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Basic physics says that when electricity flows through any non-superconductor, it generates heat in the process. Computers need to get rid of this heat in order to keep working, so cases are built to maintain an airflow across hot components to cool them. Of course, another side effect of flowing electricity is that it generates an electromagnetic field, and electromagnetic fields tend to draw dust.
This photo of my mother?s computer is actually not the dustiest system I?ve ever cleaned out, that would be my older brother?s system which hadn?t been cleaned for several years when I opened it up.
Dust isn?t just an aesthetic problem for computers, it?s potentially much more serious. First of all, dust can act like a heat barrier, reducing the effectiveness of your computer?s cooling systems. Overheating makes a system less stable and more error prone. Plus it pushes the fans harder making the system noisier. Also, some dust is conductive, which means that exceptionally dusty systems actually have a risk of short circuits forming.
To clean your system, you?ll want to first power down and unplug your system. And considering how much dust can be thrown into the air, it?s a good idea to consider moving your system someplace with good ventilation.
The first step is to open the side panel of your system. The how varies from system to system, but the majority of computers made today try to simplify the process, securing the panel with either thumbscrews or some form of latch mechanism. Once you?ve opened the computer, it?s time to start using the compressed air to blow away the dust. Keep in mind, this is going to be blowing a fair bit of dust into the air. Many sources recommend using a cheap dust mask you can buy at any hardware store.
Anyway, try working in short bursts, starting with the visible clumps of dust. Next, you?ll want to go to work on the the hidden dust surfaces. Look over the power source (The big box that your system?s power cord plugs into) and alternate blowing puffs of air into the openings both inside and outside the case (The changing airflow should help dislodge more of the dust.) Now look at the CPU cooler. It?s the big fan and assembly at the center of the motherboard.
Take a little time to look it over to figure out which direction the metal fins are lined up in (Note, if the style of cooler has the fins exposed, don?t touch them, their sharp.) Direct a few shots of air from both sides to dislodge as much dust as possible.
Then you?ll just want to give a quick once over to the motherboard and peripherals with your can of air to blow off the remaining dust that you can?t see. Then angle the air on the bottom of the case to blow the dust there out and you can close up your case, return it to it?s normal resting place, hook the cables back up and power it on.
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