I was working on a computer for a friend recently and when I popped the case open, one glance told me that no one had been inside the computer since it was built years ago. The computer itself was so old that it ran original DDR RAM. The massive dust bunnies and wads of cat hair stuck inside the machine made it virtually impossible for the computer to keep itself cool.
As I set about cleaning, the machines dust blocked CPU fan, air intake grates, and other dust collection sections of the machine I figured that most computers in homes and offices are probably clogged with dust on the inside as well.
The problem with letting your PC get clogged with dust is that it can and will affect the performance of your computer. If the CPU or GPU overheats you can have all sorts of issues from random lockups and crashes to outright failure of components. As dust builds up on the blades of fans, the amount of air they can circulate is decreased and as cooling grates and intakes clog the computer has a very hard time getting cooling air in and hot air out of the chassis.
Cleaning your PC isn’t as hard as you might think and all you need to kill the dust bunnies residing inside your PC is a can of compressed air and a bit of time. What you need to do is remove the screws that hold the side panels on your computer and take the panel off. It's important to note that some machines will have a sticker on the side panel and cutting that sticker could void any warranty your PC might have.
Once you have the side panels off you will probably find various different fans and grates inside the case. One of the fans you want to clean particularly well is the CPU fan. Typically, this is the only fan on the motherboard of a computer, but some high-performance machines have a fan on the chipset as well. If there is more than one fan on the board just clean them both.
When using compressed air dusters, be sure you hold the can upright or very cold liquid could come out and burn you and possible damage your equipment. With your can of compressed air shoot bursts of air at the fan until all the dust is gone from the van blades and surrounding equipment. If your machine has a discrete video card, you will want to clean its fan as well.
Depending on the arrangement of your computer you may need to remove the video card to get access to the fan on the card. After cleaning the dust off the internal components, you will want to be sure and clean the dust off any grates and intakes on the computer. Some computers will have case fans to help move air, these will need to be cleaned too, just be sure you clean the actual grates in front of the fans as well.
Once you blow all the dust out of the computer, you can put the side panel back on and you are done. LCDs are another item that tends to get very dirty. You have to be careful what you clean your PC monitor with. You can’t use Window cleaner; the ammonia will eventually ruin your LCD. The best things to clean your screen with are a cloth dampened with a bit of isopropyl alcohol, which will evaporate quickly, or a multi surface cleaner that is certified for electronics. I don’t recommend spraying any cleaner directly on the screen since the liquid could seep into the crevices of the screen and cause damage before evaporating. Spray the cleaner on your cloth and wipe.
Don’t forget to clean your keyboard. In most environments the keyboard can be one of the biggest sources of contamination around. You can clean the keyboard with the same alcohol dampened cloth you use for your LCD or with a commercial keyboard cleaning product. The compressed air will also get the little crumbs and other debris from under the keyboard. Clean your mouse in the same way and your computer will be less likely to make you sick and run cooler.