This week I’m going to give you some quick tips on cleaning your computer – inside and out!

My customers are often horrified when I open up their computer and look inside.

Computers are hot – the chips inside get to very high temperatures and need a lot of cooling to keep them running at a reasonable temperature.  The easiest way to achieve this cooling is by heatsinks and fans.

Heatsinks are fins of metal that are attached to the surface of the chip.   Fans are then used to pull cool air from the outside through the computer and over these heatsinks.   Unfortunately, it’s not just air that gets pulled into the computer.   Dust, lint, fur all get sucked in and build up over time.

You might think that a vacuum cleaner would be a great way to clean out all of the fluff?  Nope!  You should avoid using a vacuum cleaner unless it’s specifically designed for electronics.   The nozzle at the end of the pipe builds up static electricity (you might have noticed you sometimes get a spark?).   This static can discharge in the computer and blow the chips – permanently destroying the computer.    Instead – you should use compressed air to blow the dust out.   If you don’t have a compressor at home, you can buy canisters of compressed air from shops like Staples.   You may be surprised how much quieter your computer is when the fans don’t have to run at full speed to keep things cool!

If you use your computer in a smoky environment, you might be out of luck.   The tar from cigarettes builds up over time and creates a sticky cover over everything in the computer.  Compressed air can’t get this out, so something to bear in mind!

I’ve found some odd things inside computers over time.  Years ago, when I was a student (yes, a long time ago!), I worked for a small PC manufacturer in England.   All the computers were hand built and shipped out to customers.  They were shipped back to be repaired if there were any problems.   One of the computers shipped back had a frog in it!  The frog must’ve been in there a while as it didn’t look too healthy!

Another computer came back with a screwdriver that had been lost by a previous technician months ago (not me!).   He was very happy to have his trusty screwdriver back, and thankfully, it wasn’t the cause of the issue with the computer!

The other part of a computer that generally needs cleaning is the screen.   A clean dry, soft lint-free cloth is ideal here.   If necessary, use a mix of mild soap and water but try not to let any get into the bezel of the screen and into the components inside.  Water and computers really don’t mix well!

So that takes care of the physical computer itself, but how about cleaning things running in the computer?   Firstly, if you’re getting low on disk space, there’s program built in to recent Windows versions called “Disk Cleanup”.  This will automatically seek out files that are no longer needed and can be safely deleted.

I used to recommend running a Defrag on the hard drive.   I won’t go into details, but this organises the drive to make it faster.   However recent versions of Windows run this tool automatically in the background without you having to worry about it so only run it manually if you have an old machine.

Finally – it’s advisable to run frequent Anti-Virus scans.  Again, most recent AV programs automatically run a full scan every week, but you might want to check your AV protection to make sure this happens.

Until next time – get cleaning!