Dust to Dust


I have a roughly year-old refurbished computer, and for the past few months the fan has been rather loud, and more recently the computer has been shutting down on its own, especially when I’m playing games, or even when I’m just on AIM or surfing the Internet.

I believe the computer might be overheating from dust caught in the fans, but I’m not entirely sure. If that is the case, how do you recommend I clean the computer? I’m quite comfortable working on the computer, but unfortunately I have very little experience working on the insides of my machine, so I have some fears about actually opening up my PC and accidentally breaking something or damaging it. Any advice, Doc?

—Michael H.

It’s important to keep your computer clean and free of dust, pet hair, and other debris. The best way we’ve found to clean out a computer without endangering any of our precious components is to clean it with a can of compressed air. Unplug your computer and remove the side panels. Then hold the can upright (to prevent spraying cold liquid) and clean the case with short bursts of air.  It’s important to prevent fans from spinning out of control, so use a pencil or your finger to block them.

Or you can buy a micro-cleaning attachment for your vacuum cleaner, as reader Kevin Fields points out: “Shop-Vac makes the 1.25-inch Micro Cleaning Kit for around $12. It’s available from Shopvac.com, Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and other retailers. I have used this kit myself for several years. Although neither I nor any of my equipment has ever suffered any ill effects, it is still a good idea to properly ground yourself before performing any maintenance inside a PC.” Wise words.

Of course, that might not be the problem at all. You may have a faulty power supply or other hardware. Check out the Doctor’s answer to J.P. Allen and start testing your hardware piece by piece, if you feel comfortable doing so. Otherwise it might be time to take it to the shop.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at doctor@maximumpc.com for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

Around the web