How to Clean Dust From Computers

Dust can lead to all kinds of problems inside your computer. If it’s been several months (or maybe even years) since you’ve cleaned your computer, or the fan is starting to run much louder, it’s time for a thorough cleaning.

You Will Need:

  • Compressed Air
  • Screwdriver
  • Storage for backing up files

Steps to Remove the Dust:

  1. Before completing any cleaning method on your computer, it is important to back up all of your files. Even though this is unlikely to cause any damage, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Shut down the computer and unplug all of the cords from the CPU. Take it outside or in an area that is well ventilated. When we get further into this process, the dust will start flying.
  3. Check your owner’s manual for the proper step to open your CPU. Most only require a few screws for the cover to come off.
  4. Use the can of compressed air to remove any dust from inside. Be sure to get the corners and crevices as well. Hold the can upright while spraying.
  5. Do not direct the compressed air at the fan. It can cause it to turn faster than it’s supposed to which can lead to damage. If you are skilled enough, remove the fan and clean it with a damp cloth. If that is too difficult, use a pencil or skewer stick to keep the fan from spinning while you use the air to blow the dust off.
  6. Be sure to clean the grill on the cover as well.
  7. Once the dust is removed, replace the cover and close up the case
  8. Reattach all of the removed cords, and your computer is clean and ready to use.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • This guide offers simple ways to remove dust from your computer without disassembling it. If you computer needs a more thorough cleaning, contact a professional.
  • If your computer fan is running louder than usual, it can be a sign that dust build up is becoming a problem.
  • Computers in homes with smokers and/or pets will need to be cleaned more frequently.
  • Although vacuums seem like an easy way to remove dust, they are not recommended. The static that is created from the vacuum can be damaging to the internal computer parts.

Comments

  1. Jim says:

    Power off the PC. Disconnect all cables. Take it out into the backyard/driveway, etc. Open up the case (usually just 4 screws or clips). Get out your trusty leaf blower and let it have it! DO NOT TOUCH the insides of the case with any part of the leaf blower, but direct the air inside the case and into every exterior opening, including the fan(s). Reassemble the unit and enjoy.

  2. James says:

    If you have an air compressor, you can use a blower attachment to blow compressed air into the PC and clean it that way.

  3. Greg says:

    Two methods are best to clean the dust from your computer. Use canned air to blow the dust out. Use of a compressor will put moisture and possibly rust from the compressor into your computer.

    The other method is to use either a data vacuum or a shop vac with a crevice tool, again, being careful not to touch anything inside. Leave it plugged in while you do this so it is grounded and can dissipate any static electricity built up by the particles blowing through your computer.

  4. Sylvia says:

    1. NEVER use an air compressor (as Greg mentioned above). In addition to moisture and possible rust, air lines can have air tool oil in them. Also, the psi of a typical blower is strong enough to damage components in your computer. I use a home vacuum cleaner which provides blowing air that’s also filtered.

    2. If possible (ie; you’ve done it before), remove the power supply from the computer. Open the power supply case (note – may void the warranty) so you can blow it separately. The power supply usually collects a lot of dust.

    3. You’ll want to take the computer’s case off and go outdoors to blow the computer clean (usually there’s substantial dust inside). If it’s hot and humid outside, and you’re in an air conditioned room, wait for a dry day. Taking a cold computer outside on a humid day could result in water condensation that can damage it, especially when you blow the water droplets all over.

    4. Greg’s comment about leaving the power cable plugged in to dissipate static is a good idea, but make sure you turn off the power switch on the power supply; not your computer’s front power switch, the one on the back where the cord plugs in. There should be no LED’s lit on the inside the computer, anywhere. If you don’t have a power supply on/off switch, and there is still a lit LED, you will have to unplug the power cord because your motherboard is still live.

    5. If you are not removing your case fan, CPU, and/or power supply fans, use a plastic twist tie and/or a plastic fork tied into the fan to secure them. If you have no access to a fan, be careful not to drive it up to a high speed when blowing the area. Fans are not meant to blast around at extra high speeds.

  5. Pat says:

    Open the case and blow out dust using canned air available at most computer supply stores. Be sure not to touch any of the components inside with your hands, unless you have a static discharge mat that you are touching also.

  6. Vivian says:

    Try using a hair dryer on cool (not hot or warm)!

    You don’t need to use anything with too much power when blowing the dust out of the PC!
    The more powerful the blower, the more danger to your PC!!

  7. Robert says:

    You should rarely have to clean a computer. I have seen computers that work in a totally dusty shop, covered with metal-laden dust to the point where the keyboard has to be pulled up and shaken before it can work.

    The computer lasted for 11 years in this room where jewelry is polished.

    I have seen computers filled with roach carcasses and even a mouse.

    The very best way to get your computer clean is to put in a bigger and better hard drive. Let the installer clean up your mess.

  8. Randall says:

    I use an air compressor. I attach an adjustable needle valve to the end of the hose. The needle valve is available from Harbor Freight Tools for about a dollar. The needle valve is adjustable to a steady puff of air.

    I also have a water-oil separator in line.

  9. Rene says:

    Never use a vacuum cleaner because the magnetic static off the vacuum cleaner can really damage your hardware.

  10. Nick says:

    Randall – Grateful if you could let me know the name and specs of your compressor. Also details of the water-oil separator and the exact name of the needle valve so that I can ask for it at the hardware stores. Thanks!

  11. William says:

    A gas duster (not a can of air) usually just works fine for me, usually a store brand or Dust-Off.

  12. Oldfart says:

    I always have used a vacuum cleaner (reversed, of course) to blow out my computers, which I do every few months. I have never had a static charge problem with them or trouble with magnetic fields. I have tried compressed air and think that’s a bad idea. Compressed air can freeze components and break circuit lines on circuit boards not to mention dumping condensation all over your computer.

    When I blow out my computers, it depends on how hot they are getting. I just built a new one recently and have had to blow it out already. With the proper monitor, which usually comes with the motherboard, you can monitor the CPU temperature and see when it is going up.

  13. Chris says:

    Many companies, including the one I work for, use air compressors; it has been the most efficient and detailed way to clean our servers/computers. I also use one to clean my custom gaming PC, which I have invested well over $7,000 in.

    When using an air compressor, there are a few things to remember:

    1. Make sure it is a oil-less compressor.

    2. 60-70 psi is sufficient; for caked on dust you can set it to 80.

    3. Try to get a compressor that has a filter (I have a 2 stage filter, one takes moisture out of the air and dust particles to .02 microns); if yours does not have one, you can get it from Sears and attach it for $19.99.

    If your compressor is indoors like mine, you don’t really need a filter that takes the moisture out if you make sure you empty your compressor every day and each time you start it, blow some air out initially before blowing your PC out; if there is any water in it from condensation in the air, it will come out with the first blow.

    3. Use a pencil or small wood stick (I use a small stick I got from a craft store which is about half the diameter of a pencil, then wrap it with electrical tape). You will use this when cleaning out fans; with a compressor, if you don’t, the fan will spin much faster then it was intended. Place the stick inside so the fan will not spin.

    Ground yourself of course and also, if you really want to get fancy, they make 4-6″ extension air blowers that are very fine for blowing and getting every little detail (kind of like the plastic tube a can of compressed air has).

  14. Mark says:

    As an industrial controls engineer that works in manufacturing, I’ve seen a lot of boards come and go. I concur with all of Steve’s precautions for cleaning electronics, but I do one more thing. because moving air is notorious for creating static electricity in copious amounts, (the hose may be rubber, but the lining is most likely a woven poly, like polyester carpet is woven from) I use a metal nozzle, and hard wire a ground to it. I don’t rely on my personal ground for this application, it could create a “static” ground loop.

  15. Dave says:

    Keep in mind that fans are electric motors, which when power is applied, spins the fan. It also works the other way, if they are spun, they create electricity, just like a generator. Block the fan from spinning before blowing so the blades don’t spin. Same goes for CPU and power unit fans.

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