Spring cleaning for your computer: Get the gunk - and the germs - out
By Thomas Schoerner Feb 12, 2012, 2:06 GMT
Munich - Skin and hair, dust and crumbs, just about everything imaginable ends up getting lodged in your keyboard.
It's unpleasant and not healthy for the computer user. The only solution is regular cleaning. If you don't take the time, your computer could end up being a contagion zone, to say nothing of becoming gummed up by all the debris. Dust is the biggest threat to a computer's interior. If it gets inside the casing, it can clog up the cooling system.
'In the best case scenario, that just means the system is louder because the fan has to spin faster to get enough heat out of the housing,' says Christoph Schmidt of the German computer magazine Chip. But, over time, the dust could cause overheating in the processor of the graphics chip - if the cooling system doesn't work right it can get as hot as a stovetop.
It's usually only a question of time before dust gets inside a computer. The best defence is cleaning it out of troublespots such as seams or the grates of the vent and cooling system.
'If you want to clean up the inside of a PC, then you have to take off the side panels, usually the one on the left if you're looking at the PC tower from the front,' says Schmidt, describing the first step. If you're cleaning up a notebook, then you have to remove the bottom panel, usually situated near the ventilation grates.
Be sure not to violate the warranty by opening up a computer. Rules vary between machines, so be careful. Schmidt offers some pointers.
'The warranty responsibilities are usually not lifted by opening up a side panel of a desktop PC, because those are laid out as an open system,' he says. But if elements such as the base panel of a notebook are sealed, then you can't open them without violating the warranty.
Set all small parts aside for safety after opening up a computer's housing.
'Then vacuum inside the PC housing with a low-powered device and get all the dust fluffs off the base,' advises Schmidt. Next, move on to the cooling system. Hold these components down while vacuuming them, as an added safety measure. One idea is to use a screwdriver to hold them in place.
No special tools are needed, although you will need a vacuum cleaner with a small nozzle attachment. If there is some especially tough dirt, you might want to use some high pressure spray to push it in the direction of the vacuum.
On the computer's exterior, dust isn't the main problem. There you've got to be worried about viruses and bacteria. The average keyboard is five times dirtier than a toilet seat and carries about 60 times the number of germs, reports the hygiene blog keepingitkleen.com.
Devices with a lot of edges and grooves that are regularly touched by users are ideal places for germs and bacteria. That means keyboards, mice and power switches. Over time, those areas will gather skin flakes, hair fragments, dust, crumbs, saliva and particulate emitted when sneezing. If a computer - one in an office, for example - is used by multiple persons, then the health risks increase.
'Especially at times of year when viral diseases are more common, like during the winter flu season, then the infection risk climbs in large workrooms or offices with a lot of people traffic,' says Anette Wahl-Wachendorf, vice president of the Association of German Business and Company Doctors. However, the group notes there is no general health risk from germs with standard use of the devices.
Microfibre cloths are good for cleaning the plastic or metal housings of computers and notebooks. Another option is a lint-free paper towel with a little window or surface cleaner, says Schmidt. But avoid using such cleaners on displays, as they can leave behind streaks and could even damage the surface layer. Instead, use special screen cleaners from computer stores with a clean paper towel.
Mice and keyboards are best cleaned with towels and cleaners. Be sure to clean between the individual keys with small brushes or the vacuum cleaner. If you don't want to do it yourself, there are experts who offer such services.
'A simple cleaning of the key vents for the processor, graphics card and adapter should take less than 30 minutes,' says Schmidt. Desktop PCs can be cleaned faster than laptops. A fair price is usually between 40-70 euros (55-97 dollars).