Cleaning Your Computer Part II: First Impressions

After reading our Part 1 computer cleaning primer I am sure you are ready to get started on the process. You did read the primer right? If not, check it out, we covered all the tools you need to properly clean your computer. In this section we will cover the process to clean the outside of your computer. This includes the case, cables, keyboard, mouse and monitor(s). This process applies to both Desktop and Laptop computers.

Why worry about the outside of the computer?

Finger print covered computer.

This once gloriously shiny computer has been funk-i-fied. George Clinton would not approve of this funk.

First. The outside of the computer tends to be a reflection of the inside. If the outside is looking pretty rough then it’s a safe bet that the inside is even worse.

Having the inside really dirty is the cause of most overheating issues.  When you take the time to clean the outside you are more conscious of the computer in general. You will be more likely to notice issues that are on the horizon like clogged fans, cracked plastics, partially connected cables and so on.

Second. As with everything else in life the computer is a reflection of you. This is obviously more of a factor with laptops. Are you toting a laptop with old sticker residue, finger funk and a hospital floors worth of germs into business meetings? Probably not the best impression to make but we still see it all the time.

Cautionary Computer Cleaning Notes

DO NOT Spray liquids on / at / near your computer. This may seem obvious but sometimes people get into the groove of cleaning desks and shelves and just naturally move onto the computer case. DON’T. While it is perfectly ok to get the outer surfaces of the computer damp with cleaner, it is not ok to spray the computer. You may get liquid or even just a little extra moisture into the system and cause problems well beyond a dirty computer case.

DO NOT Touch your computer with a vacuum. Some issues are debatable with vacuums; there are possible static electricity issues and possible magnetism issues. Without going into those areas, it’s safe to say that any physical impact of a vacuum and your computer can cause damage. In addition you may very well suck up an important part. You can lose loose keyboard keys, shift cables and buttons and so on. In the process we are going over here you will not be asked to use a vacuum so this is mainly a caution for those who like to work outside the lines.

Clean My Computer – I Think I Can Do It!!

Feeling worried and or guilted into cleaning your computer now? Good, it probably needs it. Cleaning the outside is a relatively quick process. It may be a little slower the first time as you get your bearings but after that it’s a breeze.

Here is the big picture.

  1. Prep the computer
  2. Remove the chunks (yes chunks!)
  3. Blast the dust
  4. Wipe the funk
  5. Remove the stickers (optional)
  6. Mice and Keyboards

The tools you will need are…

Canned air, paper towels, & hands to clean your computer.

Canned Air : Paper Towels : Hands


How To Clean My Computer? – Let’s Start With Prepping The Computer I

Desktops: Power off the computer. Remove all the junk you may have surrounding the computer. We want clear access to the front back left right of the computer AND monitor. It won’t help to clean the computer if you spill a half cup of stale coffee on it when you are almost done. You should unplug most if not all of the cables from the case so you have free access to clean and move the computer.

Laptops: Power off the computer. Unplug the power and optionally remove the battery. Give yourself some space.

Remove The Chunks! II

Chunks of dust from computer vents

This computer had such a build up that you could scrape off layers that fell in ... CHUNKS!

Chunks???Yes indeed, not only funny sounding but also true. Computers that have been neglected for a bit tend to develop chunks. There are hard and soft style. A hard chunk can be things like crumbs, plastic bits, pen parts or whatever fell the last time you cleaned. A soft chunk is like a dust bunny but condensed down due to air flow. Look over the computer and remove any large dust chunks that you can remove by hand. Try not to lose any into the computer. Then GENTLY turn over any keyboards and let any large pieces fall free. Do the same if you have a laptop. You can give a desktop computer’s keyboard a little shake to get some extra to fall but DO NOT shake a laptop.

Blast the dust III

Hold Properly. Grab your can of air or your compressor nozzle and get ready. If using canned air be sure to hold the can close to vertical at all times. If you tip the can too far you will blast out propellant. The propellant will evaporate quickly but is very very cold. You don’t want to freeze damage any part of your computer.

Take it easy. You want to use the air to blast off dust and other particles. You are not trying to sandblast the paint off the computer.

Target. Mainly blast the cracks and crevasses that are hiding dust and dirt. Since we are targeting the outside of the computer you want to take it easy on blasting too hard into any fan openings if they are seriously dirty. Blasting an entire bunny worth of dust into the computer if you’re not cleaning the inside as well could make things worse.

Monitors and Keyboards. Don’t forget about the accessories. You should blasts the back of the monitor where any vent fins are. You can also blow the keyboard out. Be sure to approach keyboards gently, especially with laptop keyboards. If you start blasting a broken keyboard at full power you may pop a key loose.


Wipe the funk IV

What is that?!#. You may be surprised at some funk you have discovered on your computer. The newly found funk could be spilled coffee, soda, food goop, animal or child ‘slime’ or any number of things. Blue Liquid (aka Windex) and a towel are great an cleaning up pretty much all of the funk you find.

Dirty scraped up computer case.

Ah the joy of children ... and pens and crayons and sneakers.

Pre Spray! If you’re not using pre moistened electronic wipes then you should now prep some paper towels. Somewhere NOT near your computer you should spray a paper towel or two with some blue liquid. Just a little. You are looking for a slightly moist towel not a dripping mess.

Magic Blue Stuff. Windex is pretty straight forward. Wipe it on. Wipe it off. If you see a lot of liquid being left behind when you wipe then start over again making towels because you used too much. You can safely use the towels on most of the computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Monitors / Screens. You shouldn’t have any issues with cleaning the monitor or laptop screen. HOWEVER if you really cheaped out with the towel quality (like the brown towels from a gas station bathroom kinda cheap) or your towels are already dirty you could risk scratching your screen. The towel should be soft and free of any debris before being used on the screen.

Sticker Un-Bling V

Intel wuz here! Is your computer looking a little like a sponsored stock car? Companies like to get their name out and slapping a sticker on your computer is a nice way to do that. Stickers serve little purpose, unless you really keep forgetting the brand make and model of your computer and the original spec sticker is a help of course.

Static or Goo. Stickers come in two styles. Static cling style is easy. Much like the reminder sticker from your last oil change that is stuck to your windshield the static stickers are easy to remove. Just pull them off and you are done. The other style is typical sticker style. Depending on the age of the computer the sticker glue will be in various stages of solidification. You may find that you can peel off the stickers with ease. If not you will have to resort to advanced measures. Plastic razor blades and GooGone are excellent at removing stickers that are way too stuck. I didn’t cover them in tools because if you don’t have them around you will likely have to order them. The plastic razors at least, GooGone can be picked up at the local hardware store.


How To Clean Your Computer Keyboard & Bath Your Mouse! VI

The Mouse. Mice are pretty simple devices. If you mouse has more than 5 buttons it’s a safe assumption you should already know how to clean your own computer. So that leaves everyone else and their 2 to 4 button simplicity. Use the blue liquid and towels to surface clean the mouse. Once the top is clean flip it over and clean the slide pads of any dense gunk. You may also need to grab some tweezers to pull any hairs out of the sensor eye. Sometimes they can work their way in and will affect the accuracy of the mouse.

Keyboards. Keyboards are probably the most annoying part to clean if they have been seriously neglected. Eventually finger funk works its way down the side of the keys and simply running a towel over the surface won’t get the job done. You may want to recruit some Q-Tips or other stick to help you clean between the edges. The more involved methods are more for repairing damaged systems so I won’t really go into details since this is supposed to be a post on cleaning a mostly functional system. If you have really abused your keyboard, with drips and spills to the point of sticking or nonfunctional keys, you may have to get drastic with methods like soaking the keyboard in alcohol or throwing it into the dishwasher

Go and impress someone

Glossy and cleaned front of computer tower.

Restored to its original glossy beauty this computer is ready for a night on the town. Or at least a night on the internet.

Shiny. The outside of your setup should be looking pretty spiffy by now. From this point on a general outside cleaning should be a snap. If you check over your system once a month or every few months you will have less overall buildup.

Make Note. Did you have any monster dust bunnies or broken parts that need to be addressed? Make note of anything out of place so you can consult a technician if need be. Any seriously dirty computers with signs of internal funk should now be cleaned internally either by yourself or a technician. There will be details about cleaning the internals of both Desktop and Laptop computers in future postings.

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