One of the biggest issues most users struggle with is overheating and most of the times they don’t even know they are suffering from such issue. Modern computers can handle overheating quite well, only in extreme cases do they shut themselves down to prevent damage to physical components (though damage may happen regardless if the issue is not fixed). This does not necessarily mean the computer came poorly cooled but rather that the computer itself has not been cleaned for an extended period of times (you’d be amazed at the things I’ve seen…).
For the average user, the “Home PC” is just another electronic appliance such as the TV, the Microwave or Hoover and the problem with that is that the computer is considerably more complex while the other examples don’t really require you to clean them nor at they meant to be opened and maintained, they either work or don’t, there doesn’t seem to be an intermediate state. Due to this, most people will not think or consider cleaning the inside of their Desktop PC.
In the office it’s slightly different as most offices have an in-house or on-call IT specialist to maintain their equipment. When On-Call, the IT technician will most likely only come when there’s a problem, at most they will set a procedure usage for people working there that they will most likely not follow anyway. If there’s an in-house technician, it implies there’s plenty of work to go around and generally these technicians will not have time to do basic maintenance on all of the office’s computers but rather are there for when things go wrong, instead of preventing things going wrong (after all, an office that size will rather spend money on new components than have downtime for maintenance). All this adds to the mentality of computers not needing an inside clean at least once a year.
And this leads me to the initial point, one of the main causes for computer failure (if not the biggest) is overheating and the biggest cause of overheating is accumulated dust and general filth inside the computer. So, coming up is a full, step-by-step walk-through on how to open and clean your computer safely and quickly.
Things to have in mind before we open up our computer.
The Warranty Sticker
In some cases, opening your Desktop PC will void the warranty. You should check if your Desktop PC is still under warranty. If it is, you’ll know if opening the Desktop PC will void your warranty by looking at the rear and seeing if a “sticker” is placed to detect if the Desktop PC has been opened. Breaking this seal will void your warranty. If your Desktop PC does not have this sticker, it is implied opening it will NOT void it but you should check with your retailer first anyway.
The Anti-Static Wrist Band
When working inside your computer, ALWAYS wear an anti-static wrist band connected to any metallic part of your Desktop PC case. This will ground you and prevent releasing anti-static charges on to your components which are very sensitive to this kind of electricity and may be damaged if we do not use it. In today’s world, it is argued that these are rarely needed anymore as electronics aren’t as sensitive as they used to be but… considering the price of one of these, better safe than sorry!
The Right Way
Always lay down your Desktop PC on top of a wooden surface. This will aid us on preventing any sort of static electricity discharge and by laying it down we will prevent any damage in the case there’s a loose component that falls out once we remove the side panel. These are 2 very simply requirements that can save us a big headache later on.
With that in mind, let’s start
1: Gather your tools. Most cases will just need one Philips (star) screwdriver to access. Some cases use thumbscrews, but a screwdriver can still help loosen an overly tight screw.
- The most common screw is a 6-32, which you can use a standard #2 Phillips screwdriver to remove. This is the larger of the two most common sizes.
- The second most common screw is the M3. This is slightly smaller than the 6-32, but can still be removed with a #2 Phillips screwdriver.
- If you want to clean the inside of your case, you’ll likely need some compressed air.
- An electrostatic wrist strap can be helpful for grounding yourself while working inside the computer, but you can ground yourself without one.
2: Shut down the computer. While this may sound obvious, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen a corrupt system due to the fact the computer was not shut down but rather in hibernation mode which made it look like it was off. Use your operating system’s Shutdown function turn the computer off.
3: Unplug all of the cables from the back of the computer. If you’re afraid you won’t be able to remember where everything goes when you need to plug it back in, take a picture or draw a diagram first, it’ll only take you a few seconds which can potentially save you hassle and time when we’re done.
4: Identify the motherboard I/O (Input/Output) panel. This is located on the back of the computer, and contains a variety of different connectors, including Ethernet, speakers, USB, display, and more. Knowing where this is will help you orient your case on the table.
5: Lay the case on your work surface with the I/O panel laying closest to the surface. This will ensure that you remove the correct panel on the computer and can access the components inside.
- Avoid laying your case on the carpet when working on the inside.
6: Find the screws along the back of the case. You should see two or three screws along the side panel at the back of the case that hold them in place. Removing these screws will allow you to remove the side panel.
- Lots of enthusiast cases and some cases from major manufacturers will use different case panel mechanisms. Some use thumbscrews that you can remove by hand, while others have a simple latch and no screws at all. If you’re having difficulty figuring out how to remove or open the side panel on your case, look up your computer or case model online.
7: Ground yourself before touching any components. Electrostatic discharge can cause significant damage to your components without you even realizing it. Ensure that you are properly grounded by attaching your electrostatic wristband to the bare metal of the computer case, or by touching a metal water tap. This is not needed if you’re already wearing the grounded strap and have attached it to the computer chassis.
8: Clean your computer while it’s open. Computer’s build up dust surprisingly quick, and dust can lead to overheating, poor performance, and hardware failure. Any time you open your computer, you should take a few moments to ensure that dust isn’t becoming a problem. Ideally you should use a can of compressed air as it’s the safest way to clean the inside of your pc.
See, that wasn’t so hard was it? If you use a compressed air can you won’t have to fiddle around with components and can get to the harder spots. Ideally once the computer is open you would also want to change the thermal paste on the processor (and even Graphics Card if you’re feeling adventurous!) but we will leave that for another post, for now you can do what’s mentioned in this post quickly and it will most definitely extend the life of your PC. Now, close your Desktop PC and connect it back up with that refreshing feeling you get after you’ve done a good job.