Computer Maintenance - Time for a good cleaning

Computer Maintenance: Good Airflow And Fire Prevention

Computers are sturdy. They can run for months on end. To prevent freeze-ups, breakdowns and even fire, good airflow is needed so cleaning on a regular basis is recommended using an air can or, as in my case, a cordless air duster . You'd be surprised how fast dust can build up and also where it can pile up. If your comp is acting up, it's possible that dust is the problem. Fortunately, the solution only takes a few minutes of your time. Your computer will thank you for giving it a good cleaning and'll run at optimum speed.

For this example, I'm cleaning an old computer, about 10 years old or so that I use to run a Theta Edge Node which earns me TFuel while at the same time, also running the CryptoTab browser that earns me some free Bitcoin Satoshis. I've let the computer run steady for about a year and a half and it's been an excellent workhorse but I knew it was time to give this old PC a good cleaning after I heard the CPU fan suddenly run high and then slow down again. If you hear the fan acting up like this, it's letting you know it's time to give it a good spray with the duster.

Before we begin, we'll need a few things such as a screwdriver, air duster, scraper, heat sink compound and preferably, a face mask. I got the cordless air duster and compound at a local computer store and found scrapers at a local surplus store but any general store should have them. 


'Scraper is used to remove dried or used heat sink paste. and re-apply fresh paste'

Heat Sink Compound Paste

'Tubes of heat sink compound / paste'

Cordless Air Duster

'Cordless air duster'

For safety reasons, the very first step is to always disconnect power at the outlet. If there's an additional switch at the back of your PC, remember to turn this switch to the 'OFF' position as well. Never pull the cord from the back of your PC if it is still connected to a live outlet, to prevent electric shock. I worked around high voltage (thousands of volts!) for years and I can't stress enough the dangers of electrocution so please always disconnect at the outlet first.  Once your computer is disconnected, you'll need to discharge excess static electricity that may have built up on your body. There are simple ways to reduce or completely remove static, one of which is by increasing moisture in the air.

Dust can build up around vents, fan blades, heat sinks, plugs, connectors, slots, circuit boards and most critically, your CPU or central processing unit. This chip is easily identifiable as it will almost always have a heat sink / fan component sitting on top of it. If dust has collected on this heat sink's blades and on the fan itself, preventing good airflow, your computer will begin to act up and slow your computer's performance down drastically. If it gets any worse than this, it could lead to catastrophic failure from overheating.

Some components get really hot and dust build up can catch fire as a result. Of course, you don't want that. In the photo below, you can see the 'AVC' fan sitting atop the CPU with dust built up on the blades. 

CPU Fan + Heatsink

Removing the CPU fan was easy, by simply unscrewing the four screws (Some have clamps instead). Once removed, you will see the face of the CPU. Check with a paper towel if the paste is not dried up and gently wipe the paste off while being careful not to get any on your fingers. If the paste has dried, you'll need to use the scraper. If you don't have one, an old credit or bank card will do. In my case, the paste was still damp so I used a paper towel. Look at all the dust that had collected underneath the fan, away from prying eyes. It was building up all around the CPU and spreading out to the other components, including the RAM slots to the right.

CPU With Old Compound / Paste + Dust Buildup

Next, I removed the graphics card. Cheap but original. I'm surprised at how well it's performed up to this point and it really is paying for itself. Judging by the amount of build up of dust on the card and elsewhere on the computer, the maintenance schedule will be ramped up to every few months, where I'll give the comp a good dusting without having to remove the CPU heat sink. Heat sink paste can last for years so regular dusting should prolong its life considerably.

Dusty / Dirty Graphics Card - time for a good cleaning!

Once I had the CPU fan and video card removed and the paste wiped off the CPU, I carried the computer outside to the back yard and sat it on a table. In this Fall weather, we've had a lot of cloudy / rainy and cold days but on this day, the sun was out in full force and I could see well what I was doing, since this old guy wears glasses. Dust had collected everywhere on the card.

Once i started passing the cordless duster over everything, it did its job nicely. I realize now that I should have taken a video but I didn't. I can say the amount of dust being blown out was huge so I recommend wearing a simple face mask or at least, to carefully aim to blow the dust away from you, doing both is better! Blow the air carefully through the fan into the power supply until nothing comes out. Then, go all around the motherboard and underneath if possible. Clean out all slots, plug-ins and ports, etc.. Give the CPU fan / heat sink and video card a good dusting. 

Here are more pictures showing wear dust has collected.

Dirty Computer - time for a cleaning to prevent fire.

Dusty Computer: Fire Hazard!

Dusty Computer - Fire Hazard!

When the dust cleared, I brought everything back and went to work adding new compound to the CPU surface and the heat sink's milled surface and gently spread it across both surfaces using my mini-scraper. Then, I simply screwed the heat sink back on top of the CPU but be careful though. Don't tighten one screw down at a time. Do a few turns with each one until all screws are tight but not too tight. I think you know what I mean.

After re-attaching my mega-skimpy video card, I was ready to fire that baby back up. Make the sure the power cord is disconnected from the outlet before connecting to the back of your computer. Remember, safety first! Now, you're ready to safely re-connect your computer to the outlet. Once you've done this, turn the back power switch to 'ON'. Some computers have them and others don't. Did I forget to connect my mouse and keyboard in there somewhere?

Once up and running, my computer ran super quiet. I fired up the Edge Node and the CryptoTab browser and they immediately went to work for me. My PC is connected to my 50 inch TV, as shown in the images below.

Theta Edge Node Screen Shot

CrytoTab Browser Screen Shot

For now, this old computer has helped me earn a small amount of crypto and I'm doing my part to help Theta Networks build its decentralized platform. Because of its age though, I'm well aware time is fast approaching for an upgrade (Story for later?). I'm proud to be a part of this network and I see its potential. They're just getting started and I want to be there when the lights really get turned on. For that, I'll need a stronger computer. In the meantime, I've kept this one clean and it's running optimally again. More importantly, I've removed a potentially deadly fire hazard.

So if you hear your computer's fans running high and / or often freezes while surfing the net, chances are it's time for a good dusting. Have a look around the vents to see if there's any dust build up on a regular basis. This applies to laptops as well. Even tablets and cell phones can use a good air spraying once in a while. Check around the ports and buttons.

If you're a regular gamer and use a high end PC, regular cleaning / dusting is advised. Why not put it to extra good use and earn some Bitcoin and TFuel too while you're shooting down all those bad aliens? Thanks gamers, for saving the world!

Hope this was helpful. It was for me. If you don't feel confident doing the work yourself, you can always bring your computer to your local computer shop for servicing in exchange for a small fee. May I recommend visiting an independent shop if there is one and support your local community.

Best wishes for the holidays...

Peace and love to everyone!

P.S. Check out my entry in PublishOx's Tectum SoftNotes writing contest, 'Thanks for the SoftNotes, Gramma'. It's a comical take, I know but who knows what the future awaits for us. AND! It sure would be nice to win some Etherium, eh?


PublishOx - Earn crypto for blogging


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Name's Joe and I live in Ontario, Canada. I like writing on a wide variety of topics. I enjoy keeping track of markets, investing and commodities and the crypto sector. Also do some coding for web browsers.

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