How To Evacuate Dust Bunnies In Your Computer

If your PC's been humming along under your desk for more than a year or two, I've got news for you: Chances are inside that case, half a dozen dust bunnies are dancing around your hard drive, leeching onto your CPU fan and fluttering about your motherboard having a grand old time. This is not good. Today we'll go over how to clean out the guts of your computer, tighten, tune and oil things up to make your PC happier, healthier and more likely to stick around longer.Note: Your best bet is to do this type of cleaning next time you're inside your PC's case, like during a new RAM or hard drive installation. If it has simply been years since you've looked inside your computer - especially if you're a pet owner or smoker, or if your computer's fan's gotten noisier over time - it might be worth the dust bunny evacuation now, upgrade or not. Photo by Roger.

What you'll need (from left to right):

  1. A Phillips head screwdriver.
  2. Mechanical oil with a dropper. I used 3-in-1. PC Stats does not recommend WD-40.
  3. A can of compressed air.

    Pick one of these suckers up at any computer supplies or electronics store.

First, prepare the computer for cleaning.

Before anything else, back up all your data. (Better safe than sorry.) Then disconnect the power cord, monitor, keyboard, mouse and any other peripherals. Take the tower to a well-lit place outdoors on a porch or to the garage. Do not skip this step because the compressed air is going to blow up a cloud of dust and chemicals you don't want in your home office or in your eyes or nostrils any more than absolutely necessary. Open up the case. My Dell goes on its side and when you push the release on the top and bottom, it slides open like a Delorian. Your case may (most likely will) vary. Consult your computer's manual for how to get yours open.

Next, create a dust storm.

Use the can of compressed air with the thin narrow straw attached to the nozzle to blow the dust off all the components inside your PC's case. Keep the can upright as much as possible to avoid liquid coming out of the can, but if it does, it shouldn't harm the computer's innards. Don't do this near kids or pets, and know that as you use the can, it will get cold in your hand. Be sure to get into all the cracks and crevices, and do dust the grill on the back of the machine as well. PC Stats says that compressed air should not be used to clean fan blades because it will make them turn faster than they were meant to and this could cause harm. The fan is plastic anyway and can be cleaned with a damp cloth, which we'll do next.

Thirdly, clean the fan.

There are two fans in your computer: one inside the power supply and one over the processor. The power supply fan on my machine was sealed tight and inaccessible; so I cleaned it as much as possible from the outside grill. We care about the fan over the computer processor. Airborne dust, pet hair, smoke and particles can build up over time and slowly break this fan down and eventually overheat your computer. Some cleaning and a drop of oil can prevent this type of catastrophe, or at least put it off.

In my particular Dell (a Dimension series), the processor fan is covered by a green hood that flips up and snaps off. Using the screwdriver, dismount the fan from the inside of the machine without disconnecting the cords. Wipe down the plastic blades and casing with a damp cloth. I'm not a smoker or a pet owner but you can see my fan was blackened with dust.

Finally, lube the fan mechanism.

Pull up the sticker on the fan. PC Stats says some computers may have a rubber plug over the bearing inside; my computer did not. If yours does, pull up the plug with a fingernail or screwdriver. Then place one single drop of oil over the axle part which turns the fan.

Then replace the sticker and remount the fan, hood and any nearby parts you had to remove to get to it.

Before you close up your case, make sure all the connections inside your PC are tight and that no wires are hanging loose or pulled too tight. Firmly tighten any screws mounting PCI cards or drives and close up the case. Return the PC to its home location, reconnect all peripherals and boot up. If possible, place the machine on your desk instead of on the floor to reduce dust exposure.

After the cleaning, your lubed-up, clean PC should run quieter with a much reduced chance of a hostile dust bunny takeover - that is, until the cat starts rubbing up against it.


    Hi - it sounds ridiculous, but I ended up making my own "can of air", because;
    A) Where I live compressed air cans are very expensive and
    B) Very hard to get.

    Here is a photo of my "invention" that works well, but at lower pressure than a can---> No water is used :) Stephen

      Now this is article-worthy.

      you did well! If this was a forum i'd give you rep

      OMG! +1
      That is impressive lateral thinking!!!

      The reason to use a can of air is to prevent static from causing damage to your computer circuits. This plastic bottle would build up a static charge and should not be used for blowing air on your computer circuits.

      Don't use anything that has a rubbing mechanism which may cause a static charge to build up. This is why you don't use vacuum cleaners or electric blowers because the fan inside these things cause static build up.

      Don't people do simple science in schools any more?

        Hi _ thanks to everyone that checked it out ! I use it most for cleaning dust off old records (LP's). Static was something I never even considered as when used for old records I have never noticed any problems. I have used it for blowing out the odd computer, no problems. It certainly would pay to be careful with anything that generates static, but the spark would have to jump the gap, meaning there is no physical contact. thanks Stephen

    I usually use a bicycle pump!

    I rent PC's and clean the dust bunnies out all the time (in fact they could be dust hares there is so much ...) if you have your compressed air in one hand and your vacuum cleaner in the other you spread a lot less dust around

    I just use the vacuum on low power, works well and I haven't damaged anything yet.

      You WILL fry your gear using a vaccume. Just dont do it.

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