Tom’s Tech Tips

Tom’s Tuesday Tech Tip: Clean Up Your Act (and Your PC While You’re at It)

Every computer has cookies. Some come from the Internet and are auto-stored on your hard drive in your web browser. Others are stored in your keyboard – they’re the detritus of all those years of Oreos® you’ve munched on while hunched over your computer. What’s a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant to do other than start a carb-free diet?

The solution is simple and fat-free! Hit the hardware or electronics store and buy yourself a can of compressed air. Then at least once a month (or more if you’re an inveterate snacker) use that sucker to blow the crumbs out of the keyboard and onto the carpet (where they can be nicely vacuumed up). You may have to practice tilting your keyboard into different positions in order to blow everything out but it’s worth it and less painful than quitting snacking.

While we’re on the subject, how many of you keep your PC on the floor (laptop users don’t answer that)? You might ask yourself, “When was the last time I cleaned my PC’s case?” Be honest. If it’s been a while (or never), grab a flashlight, pull out your desk chair and crawl under the desk and inspect the case. Chances are you’ll discover more dust bunnies around the case and in the air vents and USB ports than there are under your bed. I’ve seen computers where the owner couldn’t find a front USB port because it was so clogged. You need your USB ports for your CLNC® business and moving files between your office and attorney-clients’ offices. Clogged vents lead to overheating which will shorten the life of your PC.

Here’s what to do. Turn off the computer. Unplug all the connections, cables, power supplies, etc. (make note of where they go so you can put it back together). Pull the PC out from under the desk and get after those dust bunnies with your vacuum. Then, use the vacuum to clear the vents and USB ports. Next, using a slightly damp (NOT wet, duh!) anti-static cloth, clean off the outside of the PC case.

Next, if you dare, open the thumb-screws and take the PC case’s cover off. Look inside the PC (it’s cool), grab your trusty can of compressed air and carefully blow the dust out of the PC. Your hard drive is sealed up pretty tight, but if any dust or particulate matter gets in there, it will cause a world of hurt (and lost data) so keep it clean. I don’t recommend sticking the vacuum inside the case (you don’t want to suck any connections loose). The canned air is sufficient. Keep a slight distance away and don’t blow right up against anything (it’s not an ear – it’s a PC).

After you’ve blown out all the debris, put the case cover back on the PC and tighten the thumbscrews. Make sure the underdesk space is clean. Reconnect your cables and fire that sucker back up. You won’t notice any performance changes but you can sure feel good about yourself for cleaning up your act and your PC.

Keep on techin’,


9 thoughts on “Tom’s Tuesday Tech Tip: Clean Up Your Act (and Your PC While You’re at It)

  1. Guilty as charged! I was truly surprised one day when cleaning my desk and moving it in front of the window for a nicer view! The vents on my PC were covered with so much dust I was amazed. (And I really do vacuum every day!!)

    I did take the time to clean the computer with the vacuum, but have to admit I did not take the case off, maybe I should?

    Another question I would like to ask you is not related to the dust bunnies but to my drive ‘D’ which is my recovery drive. The resource meter states it is only 8% free, not to go into this drive as I could erase things if not done properly. Drive ‘C’ is my hard drive which is 68% free. I need to clean up this drive to increase my memory for my new cases when I receive them. In looking in the help section on the computer it says to make sure I have the ‘recovery discs’ in case something goes wrong. My question is this, do I go into this drive and try to clean it up, or take it to a tech person to do this for me? Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    I thoroughly enjoy your information blog and look forward to it every week, I have learned quite a lot from you regarding things I did not know existed!! Thank you, thank you, for all your information.

  2. Amy,
    If your computer was pretty dust-bound, I’d strongly consider popping off the case and blowing out the inside. It’s not a necessity so you could put it off until your PC is 2 years old or so, if it wasn’t that dusty.

    Regarding your “recovery drive,” most newer computers come with their hard drives “partitioned” (geek-speak for divided) into two drives, a C: drive where your programs and data reside, and a D: drive where information necessary to recover the computer in case of an upset reside.

    To explain, if your computer were to crash, the crash would occur in the programs (and operating system) running on the C: drive, not in the D: drive. The files in your D: drive technically aren’t active and shouldn’t be affected by a crash. Then, in conjunction with your recovery CDs, you can restore your computer using those files in the D: drive. You’ll need to follow the instructions from Tech Support or your owners manual for your PC. If you haven’t created recovery CDs yet, pull out that manual or call Tech Support and get them created.

    The files in your recovery drive should not be messed with under any circumstances so KEEP OUT. The files in your C: drive are fair game for deletion however. If you need to clean up your PC – do it in the C: partition — not your recovery drive.

  3. The computer tech replaced a fan and cleaned out the inside of the modem for me. My home sets pretty close to a dirt road so dust is something I struggle with in my office and in my house. When I lived in town, I dusted very often. I have lived in the country for 25 years and I gave up trying to have a dust free environment a long time ago. However, I do try to keep my office equipment dusted and vacuumed. Thanks Tom for the do-it-yourself tips (anything the computer tech is willing to do I take advantage of).

  4. Hi Tom!

    Thank you for the reminder. It is time for me to clean my PC again.

    Thank you, also, for all the tech information. It is always helpful.

  5. Hi Tom.
    Thanks for the reminders I think. Guilt abounds.
    I just finished a large case and this is what happens. My desktop from all of the research and such is just loaded with things I have “saved” . Some of it I use, some of it never gets touched again. I’m not complaining. I love the cases, but the world around me seems to stop and I just focus and go! Sometimes, the computer isn’t turned off for days. (Either have I).

    The poor fan on my computer sucks in so much dirt! It has “bunnies” coming out of the little air vents…. Usually when I’m working a case, if it’s big enough, everything around me seems to stop (including daily cleaning). it does get hot and I probably should be taken to the shed.
    But I simply don’t have time. What about one of those computer covers. Do they work?

    I think you told us once we should shut down the computer every now and then (I thought it was you). I shut my computer down last night. It had been on for several days, maybe 14 (just till we went to trial). Well, at least everything turned out well! All of that sucking dust might be the secret to good research, who knows?

    I have a little guy who cleans my office, but my computer is off limits. Maybe I should have a change of heart and let him at least vacuum? I know you get busy. What do you do? Do you let someone else clean the computer?

  6. Claire,
    I wouldn’t advise a cover as that will just retain the heat and defeat the fans.
    If you don’t want to clean it yourself, take it to a shop (but be prepared for a computerless wait of a few days or more). Just make sure you let a professional do it (not the janitor).

  7. Thanks for the cleaning advice. Here is a “no-brainer” question for you. Almost two months ago I purchased a new computer. It is just about time for the free MS Office trial to expire. If I decide to use one of the freebees you recommended, what happens to the documents that have been saved through MS Office? Will I still be able to retrieve them? Will they some how interface with the new office suite applications? Thank you so much for all the tech info that you continue to offer. As you have probably guessed by now, I am trying to become “computer literate.” Have a good laugh on me and thanks for your continued support!

  8. Paula,
    Your documents shouldn’t magically disappear. They’ll still be in the “My Documents” file or where ever else you stored them.

    Whatever freeware you try should be able to see the documents. Just make sure that you pick one that is compatible with MS Office and can open .doc or .docx formats.

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