I maintain the “inside” of my computer with CHKDSK, Disk Defragmenter,
registry cleaners, antivirus, and antispyware programs. What advice do you have
for cleaning the “outside” of the computer, such as the keyboard and for
cleaning dust that builds up on other computer components?
We do spend a lot of time and energy discussing software maintenance.
Everything from backups to viruses to keeping your system and applications up
to date, healthy, and running smooth.
But we don’t spend a lot of time talking about “the outside”, as you put it.
And we should, because it’s just as important.
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Before we start cleaning, turn off and unplug your computer.
In case you haven’t run across the articles, there have been several studies
that show that your keyboard is the filthiest part of your computer. Things
fall in between the keys and they don’t fall out. You don’t have to spill your
soft drink into it – it’s enough that dust, food particles, and even hair will
accumulate underneath and in between the keys of your keyboard. And if you have
pets, plan on fur. Lots of fur. Trust me on this; it often seems like I have a
Corgi’s worth of fur in my keyboard alone.
My approach to cleaning the keyboard is relatively simple. Using a can of
compressed air, readily available at
office supply and other stores, hold the keyboard upside down and blow air in
between the rows of keys. Use short bursts of air, both to dislodge gunk, but
also because compressed air can become extremely cold if sprayed
Oh, and you’ll probably want to do this outside, or over something that’s
easily wiped off. You’ll be shocked at the amount of crud that’ll fall
out of your keyboard.
This same approach works for laptop keyboards as well, though you’ll have to
be careful as you hold your laptop upside down while blowing. Perhaps ask a
friend to hold the machine for you.
Mice do need a little maintenance now and then.
Perhaps most important is using a good mouse pad and keeping it relatively
clean. Dirt and other objects can confuse a mouse’s optical sensor, and can
also accumulate on the mouse itself, obscuring that sensor.
Naturally, make sure that the underside of the mouse it self is relatively
clean. I find that scraping the gunk off of the mouse’s pads or feet makes it
move more smoothly.
your computer, as all the little openings are places where dust can enter and
The Computer Itself
There are two approaches to cleaning your computer, depending on whether you
feel comfortable opening it up.
At a minimum, using a soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner, vacuum
the dust from around your computer’s fan(s). In fact, you should vacuum both
the front and back panels of your computer, as all the little openings are
places where dust can enter and accumulate.
If you have devices such as external hard disks and the like, this is now a
good time to vacuum them as well. Look for vent holes in particular, and give
them a quick cleaning.
If you’re comfortable opening up your computer, it’ll be obvious where the
dust is accumulating once you look inside. Using that same soft brush
attachment on your vacuum, carefully suck out all the dust and fur that you
can. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but those major areas of dirt will probably
come away very easily.
The ideal location for your computer is a relatively dust free and cool
room. Heat is your computer’s worst enemy, and dust and dirt prevent that heat
from being dissipated.
Now, out here in the real world, there’s really no such thing as a dust (or
fur) free room. But knowing that those are the issues, if you can keep the area
around your computer clean it’ll help prevent much of the gunk from getting
into your computer in the first place.
Here I have no answer for you. It really depends on your computer and the
environment you use it in. I tend to go for months without a cleaning, and then
go on a tear whether the components need it or not. I could say once a month if
you have a particularly dusty or dirty location, but “particularly dusty or
dirty” might well mean something different to you than it does me.
As a rule of thumb, if you see an accumulation of dust on the inside of your
computer’s fan, it’s probably time.
And if you turn your keyboard over and shake it and last week’s lunch falls
out, then it’s definitely time.