We computer pundits write about cleaning up your hard drive all the time, but less frequently do we cover how to keep your computer equipment clean… from dust, spilled drinks, and other gunk. Not only is it kind of nasty to type on a keyboard that’s stained with Jolt Cola droplets, but having a computer case filled with dust bunnies can shorten the lifespan of your machine by restricting airflow and causing your machine to overheat.
The good news: Getting your PC clean is a relatively simple affair that anyone can perform in just a few minutes. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide.
Start with a dusting. Compressed air is your friend. Dust-Off is a fine brand, but really they are all the same as long as you get the “greenhouse gas” friendly canisters. A large can should last you for years. Open up your PC’s case and take it outside if there’s an excessive amount of dust. Give it a few quick blasts from the can with the goal of getting all the dust bunnies out of the box. Extended spraying is a no-no, as the air that comes out is quite cold and can cause condensation to build up on electronic parts if you hold down the spray button for too long. Use the nozzle straw attachment to get to hard-to-reach places like under the motherboard.
Dust some more. Now turn your attention to the rest of the computer. Particularly, dust out the fans and intake grilles, including the power supply. If you have a notebook computer, this is especially important, as those fans do a lot of work and are especially prone to clogging. Flip your notebook over (turned off!) and blast it clean.
Clean your keyboard. While you have the duster handy, use the straw attachment to clean out your keyboard. You could use a mini-vacuum, but they’re more trouble than they’re worth. A few quick sprays will send crumbs a-flying. Next you’ll want to clean off the surface of the keyboard. Most are pretty tough, so you can use a regular household cleanser to do the job. Don’t spray 409 directly on the keyboard, but lightly dampen a cleaning rag or paper towel with the stuff and wipe it down gently. You don’t want liquid dripping between the keys. You can use a Q-Tip moistened with alcohol to clean anything that has dripped down between the keys. If you want to go crazy, here’s how to clean your keyboard in the dishwasher.
Shine up your mouse. You can use the same technique with your mouse, which you should clean on all sides. Mice pick up a lot of gunk on their undersides, so just scrape off anything that’s accumulated there. If you still have a non-optical mouse that uses a ball (God help you!), open it up, clean off the ball with the damp towel, and use a Q-Tip to clean off the rollers inside. Alcohol works for rollers that are excessively dirty.
Turn your attention screenward. Your LCD or CRT screen is probably disgustingly dirty. I’ve written specifically on how to clean LCD screens in this post, so just follow those instructions. The same technique works for CRTs, too. Lately I’ve been trying out something called Purosol Molecular Screen Cleaner, which works quite well on both laptops and TVs and even camera displays.
Miscellany. Cell phones, PDAs, and peripherals can usually all be cleaned with a combination of the above advice: Use LCD cleaner on anything with a display and mild household cleaner on any plastic parts. Q-Tips do wonders for any nooks and crannies.
By Christopher Null