Free Professional Computer Cleaning

You should also consider regularly bringing your computer in for professional cleaning. The Dymin technicians know how to safely open your computer and remove any rogue dust bunnies hampering the operation of your computer’s cooling system. Our computer cleaning service is absolutely free and can be done on-the-spot in most cases. We’ll also use specially-formulated solvents to remove any stuck-on residue or scuff marks from the outside of the computer chassis, keyboard, or monitor and then finish by applying an anti-static, dust-repelling cleaner to keep it looking new.

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An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.
                 -Benjamin Franklin

This quote can go a long way when it comes to your computer. Do yourself, and your computer, a favor by working a little “preventative maintenance” in to your computer habits.

Topics: computer maintenance