Give Your PC A Spring Makeover

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    Spring is winding down, and summer is about to kick in. But it’s never too late to finish the rest of that spring cleaning. One item often overlooked when folks give their home the once over is the personal or family computer. Sure, now and then it may get dusted like all the other pieces of furniture in the room, but have you ever considered getting into the areas that call for real cleaning attention?

    One of many enemies to a healthy PC is heat. Without adequate case air flow, your computer will overheat, and possibly leave you with a very costly repair bill. Many overheating computers suffer from a severe case of dust bunnies. If you have a one year or older PC in your home, and have not looked inside the case to check for dust, then hold on to your hat. This is especially true if your PC sits on the floor by a desk, rather than on top of a desk. The closer to the floor your PC is stationed, the more dust it seems to attract.

    Purchase a can of compressed air from a computer shop, Office Depot or Best Buy that is safe for blowing dust off electronic components, and blow the dust out of your PC case at least every six months. If you make a practice of this, you will see a much cooler running computer, and will greatly reduce the chance of your PC having a heat stroke.

    If you are a little wary of doing this, take heart, you are not alone. It is a simple operation, and preparation is the key. Fire up your favorite search engine if you want to see photos or step-by-step instructions on the web. For now I offer my routine as an example.

    If you have never removed and replaced the cables on the back of your PC, then use your digital camera to take some close up photos of the back of your computer where all the cords are located. Your camera should have a preview mode so you can view your photo right after snapping the shot. This should alleviate any apprehension of placing all the cables back in their proper place. Next, take the computer outside your home to a porch or somewhere that is well ventilated. Remove the side cover from the case so you can easily see the innards of your PC. Insert the extension tube that came with your air can into the spray nozzle so you can direct well aimed shots of air.

    As you look in the case you will see the power supply box in the upper left. There is a fan on the rear of the power supply beside the power cord receptacle. Insert a plastic ink pen just far enough to prevent the fan from rotating (all fans should be held stationary to prevent damage) and try to hold the can in an upright position as you shoot two or three short bursts of air from inside the case through the small slots of the power supply. Do not use long shots of air. Be gentle with the air pressure, and perhaps give it another couple of shots before moving on to the processor. If you sense the can getting cold in your hand, shake it and allow it to warm some before continuing. The air is under pressure, which keeps it fairly warm, but as you discharge it, cooling occurs, and you want to prevent any condensation from shooting cold air into your PC on a hot day.

    The processor is located just beneath and to the right of the power supply, and is directly attached to the motherboard. Look for a large sized aluminum or copper heat sink, upon which is mounted a good sized fan. Heat sink fins are a real trap for dust, and if dust is allowed to accumulate, your processor could quickly cook, possibly damaging your motherboard as well. Blow around the processor and try to get as much air into the heat sink fins as possible, and you will see a lot of dust cleared away.

    Now you can move on to blow all your case fans off, especially the dust filling the vent holes where the fans are mounted, but remember to hold them so they do not rotate with the air pressure. If you have a discrete video card (you will find the video card in a slot toward the rear of the case on your left, and it will be the card with a heat sink and fan on the GPU chip). If you do not see one, then you have on board video. Remember to hold the fan stationary as you clear the dust away.

    All that remains is to blow out the rest of the case to remove any residual dust, and replacing the side panel on your computer. You can enjoy a cooler running computer after you reattach the cables on the back panel.

    Any comments, suggestions and/or tips are very welcome.
    Last edit by CaptainPC on Jun 15, '09
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