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How to Prevent Dust Buildup Inside Your Computer

Updated on March 9, 2013
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Dreamhowl is fluent in computer care, settings, and social networking. Her grasp of basic HTML makes theme tweaking a breeze!

About the Author

Dreamhowl uses her computer daily and is a stickler for keeping her desk area neat and tidy. She lost her first laptop when the components overheated and now strives to keep her computers cool and dust-free.

Inside of a Computer Case

Did you know that your computer can get dusty over time inside of the case? Dust buildup inside computers is rather common in an average household; cats and dogs spread pet dander around the house, which falls to the floor and sinks into carpets. Cigarette smoke and food particles are just as problematic to the components of a computer. When a computer is on, the cooling fans pull air into the case, taking dust and other nearby particles along with it. Many desktop computer owners don’t realize how important it is to clean their computer regularly.

Dust buildup inside your computer can cause the components to overheat when not kept in check. Dust can become caked up on the fan blades, block the passage of air between your computer case and the outside environment and trap all of the heat inside. Dust buildup is a major cause of computers failing; if your graphics card has fried, chances are your computer overheated. Dust buildup can become so thick that it becomes hard to remove, turning your broken computer into a lost cause.

Dust can gather inside of your computer case over time if not taken care of.
Dust can gather inside of your computer case over time if not taken care of. | Source

How to Prevent Dust Buildup

Dust buildup inside your computer case can be prevented by simply taking care of your computer. The more careful you are with your computer now, the longer it will last in the long run. And the best part is that all of these steps are easy to follow and implement!

1. Turn off your computer when finished

We’re all guilty of it: we’ll walk away from our computers for a moment and end up coming back much later, only to realize we left it on. While turning your computer off when you are done with it conserves electricity, it also helps prevent dust buildup on the inside. The more your computer is running, the more dust is being pulled inside the case via the cooling fans. When you power down your computer, the cooling fans turn off and stop bringing in dust particles. If you leave your house for the day and keep your computer on, think of how much dust is being cycled through the computer case. Unless your computer needs to be on while you’re gone, be sure to shut it down accordingly.

Turning your computer off when you aren't using it can prevent dust buildup.
Turning your computer off when you aren't using it can prevent dust buildup. | Source

2. Keep your computer off of the ground

It is advised that you keep your computer elevated off of the ground at least a few inches. Dust falls and collects on the floor; air being sucked into your computer at floor level will have more dust particles and other environmental contaminants than the air at a higher level. If you have pets roaming your house, a computer on the floor is a lot easier to reach than one that is elevated. Their hair and dander can get stuck inside your computer, especially if your animals love snuggling up next to your computer case and soaking up the heat. If you have carpeting, at least try to have a barrier between your computer and the floor; carpets get dusty, especially when not vacuumed very often.

3. Keep animals away from the computer

The difference between dust particles and pet dander is the size; dust particles are relatively small, while pet hair and dander are large. When your dogs or cats relax next to your computer, their loose hair and dander is being sucked into the computer case and getting stuck there. An excessive amount of hair and dander can overheat your computer - it can even be a fire hazard! To avoid damaging your computer, keep your animals away or out of the room entirely. If you use a laptop, don’t let your dogs or cats sneak under your computer for a comfy nap.

Even the cleanest computer can buildup dust over time, so clean your case often!
Even the cleanest computer can buildup dust over time, so clean your case often! | Source

4. Don’t eat or smoke near the computer

Food and smoke particles are just as dangerous (if not more so) as a buildup of dust in your computer. Food particles can attract more dust inside your computer, as well as make a mess. And don’t forget to be careful with drinks around your computer - spilling liquid onto your computer is a sure way to fry the inner components. Smoke particles are the worst of the two; finer than usual dust, smoke will sneak inside of your computer even if you are using dust filters on your cooling fans. If you’re a smoker, keep your cigarettes outside and away from your desktop or laptop computer.

5. Clean around your computer often

When the area around your computer is clean, less dust is likely to settle inside your computer case. If you have animals in the house or carpeting, your computer room may require more frequent cleaning. Try to sweep or vacuum your floor and around the computer every few days depending on your living situation. However, you should never use a vacuum to clean the inside of your computer. Vacuums create static charge that could damage valuable computer components. However, vacuuming around your computer is safe.

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How to Clean a Computer

Not all dust buildup can be prevented: cleaning out your computer at least a couple of times a year is a good way to keep it running. You don’t need a computer expert to clean the inside of your computer - all you require is a screwdriver, rubbing alcohol and a can of compressed air.

1. Shutdown your computer before cleaning

Before you clean out the inside of your computer, you’ll need to shut it down first. Turn off your computer, unplug all of the wires from the back of it and wait; you should let your computer cool down for around half an hour before opening the case and spraying the components with air. Cleaning it right away can contribute to frying your computer parts and hurting your computer. Cleaning out your computer case before turning it on for the day can help avoid damaging it this way.

2. Open the computer case

Opening the case to your computer is a relatively simple process. Most cases will require a screwdriver to remove the screws attaching the side panel to the rest of the case. These screws are located in the back of the computer, right on the edge of the side panel. Don’t remove any other screws but these, and put them aside where you won’t lose them - you’ll need these screws back when it comes time to reattach the side panel.

Be careful not to lose the screws connecting the side panel to your computer case.
Be careful not to lose the screws connecting the side panel to your computer case. | Source

3. Blow dust with compressed air

Once your computer case is open, it’s time to clean the dust off of the components. Take a can of compressed air (or an air compressor) and blow the dust off of the parts inside the case. It helps to do this outside the room or house, especially if the dust buildup is very high. Aim to get the dust off of everything, including the cooling fans. Again, you don’t want to vacuum the dust out of your computer case - simply blow the dust out with compressed air and clean up the mess later. You’ll be surprised how much dust can accumulate inside your computer!

4. Clean the fans with rubbing alcohol

Sometimes the dust buildup on fan blades is so thick that it is impossible to remove with compressed air alone. If your cooling fans are coated with a layer of dust, you can remove the debris with rubbing alcohol; dip some cotton swabs in a bottle of rubbing alcohol and use them to wipe down the fan blades. Dust enters your computer case via the cooling fans - it is common for the fan blades to be one of the dirtier parts of your computer.

Dust enters your computer case through the cooling fans, leaving them quite dusty.
Dust enters your computer case through the cooling fans, leaving them quite dusty. | Source

5. Invest in fan filters for your computer

Attaching filters to the intake fans of your computer case can keep less dust from entering the case and make cleanup easier. Computer dust filters can be purchased online and are relatively inexpensive. Prices may vary depending on the size of your computer fans as well as the quality of the filter. If you don’t have the money or resources to purchase a filter, there are some home remedies; fabric dryer sheets are good workarounds because they are inexpensive, widely available and filter dust very well. While fan filters aren’t necessary, they will certainly help prevent dust entering your computer case in the first place.

Keeping your cooling fans clean will allow air intake and prevent overheating.
Keeping your cooling fans clean will allow air intake and prevent overheating. | Source

In the end, preventing dust buildup inside your computer promotes the health of your computer and makes cleanup both easier and quicker. If you use your computer often, knowing how to prevent dust and clean dust from your computer case is essential. If you know a friend or family member who has a messy computer, remind them how preventing dust buildup can save their computer’s life!

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    • writerjj profile image

      writerjj 4 years ago

      great and very informational hub. Still have a working desktop (though rarely used) and if time will permit, will have to open, upgrade, and apply the tips listed here to prevent dust from accumulating inside the CPU :)

    • Dreamhowl profile image
      Author

      Jessica Marello 4 years ago from United States

      Glad you found the hub helpful! Cleaning the inside once every couple of months is usually good enough for me, but then I use my desktop daily. Thanks again!

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

      Great advice and a well written hub.

    • Dreamhowl profile image
      Author

      Jessica Marello 3 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the feedback!

    • profile image

      Larry Hoezee 2 years ago

      Thanks for your post on "How to Prevent Dust Buildup Inside Your Computer" – it is a useful resource and I’ve bookmarked it for future reference.

      Are there any other antivirus blogs or (web resources in general) that you can recommend to me?

      Cheers!

    • Dreamhowl profile image
      Author

      Jessica Marello 2 years ago from United States

      @Larry Hoezee: Thanks! I don't have any antivirus blogs to recommend. As far as antivirus programs go, I use Bitdefender and it hasn't let me down yet. I used to use Norton Antivirus, but it was having conflicts with my computer and made me uneasy.

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