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How to Clean Your Computer, Monitor, and Keyboard

image My main computer is a gaming rig, and as a result consists of a large tower with multiple vents and fans.  Over time, these vents and fans become filled with a thick layer of dust.  I’ve been meaning to clean out the tower for some time in order to improve cooling, and finally had the perfect excuse after receiving two new sticks of RAM for Christmas.  I figured that while I had the case opened up to swap in the new RAM, and since the new year is a good time to tidy things up, I should also clean out the inside.  I took it one step further, and also cleaned the monitor, and my keyboard.  A few of the benefits I’m hoping for include lower operating temperatures, a clearer monitor, and a happy wife due to reduced dust in the room.  Here are the steps I took to clean my computer. 

Photo by johnsto.




You could be surprised at the amount of dust inside your computer, so cleaning out the inside of the machine is a step best taken outdoors, if possible.  Despite some chilly temperatures, I placed my machine on a table on my sundeck, and opened the case.  How you open your case will depend on the type of case you have, but as a general rule, you’ll want to open the case on the side opposite your motherboard, if possible.  Once I opened my case, dust bunnies started swirling about everywhere.

image I then used a can of compressed air to thoroughly blow out the inside of the case.  Before blowing the air into your computer case, make sure that you blow the can elsewhere to get any moisture out of the can.  Once you start on the case, take your time, and reach as many areas as possible.  This includes the motherboard, all fans (make sure that you get the built up dust off of the fan blades), any cables, the fins of any heat sinks, all surfaces, and any vents.  I also blew air from the outside in, through the various vents, and into the opening to the power supply.

manual air blower For harder to reach places, I used a manual air blower that I had purchased as part of a cleaning kit for my camcorder.  You make it work by squeezing the big black ball at one end, forcing air through the nozzle.  I then used a soft, slightly damp rag to wipe down any interior and exterior surfaces, followed by a completely dry rag.



To clean my two LCD monitors, I turned them off, and then wiped down each screen and frame with a soft microfiber cloth (one comes with the aforementioned camcorder cleaning kit).  Turning the monitors back on with a white background on the screen helped identify a few places that I had missed.  You can navigate to a page with a white background here.  In most browsers, you can then hit F11 to make that page fill your entire screen.  Be careful, though – some people claim that you can damage pixels if you clean the screen while it is on.  I was fairly gentle, and ran into no such trouble.

For tougher spots (such as a few spots that were speckled with dried juice from an apple), I lightly dampened the microfiber cloth with water.  Be careful with alcohol, as it can cause damage (although some Lifehacker readers, in comments to an article, report no problems with a 50/50 mix of alcohol and water).



I cleaned my keyboard by picking it up, and turning it upside down.  I then blew it out with the compressed air, and with the manual air blower from the camcorder cleaning kit.  Some people recommend running your keyboard through the dishwasher, but Microsoft does not recommend this.  My keyboard wasn’t cheap, so I wasn’t brave enough to attempt the dishwasher method.  Do so at your own risk.  Cleaning it out with air was good enough for me.


When I was done with my cleaning regimen, the results were astounding.  My case looks as clean as the day I bought it, and I’m no longer looking past small spots on the monitor.

Have you cleaned your computer lately?  If so, hop down to the comments and share any tricks that you’ve picked up along the way.