How to Physically Clean Your PC and More

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PCWolf

I wash my PC by taking the side cover off, strapping it to the top of my Car, & heading to the local Car Wash! My PC Sparkles like no other thanks to the Hot Wax coat & now I ever get a few more FPS on every game!

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Eoraptor

+1

do you get new car scent or pine fresh?

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PCWolf

Depends on my mood :)

*even* (typo correction)

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PCLinuxguy

If you have anything in brushed aluminum, opting for the wheel shine during the wash really makes the finish shine.

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TsunamiZ

maximum pc, you forgot to warn not to wash the keyboard [after taking it apart]. because it gets rid of the lubricant on the keys, which make them stiff and hard to type. i learned this the hard way before. i ended up having to use super lube to relubricate the keys.

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misterz100

I just take my PC out to the garage and use the compressor on it from a couple feet away and cleans the PC right out.

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o1d_dude

I take mine out on the driveway and use a leaf blower.

No joke.

Huge clouds of dust and cruft. It always runs cooler afterward.

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John Pombrio

The worst environment for a computer was to run the EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) testing chamber in Lenox Mass. They test all the stuff that goes on utility poles that carry electricity. They had a big chamber the size of a large barn that they use to test worst case. The ceiling was filled with 8 foot UV lamps 24/7 and they constantly sprayed the gear they were testing with high pressure salt water.

IN the control room on the 2nd floor, I opened up the voltmeters, data acq rack and the computer. ALL the insulation on any wire was either corroded or falling off! Boards were etched, the copper a bright green. We had to throw everything out and air lock the place.

BTW, that is where the power companies tested the theory that high voltage lines caused brain tumors. They had a field with 30 cows and three low hanging high voltage towers. They would dissect the cows brains and then have a BBQ. Result, no tumors, no brain damage that anyone could find at all. Myth busted.

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vrmlbasic

Any word on the theory that proximity to high voltage power lines makes plants grow more robust?

I've heard that one for ages and I have noticed a suspicious number of plant nurseries located near substations or under power lines so I suspect that someone buys into that.

The grass certainly grows quite tall in the power line right of ways here, but that might just be an illusion caused by the power companies being too cheap (despite their exorbitant fees) to cut the grass in a timely manner.

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John Pombrio

It was those cows that were grazing that prevented me from seeing that effect.

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Kevin Lee

These stories are pretty amazing

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Incognito

Laugh if you want, but I put a wooden skewer in the GPU fan blade and take my PC out on the deck and blow it out with a leaf blower. Works great - way better than the cans of compressed air.

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John Pombrio

Clever idea! If your vacuum cleaner or shop vac have a way to hook a hose up to the exhaust, you can use that as well.

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Rift2

I use a Airbrush and compressor took my 670 GTX apart one time it needed it lots of dust from Planeside 2 Duke Nukem Forever and Rift.

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Gikero

Who did the photos for this article? I think they did a great job.

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Kevin Lee

Thanks

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LatiosXT

Speaking of which, if anyone's trying to look for good air filters, Silverstone has a selection of various sizes that are magnetic. It's literally just plop it over fan mount or other intake area and be done. Assuming the case material is magnetic.

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crwlngkngsnk

The writing in this article is atrocious. Do you guys need a copy editor?

"...use dampen Q-tips with alcohol to rub it out."
"Since regular old plastic is a less sensitive than microchips we can use anything..."
"After you’ve wiped all the greased and dust off the top, flip the keyboards over and give it a good shake..."
"...you can also pop off the keys to get to the keyboards backboard."
"...Cleaning monitors, and screens in general, are extremely sensitive and require some of the gentlest cleaning methods."
"But before we start damping anything..."
"Moving onto potentially the grosses part of our gadget cleanup..."
"One good general rule about cleaning headset is liquid cleansers are a big no-no."
"Alternatively, for headset with cloth and foam ear cups scotch tape works wonders..."
"Tablets, and especially smartphones can be..."
"Tablets, and especially smartphones can be a complete biohazard nightmare of bacteria and germs. All the loose food and dust that accumulates on your keyboard pales in comparison to the smartphone you touch with your hands all day. Given that this device also touches your face, it’s probably the most important thing you’ll want to sanitize."
"...there are UV sterilizers specifically designed for smartphones—think of it as an UV-powered Easy Bake oven for technology—that run around $40."

I have never before been moved to comment on the quality of an article's writing. I can accept the occasional typo and such, but I would be ashamed to have taken money for this article. I'm not criticizing the style, the execution, however, was not professional. I believe this is the first article of Mr. Lee's that I have read. I hope it's an aberration.

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joeking

I totally agree. Isn't rule #1 of writing grammar and spelling? Looks like whoever wrote this failed at that miserably. Maximum PC should feel embarrassed for publishing this. Not trying to be harsh but I hold Maximum PC to a higher standard than other more independent tech websites.

Aside from that I wanted to comment on the article. From my experience, you can negate dust in your case three ways: filters and routine vacuuming. The third and most effective way is using an air purifier with a HEPA filter. I keep one in my room running at all times. Healthier air for you and your computer.

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Dorito Bandit

Does the air purifier actually help much in keeping dust away? How much would I need to spend for a reliable one? By the way, my office is small.

I've considered getting an air purifier in the past, but not sure it would be of much help.

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joeking

It most definitely does. Having lived without one for years, there's a huge difference in the air quality of the room. It's been 6 months since I built my new PC. If I point a flashlight through the case window, there is almost no dust. The fins on the fans and heatsink still look new and shiny.

You can buy air purifiers for just about every room size. Expect to pay at least $100 for one with a HEPA filter. The one I bought comes with a carbon pre-filter that traps larger particles and odors. Gives the room a nice, clean smell. Don't get the ionizing air purifiers, they don't work nearly as well.

Only downside to air purifiers is HEPA filters are not cheap. Around $25 each. Rated at 12-18 month life but YMMV depending on your vacuuming habits and whether you have pets. The other downside is if you leave it on, your pulling 13-17W continuously so higher utility bill.

I still think it's worth it though. I sleep better because I can breathe clearly through my nose at night. And my comp's not getting filthy either. Some of the higher end models have UV filters that kill organisms, bacteria, viruses, mold, etc. Pretty cool.

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Eoraptor

yes, because it filters at least some, if not all, the air in the room before it has a chance to get sucked into the PC. the amount it helps depends on how large and/or well sealed your room is. Your Mileage May Vary but it will help somewhat.

generally you'll see better results in smaller rooms where the air gets filtered more often per hour,. you'll also have better results if you have a whole-house filter instead of just trying to filter one room. but even just a box on the desk will help. (plus you'll probably feel better too)

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vrmlbasic

I can barely go a week without having to clean the dust filter on my Cooler Master Storm Enforcer. CM didn't exactly engineer the filter to be conveniently removed and cleaning it "in situ" doesn't get the job done.

They've been calling smartphone screens "oleophobic" for years now. They've been lying for years now too ;)

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MAIZE1951

Make sure you have an decent humidifier for your home also, one that is built in to the furnace air duct if possible because an humidifier will prevent static build up if properly set. An console type is ok if you live in an apartment or Manufactured housing (also known as an mobile home). Humidifiers also help when you construct an computer as there will be very little or virtually no static electricity, but still remember to have an ground strap on in any case.

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firefox91

I always use alcohol to clean my touch screen stuff. I haven't had a problem yet. I suppose I would if I did it every day, but it reality it probably doesn't get done but once ever couple of weeks.

On cleaning the inside of a desktop case, I use an air mattress blower. It's cheaper than using compressed air cans or owning an actual air compressor and is just as effective. This thing really moves some air. And given the amount of dust that gets inside the case, an occasional wipe down isn't going to do it. Of course take it outside before you do this, it makes a mess.

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Slugbait

I stopped using compressed air after the first time I used it, back in the mid-90's. I use a micro-attachment kit for my vacuum cleaner instead. They cost as low as $8 shipped at Amazon. No mess, you don't have to go outside, you don't have to wipe down the interior first, etc. Fast-n-easy.

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John Pombrio

I tried vacuuming test gear at first but found that vacuums don't really clean much, especially dust inside cooling fins, GPU cards, or power supplies. They make the stuff look clean but you have to use paint brushes or swabs or other stuff to get rid of the dust the vacuum misses. Just stick to an air compressor, it's a lot more messy but it does a better job. 20 years in the field talking here.

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The Mac

as you suck up components off your circuit boards...

you NEVER, EVER use a vacuum cleaner to clean out a case...

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Slugbait

I currently have four active machines, and every machine I've ever had gets vacuumed once a year. Going on 20 years now, and not a single sucked-up component yet. You obviously did not do any investigation on why somebody invented micro attachments, what they are meant for, or how they work. As a result, you really don't know what you're talking about.

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John Pombrio

The reasoning is that vacuum cleaners create static electricity, especially with a brush head. it's not components that will be sucked up but that chips will fail with static discharges.

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The Mac

This as well

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Dorito Bandit

I use a paint brush to gently brush off all my components; including every fan. The paint brush works great! I use it to clean off EVERYTHING inside my case. I'll still use a damp lint-free cloth to wipe down everything after I'm done dusting. Works great for me.

Wish there was a way to keep dust completely out of your case. That junk can find it's way into everything.

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LatiosXT

I'm still looking into some theory on the side, but if you look further down at my comment, I had an FT02 that pretty much had a pristine interior for the two years I had it.

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Neufeldt2002

I use clean make-up brushes myself.

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Eoraptor

oh yeah, UV cleaners... nothing like speed-aging all the plastic components on your phone to the point they yellow and fall apart in your hand like the dead sea scrolls.

There used to be (maybe still is) this great product called Cyberclean cleaning putty. It's sort of like vinegar mixed into silly putty or Gack. great on keyboards I found. Sadly, it's getting harder and harder to find in the states. even Think Geek recently stopped carrying it.

another tip is using those disposable blue shop towels (i use the Scott version myself) Find them in most automotive departments with the auto detailing stuff. They have the properties of a microfiber cloth and a paper towel combined, and also thinner so you can feel what you're wiping at.

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Kevin Lee

Well once in a while only, just in case your phone drops in bathroom ;)

I looked into Cyberclean too, it's pretty useful for keyboards and especially laptop keyboards. Thanksfully it's still relatively easy to source from Amazon and Best Buy.

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urboface20

i do this about once a month

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LatiosXT

If you want something dust preventative, I've found one case that in two years, the only thing I've had to clean up were the filters. And that is the Silverstone FT02. And I don't believe the component orientation had anything to do with it (there are flat, horizontal spaces were dust could settle, but there wasn't any thing noticeable on those).

I believe what they did was create a positive pressure inside the case, which is easy to do: more air goes in than goes out. This effectively creates a clean-room like environment where if there are any holes in the case, air pushes out of it. Otherwise, air will be sucked into those holes, along with dust. And while the debate rages on about fan placement, positive pressure vs. negative pressure, at the end of the day, as long as there's airflow period, your parts are going to cool off.

I've also bought one of those LCD cleaning solution sprays, I've used so little that so far it's lasted me well over 5 years and I still haven't gotten halfway through it.

And because it's reminded me of something, I recall people were saying "hold the fans while you clean it!" because if you cause a fan to spin when it's not receiving power, it becomes an electric generator (an electric motor is the opposite of a generator) and supposedly blasting enough air to make it run at full speed creates dangerous amounts of electricity. It doesn't. I measured just 1.1V when blasting a fan from a can of air.

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urboface20

yea, but thats a god of a case lol

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John Pombrio

Latios, dust depends where you put the computer and how many pets you have in the house, heh. Put it on the floor with a couple of cats snuggling up to it for the heat will clog damn near anything!

Holding the fan is not about creating a generator. It's about protecting the bearings/sleeves. A fan that has been spinning for years is prone to dying if you get the fan spinning 2-3 times normal speed. The worst one I killed was one of those little ones on the mobo that were impossible to replace at the time. It's best just to prevent the fan from spinning. it is easier to clean the blades too.

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LatiosXT

I know, but I do recall some people were saying the reason you do that is so you don't "generate electricity".

Anyway, I had my FT02 build on the floor, it never had a problem and there were pets in the place. I just had to clean it out once a month, and even then, it never had a problem with temperature. So given that, I pretty much swear by positive case pressure. The catch is though, the fans need a really good filter.

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Eoraptor

I know a couple of people who swear by the positive pressure method. keep forcing air into the case and the dust never has time to settle before it goes right back out a vent hole.

but yeah, when you live with pets, or worse, smokers (or near a construction site) there's not a lot for it. hair adheres to the leading edges of the fan blades, which slows their CFP and allows even more crap to settle inside.

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The Mac

yup. I use positive pressure

im a smoker, and my place is super dusty.

I never need to clean out my interior. just my filters, and blades on the side intake fans.

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Gikero

I wish every smoker did that. I get a bunch of smoke filled PCs and hate having to turn them on and cleaning them takes more time. Usually can't get everything without a full teardown.

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Eoraptor

full tear down nothing... more than once I've been called to clean a smoker's pc, only to find the inside literally sticky with tar because they sit right next to it and smoke all day long. Eventually some capacitor can no longer dissipate heat properly because of it and pops, killing the thing. I know at least three power supplies I've seen do this, and one mother board, and I suspect a few more.

it's disgusting.

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The Mac

Yeah, in the old days, before good fans, tar buildup was pretty problematic in my builds...

Its sucks to try to get it off, you usually have to use some kind of solvent (alcohol or ammonia) which inst good for the components.

I learned my lesson.

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vrmlbasic

Was that lesson to switch to the e-cig? :)

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Chad727

I couldn't agree with you more on this. I won't build without good filtration. It makes maintenance so much easier. Using compressed air while leaving the shop-vac hose just outside of the case to collect dust is not something I look forward to doing any time soon!

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John Pombrio

Pretty good article, Kevin. After 20 years in the field having to do preventive maintenance on test and measurement equipment, here are my thoughts. As for compressed air, the cans are a joke. Use the back end of a vacuum cleaner or a true air compressor. Micro fiber cloths are terrific for wiping things down.

I complete DO NOT RECOMMEND removing components during a clean. The number one issue with a new build is seating components and cables correctly. the inserted components also prevent dust from entering the sockets while dust is flying about. I saw someone kill a $150K test and measurement rig by removing the boards (and a $5K bill for me to get it back running).

The only place that dust really matters is when it prevents air flow. Air filters are the most important to clean or better yet, to throw away! A clogged filter can heat up a machine until it fails while dust inside will not.

The other place to worry about are the fins on processor coolers, water cooler radiators, and graphics cards. Blow them clean with compressed air. Make sure the fans are not allowed to spin as you can kill them.

These two are really the only places that need to be cleaned. The rest is pretty much cosmetic as dust laying about does NOT hurt the electronics.

Fan blades do not really need to be completely clean and using compressed air on them is usually enough. You can clean the blades easily with a damp paper towel on the leading edges which has the built up dust.

The power supply can use compressed air to blow out the dust. Again, keep the fan from spinning.

K, keyboard. DO NOT BLOW a keyboard clean rightside up! All you are doing is making sure to push the junk deeper into the key switches and onto the board. If you have to clean it, just turn it upside down a whack it a few times. The food and dust will fall out. You can also use compressed air with it upside down, but gently. Wiping between the keys is fine but I would not bother removing the keycaps unless the keyboard is really grungy.

Screens do well with a tiny bit of dishwasher soap on a microfiber cloth. Unplug it of course and make sure the cloth is almost dry by wringing it out. If water drips down the screen at any point, the cloth is too wet! Rinse the cloth and wipe it down a couple more times with just water. Let the screen dry completely. Soap get rid of oils and goo much better than vinegar.

Good Luck!

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Eoraptor

Agree with everything except the keyboard. I've found that flipping them over just causes a lot of stuff to fall "up" into the key caps, and then it drops right back down into the plank when you flip it around again. Best way I have found is to hold them vertically or around forty five degrees, pop one or two keys at one end, and blow them out. that is, when I can't find any cleaning-putty (which is sadly getting more and more common)

And yeahl, for more than a casual once-over the cans are a joke, they loose pressure quickly due to pressure-cooling, are generally not very powerful, and more often than not the stupid little straws shoot out. I can't recommend an air compressor, however, because they will capture and condense any moisture in the air, and often then spit it back out into whatever you're working on (unless it's a compressor configured for painting, which has a dehumidifier built in) here in iowa, when summer-time humidity hits 90%, you may as well be cleaning with a squirt gun.