Without a doubt, you need to clean your PC.
Dust has likely built up over the past year of use and you haven’t thought about opening your case up and checking to see the dust buildup. But last week you smelled something burning and figured out your GPU has a layer of dust on top of it.
Tools You Need
Thankfully, cleaning your PC is a simple process that won’t take too long. You’ll need a few basic things to get the job done:
- Screwdrivers for your PC case (and some parts)
- A microfiber cloth (or something else lint-free)
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Compressed canned air
Getting Started – Fans and Filters
The first step in cleaning your PC is to unplug it completely. After it has powered down, you’ll want to move it to a flat surface that you can work on that is static-free. You can also use an anti-static mat or wristband to be extra careful.
Once you’ve opened your case you can start with cleaning the fans and filters. To clean both, take the compressed air and use it on the fans and filters in short, directed bursts. Remember, when using compressed air do not spray it for too long or ever turn the can upside down and spray.
If you have places with stronger buildup that can’t be dislodged by this method, it’s time to bust out the isopropyl alcohol and Q-tips. Dab the Q-tip with the alcohol and gently apply it to the fan blades to remove the remaining dust buildup. You can also remove the fans from the case if they’re in an awkward spot to make cleaning them easier, just don’t misplace any screws.
Deep Cleaning – How to Clean your Hardware
After your fans and filters are clean, it’s time to tackle the rest of the interior. Your GPU likely has a layer of dust on the top of the card. You can use canned air again to clean it, but a quick wipe down with the microfiber cloth will be more efficient if you’re just wiping down the GPU housing. You’ll also want to check the nooks and crannies of the GPU unit and use compressed air to make sure the ports are clear of dust and buildup.
Use the same process of canned air in short, directed bursts to remove dust from any other part in your PC from the CPU fan and/or heatsink, to your empty DIMM slots, to your hard drive bays. One easy place to forget to clean is the filter below or around your power supply. Many cases will have a filter below the PSU or at the bottom of the case so make sure to clean those. If there is dust buildup inside the PSU, do your best to get it out using canned air. Opening your PSU to clean it is not recommended. Additionally, remember to clean the backside of your PC interior where your cabling is shoved. A lot of dust can accumulate here and get tangled up in the cables and it’s easy to forget about it.
More Maintenance – Changing out Thermal Paste
If you’re up for it and it’s been a few years, this can be a good time to change the thermal paste on your CPU. Once your CPU fan or heat sink is removed and the CPU is exposed, you’ll need to clean off the old thermal paste completely. Isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth will work well for this, though you can use a paper towel if you don’t have a microfiber cloth handy. Once the area is dry apply a new drop of thermal paste (about the size of a pea) and replace the CPU cooler, letting the cooler spread the paste around. This is also a great time to install some new accessories into your PC like an Elgato Game Capture 60 S or a new sound card.
Keep it Clean
Your PC should now be clean and clear of dust. Now, depending on the environment your PC rests in, you’ll want to repeat a cleaning of your PC approximately every six months. If your PC is in an environment with a dog, cat, or lots of dust from open windows, you’ll want to clean a bit more often. Likewise, if your PC is on the floor it is easier for dust and other particles to get trapped in the filters and it will require cleaning more often.