How to clean your computer

Perhaps you use your computer to pay bills online. Or you may use it as a business hub for your online selling venture. In either case, your computer deserves due care.

If you are one of those computer users who occasionally give their monitor a dusting off, but never bother to actually clean their computer, you may be heading straight for disaster. Your computer could simply pack up if you do not keep it clean. Dust blocks the circulation of air, which is of crucial importance for keeping your machine cool. Allow the dust to clog the vents, and the vital components inside your computer, like the central Processing Unit (CPU), will heat up. As any computer technician who has ever opened a faulty machine only to discover a thick layer of dust, heat is the biggest cause of component failure. Regular cleaning could save you lots of money in maintenance fees.

Here a few tips to a spotless computer system. However, be warned: cleaning the keyboard or mouse is a simple affair, but some tasks do require professional help.

Switch off your computer before starting the cleaning job.

Using a screwdriver, remove the side of the case opposite your motherboard. Do not touch any of the internal components with your fingers. Do not spray any kind of liquid onto any computer component. Cleaning agents should always be used with caution around computers, because some of them can cause damage. If you must use liquid for very grimy areas, spray water or diluted cleaning agent onto a cloth and then use that cloth to rub the dirt away. Be sure everything is bone-dry before you turn on the computer.

What the inside of the case needs most is a good blast of air to dislodge and drive away all the dust particles. However, do not use a regular vacuum cleaner for this purpose, because it generates static electricity that may damage the components. You can vacuum around the computer, on the outside of the case and on the keyboard. To get rid of the accumulated dust inside the case, use either a battery-powered vacuum cleaner especially designed for the job of a can of compressed air. Blow the air around all of the components and along the bottom of the case, keeping the nozzle at a safe distance (about ten centimetres) from any parts. You need to hold the fans when cleaning them, or to place something between the blades in order to prevent them from spinning. Blowing gusts of air into a fan may damage some fans or cause back voltage.

How often should you clean the inside of your computer? Well, that depends on several factors. In general, do it once or twice a year - or every three months if your computer resides in on the floor (especially if it is a carpeted floor), or if you eat, drink or smoke in front of it.

Once the insides are pristine clean, close your case and proceed to clean the less often visited outside areas. Run a cotton swab or soft cloth dipped into rubbing alcohol around all openings on the back of the case. Give the area a once-over with a dry soft cloth. Do this whenever you do your inside cleaning operation.

The keyboard and the mouse should be cleaned once a month.

To clean the keyboard, first burp it. Turn it upside down and gently pat it on the back. Most of the crumbs and dust will fall out. Then blow some compressed air into and around the keys. Next, take a cotton swab, dip it in rubbing alcohol and run it over and around the keys. As for the mouse, first rub it all round with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. Then open the back and remove the ball. Wash the ball with water and let it air-dry. In the meantime clean the inside of the mouse with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Use your fingernails to scrape hard-to-remove grime. In the end blow air into the opening and replace all the parts. If you have an optical or laser mouse, just clean the outside area.

Your monitor acts as magnet for dust, which is why you need to clean it weekly. A CRT monitor can be cleaned with a damp soft, lint-free cloth. Use water or monitor cleaning products at computer supply shop. Never spray liquid directly onto the screen; spray the cloth instead. Wipe the screen gently to remove dust and fingerprints and do not touch the back of the monitor. For laptop or LCD screens, it is suggested that you buy a special cleaning solution available at computer shops.

It is worth mentioning one more computer part that can cause endless problem when dirty: the CD or DVD drive. Let it accumulate dust and grime - and you will have all kinds of read errors preventing you from installing new software or watching movies. To clean an optical disc drive, use a special disc designed for this purpose. You may also use a cloth dampened with water to clean the tray that ejects from the drive. Before putting the tray back into the drive, check that it is dry.

It is worth repeating that everything must be completely dry before the computer is turned on after the spring-cleaning.

And, since accidents will happen, here is one final tip. In case you spill coffee on your keyboard, disconnect the keyboard and flip it over. Blot the liquid with a paper towel, clean the keyboard as described above and leave it to air dry overnight. In case of laptop spills, do note that liquid can easily penetrate the keyboard and ooze inside the machine. The only thing you can do is to disconnect the machine, turn it upside down, leave it to dry - and hope for the best.
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