Blow out your desktop computer

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If you use a desktop computer that sits on the floor, and you haven’t opened it up and looked inside lately, you might be in for a surprise.  Those computers collect a LOT of dust.  And if you have pets it’s even worse.  Time for some spring cleaning! (even though spring is still months away)

leaf blowerUsually when I have a desktop computer here to be repaired, I will open up the side and take a look.  There is almost always a lot of accumulated dust and dirt.  I don’t even think about using my little can of compressed air.  What I do is take the machine out to the driveway, with the side off, and I blow it out with my electric leaf blower.

This won’t hurt the machine, and you will probably be surprised at the amount of dust that blows out.  Be sure to get it at all angles, and don’t forget to blow straight in the back to clean out the power supply.

Dust and dirt mean your computer will run hotter, so a good blowout will make it more efficient.  In fact, one of my customers emailed me recently after he tried it:

I have a homebuilt dual core desktop I assembled a couple of years ago and had to re-install XPpro about a year ago because it just was operating so flakey and inconsistent.  It just got so discombublated (that’s a computer term!) that I just bit the bullet and did a re-install, which is a real pain as you know.

Anyway, the thing had recently been really difficult to start, hanging about 8 out of 10 times trying to get it up and running.  It was really a problem.  I did a restore to a couple of weeks ago and then months ago in case I had something corrupted in the registry and still the startup problem was there.  I then booted it up with the Microsoft ‘memory’ diagnostic I had downloaded to a CD thinking that sometimes installed memory will cause flakey startups – that IS true as I’ve found in the past.  Ok, so the memory checks out just fine, but the thing still had very annoying problems with startup, sometimes taking a half hour or so of me pushing buttons.  Irritating.

Then I thought that it might be in the power supply as the original 400w unit I built it with partly died a year or so ago and I replaced it with a cheapie model.  In the past I have found weird and hard to find intermittent problems when a power supply began going bad. Before I bought a tester or changed out the PS though, I took the unit outside to a work table and fired up my air compressor.  Yup, blew that sucker clean of all the dog hair (I have 4 large, live-in-the-house, sleep-in-the-bed, spoiled dogs) and guess what?  Yup again.  The machine straightened right up and now starts up every time – perfectly – as it should.

Now I might have been the one to tell you some years ago about popping the caps off and washing my keyboards in the sink with dishwashing liquid (which works great) so you know where I’m coming from.  Actually, the problem most likely really was a loose card or something, but blowing it out and jostling things around a little cured my problem.

(I can’t say I have tried the keyboard-in-the-sink trick…try that at your own risk!)

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Ray Armstrong
September 27th, 2010

Washing the keyboard.
Why remove the key tops?
If the keyboard appear beyond repair, as a last ditch before biting the bullet and spending money on a new one, try washing it, give it a good shake and leave overnight so that it dries out.
I’ve done it for years, never failed yet.
Big thing is when the keyboard has had a sweetened tea or coffee drink washing it will shift the sticky sugar deposits that are the big culprit with sticky keys.

September 27th, 2010

Will vacuuming work? Don’t have a leaf blower…..

Scott Johnson
September 27th, 2010

Vacuuming probably wouldn’t hurt as long as you don’t suck anything important into the hose. Just not as effective as blowing.

September 27th, 2010

Most vacuum cleaners have a way to put the hose on the exhaust so that it will blow. Check your vac. It’s probably able to clean the computer by blowing.