How to Clean the Hardware on the Inside of Your Computer

February 27, 2009

in computer hardware,computer performance

by Tina Gasperson

Dust is the enemy of computer components – but ironically, computer components seem to attract an inordinate amount of dust, which traps heat and clogs up the fans that work to keep your system at the right temperature. If your computer gets too hot, it will shut down to protect itself, but it could still be damaged by excessive heat. It’s a good idea to open up your computer from time to time and clean out dust and detritus.

The most useful tool for cleaning out the inside of your computer is a can of compressed air. This is available at most computer supply and office supply stores. Once you have your compressed air, shut the computer down and unplug it. You may want to take the computer outside for cleaning so you don’t spread the dust around your work area.

Look at the operating manual for your computer to find out how to remove the cover. Most covers have tiny screws you’ll need to take out and set aside in a safe place before sliding the cover off. Place the tiny straw that came with your compressed air into the dispenser at the top of the can. Use this straw to direct the compressed air into small places inside your computer – especially between items and inside fans, and in the power supply which is attached at the back of your system where you plug the power cord in. You may be surprised by the amount of dust that flies out of your computer.

Be sure to direct the air flow back behind all the elements in your computer, but be careful not to dislodge anything. Keep an eye on what you’re doing just in case something does get unplugged so you can plug it right back in. Tip the computer over and give it a few taps to knock out any recalcitrant sticky bits of dirt and dust. And finally, plug in a hair dryer, turn it to the “cool” setting and give the inside of your computer a final once-over before you close it up. Don’t use the heated air setting or you could damage your computer. Replace the cover, bring the computer back inside, plug it in and boot up.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.