Cleaning Your Desktop or Laptop Computer – Inside and Out

All computers require periodic cleaning. This is true for both laptop and desktop computers. It’s not just physical dust and debris; there are also junk files, malware remnants, temp files, program fragments and other computer software that needs to be tidied up on a regular basis. Here are the basics:

1. Computer screen: Turn off the monitor and find a dry, clean cloth. The cloth should be non-abrasive and lint-free. Then use the appropriate cleaner and apply it directly to the cloth, not to the monitor. This avoids drips that can damage electrical components. Gently wipe down the screen with gentle pressure. When cleaning a laptop screen, be especially careful not to get drips in the speakers or keyboard. In the absence of a cleaning agent, water can be used, preferably distilled. Otherwise use a non-ammonia based glass cleaner.

2. Keyboard: Use a can of compressed air and spray between the keys. In many cases, this is sufficient to clean out the crud under the keys. In most extreme cases, it may be necessary to pop out the keys with a pen. The underlying surface is then easily cleaned. Removing the keys is not recommended with laptops! However, a laptop keyboard can be replaced by your local computer repair shop. The key surfaces can be cleaned in a similar fashion as the monitor. Again, apply the cleaning agent to the cloth, not directly to the keyboard.

3. Cleaning Inside a Desktop: Most desktop cases are easily opened with a screwdriver or with the simple twist of a few thumbscrews. A can of compressed air can then be used to clean the fans, CPU heat sink, vents, motherboard, expansion slots, etc. Be sure to blow the debris away from the system when possible. If you have a laptop computer it also needs the inside of the case cleaned out periodically but I strongly recommend you take it to a qualified computer repair professional or computer repair shop for this. Tell them you want the fan basins cleaned out and the heat sink taken up and new thermal paste applied. This should be done once every three years and more often if you smoke or have long-haired pets in the house.

4. Clean the computer of‘software debris’: Depending on your preference, Windows has many utilities to keep your computer in good working condition; and, there are also many software programs available to help with this task. These programs tend to do a better job than windows utilities and are easier to use. One example is CCleaner. CCleaner provides a means to fix file problems, registry errors, repair broken shortcuts, delete junk files, etc. Running these utilities once every few weeks is one way to keep your computer running smoothly but it’s not a total solution.

5. Remove Malware: Although this may come as a surprise to many — your antivirus is no match for today’s infections. Some (and often many) will inevitably slip through your AV software. I suggest running a stronger aftermarket malware removal utility such as Malwarebytes to remove minor infections. Furthermore, you should take your computer into a qualified repair shop once a year for a professional virus check and removal.

Periodic cleaning of your laptop or desktop is a good way to keep your computer running smoothly, extend the life of your machine, and increase your overall computer using experience.

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