Dust buildup in your computer can be extremely detrimental to the proper functioning of your computer components, including your processor and your hard drive. These components need steady air flow to keep cool, and if they don’t have enough, they can overheat and even fail completely. While you probably already know that dust inside your computer isn’t good, you may not know how to get rid of it without taking apart your entire machine and then putting it back together again. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to safely remove dust from your CPU fan or other parts of your computer without opening it up first.
Turn off your computer
You can clean your computer’s fans—the components that help keep it cool and help remove dust—without shutting down your system. To make sure you don’t damage anything, though, first turn off your computer and unplug it from any power sources. The next steps are going to require you get pretty close to your PC’s insides, so put on a static-protective grounding strap or wristband and make sure there aren’t any loose wires or cables nearby (you wouldn’t want any of those getting in contact with any potentially static-charged parts). There is also a risk of electrical shock since you will be working on high voltage components, so double check that all power supply cables are secure as well.
Unplug all cords
Before you begin, make sure that your computer is completely unplugged. We don’t want you shocked. The static electricity buildup can also destroy some of your PC’s components, so it’s best to keep things as grounded as possible while you work on your system. To help with that, try removing your battery and unplugging both ends of your power cord. Leave all pieces disconnected for at least an hour or two before proceeding with cleaning your fan or moving on to another component.
Prepare a clean and safe surface
A lot of people have a bad habit of simply blowing off dust particles that accumulate in their computer tower. It’s easy to clean with canned air, right? Actually, it can be dangerous if you don’t follow a few simple steps first. The bottom line is: Don’t use compressed air on your PC or Mac unless you know what you’re doing; there could be sharp metal blades or other sensitive components nearby. So how do you safely remove dust from your PC? Let gravity do its thing.
Suck out the Dust
To remove dust from your computer’s cooling fan, you need a vacuum cleaner and a special kind of dust remover, called a can of air. To use it, turn off your computer and unplug it. Carefully pull out your PC’s hard drive and put it in an anti-static bag or box that won’t conduct electricity. Then give your PC’s motherboard (the main circuit board) several blasts of compressed air with an anti-static hose or can. (Holding onto any exposed wires while doing so is not recommended.) If necessary, clean up some other parts of your PC while you’re at it—even tiny specks of dust can cause big problems when they lodge inside sensitive electronic devices!
Use Compressed Air
First, be sure your computer is unplugged and turned off. Then remove each fan in turn, as well as any heatsinks that might be present on top of your processor. Use a q-tip with rubbing alcohol (or an alcohol-based cleaning product) to clean up any dust or dirt that’s settled on top of those fans and heatsinks. If your device has a cpu temperature gauge (usually located near your computer’s vents), make sure you wipe it clean as well—dust particles can interfere with it’s ability to read heat levels accurately. Once you’ve cleaned everything thoroughly, reinstall each component in turn, followed by re-starting your computer.
Use Q-Tips To Clean Pins On The Heatsink And Fans
Grab your dust remover and turn off your computer. Unplug all cables from your PC except for power. Put on an anti-static wrist strap if you have one, then flip over your PC so that you’re looking at its underside. Slide off the side panel and set it aside with your other screws, then use a can of compressed air or a compressor to blow dust out of all possible crevices. There’s usually an access panel on top of, or around, where each component is mounted that allows you to reach each one separately; remove them as needed until every bit of dust has been dislodged.
Replace the side panel, plug in all cables
Now that you’ve removed all of your computer’s fans, it’s time to clean them. To avoid creating a dust avalanche, you want to make sure your case is completely closed and all cables are plugged in. Give your PC a good look with fresh eyes—do you see any gunk or buildup? If so, clean it up! It can be as simple as using a pencil eraser or non-abrasive cleaning wipes (like Swiffer WetJet). We recommend using compressed air cans for serious buildup; just make sure to hold the nozzle tip at least 12 inches away from any electronic components (to avoid short circuiting). Spray until debris stops flying out of your fan.