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Five Tips for Safely Cleaning Your Computer Hardware

Computer users may think that their systems are safe from dirt, dust, pet hair and cigarette smoke since the critical components are all enclosed in a case. However, those users will be shocked at how much garbage has collected on the inside of their system if they go for a year or more without cleaning their computer hardware. If not cleaned regularly, systems may become so dirty that components begin to fail. In many cases this means computers will need to be repaired or replaced.

Fortunately, cleaning computer hardware is inexpensive and easy. There is no need to take the system to a computer repair shop to get it cleaned, though many computer users do so for the sake of convenience. The following five tips will help computer users safely clean their computer hardware.

Preventing Shock and System Damage Due to Static Discharge

To prevent shock and system damage, the computer system should be powered down before the case is opened to begin cleaning. However, leave the computer plugged into the wall to keep the system grounded while working inside the case. Once the case has been removed, users should keep one hand on the case at all times to keep themselves grounded and reduce to risk of damaging sensitive components with static electric discharge. Optionally, an anti-static wrist guard may also be used. Ideally, the cleaning will be performed in the kitchen or on some other uncarpeted surface to further reduce risks of static discharge.

Avoid Using Liquid Cleaners

Harsh liquid cleaners can damage the sensitive components on the inside of a computer. If the liquid alone does not cause damage, residue left behind by the cleaner may eat away at components over time. Users should clean their systems with compressed air instead. Compressed air cans are inexpensive and can clean most of the dust out of a system. If needed, those with dust allergies may prefer to use a small, hand held vacuum to get most of the dust out of a computer system before using the compressed air for finer areas where the vacuum cannot reach. If a vacuum is used, users should take care not to allow wires or other components to be sucked into the vacuum.

Use Anti-Static Cloths for Wiping

If surfaces on the interior of the computer system need to be wiped to remove dirt and dust, an anti-static cloth should be used. Using any other type of cloth could result in the system being damaged by static electricity. Cloths are useful for wiping down the interior of a case or for the smooth metallic surfaces of hard drives, DVD and CD ROM drives. Compressed air should still be used for cleaning any circuitry.

Watch For Loose Wires When Replacing the Case

When replacing the case on a computer after cleaning, be sure to watch for any loose wires that may protruding. Wires may be damaged or severed if the case is forced down on top of them. In worst case scenarios, this can cause extensive damage to critical system components.

Clean Your Computer System Regularly

The computer system needs to be cleaned regularly to keep it functioning well and prevent permanent damage. Heat sinks and fans may become less effective if they are clogged with dust. In cases where the fans become so clogged that they cannot function, CPUs have actually melted and fused to the motherboard or other components in the system. The damage may cost hundreds or more to repair if systems are allowed to get to this point. Generally speaking, systems should be cleaned once every six to eight months. If the system is stored in an environment where people smoke, where pets are kept or in duty workshops, the system may need to be cleaned more frequently.

Computer users may also take their system to a computer repair shop to have it cleaned. Some shops will offer to do this gratis if repairs or upgrades are scheduled for the same time. Otherwise computer users should expect to have to pay rates of as much as $50 per hour or more for cleaning.