BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2000

  

 

BOOT CAMP 119

SPRING CLEANING YOUR PC, PART 1

Forget expensive air purifiers, your PC does an admirable job of extracting dust and particles from the atmosphere. After only a few months the insides of most desktop PCs are coated with a thick layer of dust and debris sucked into the casing by the cooling fan. Most of it is relatively harmless but if it gets onto the recording and replay heads in the floppy drive or onto the optical pickup in the CD-ROM drive it can cause problems. Accumulations of dust in the power supply can also lead to overheating and in extreme cases, failure. Dirt, hairs and gunge find their way into that highly effective desktop vacuum cleaner, otherwise known as your mouse, making pointer movement erratic. PC keyboards really should have removable crumb trays since most of us are messy eaters. Then there’s your printer; dust and fibres from paper clogs inkjet nozzles and the feed mechanism, eventually it can lead to paper jam and mis-feed and if you’ve got a scanner the chances are the glass platen is covered in greasy finger marks. In short it’s high time you did a spot of spring-cleaning! This week we’ll deal with the hardware, in part two it’s the turn of your hard disc drive.

Of course, there’s a school of thought that says if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but a few minutes spent on preventative maintenance now could save you from a potentially disastrous failure in the future. In the past we’ve been berated for suggesting that owners open up their PCs to muck out the insides. It’s certainly not something you should attempt if you’ve never had the lid off before, or have doubts of your abilities to remove a few screws, but no harm should come of it if you follow some simple commonsense guidelines. If you don’t feel up to it don’t worry, there’s plenty you can do from the outside.

Before you remove the case remember to switch the PC off at the mains socket but leave it plugged in as this will ensure that the metal case remains earthed and protected against static discharge, which can build up on your clothing and body. The golden rule when working inside your PC is don’t touch anything unless you know what you are doing, and blow, don’t suck! In other words, don’t shove the nozzle of your vacuum cleaner’s extension hose inside the box, get hold of a can of compressed air or gas – available from most stationery suppliers -- and blow the dust off the circuit boards and out of all the nooks and crannies where it accumulates. Pay particular attention to the floppy and CD-ROM drives and the ventilation holes on the power supply module (the metal box with the fan), which can become blocked, try to blow the dust through the back out of the fan.

If you are familiar with your PC’s innards you can check the cables and plugs connecting the motherboard to the disc drives, it’s also worth re-seating plug-in cards as the contacts can become intermittent due to the repeated heating and cooling effects when the machine is switched on and off, but this should only be attempted by advanced users. When you have replaced the lid switch on and make sure everything is working properly.

Back now to the outside, it’s worth treating the floppy and CD-ROM drive to a run through with disc cleaning kits, always buy good quality items from reputable suppliers and always follow the instructions, especially with ‘wet’ cleaners that use an alcohol cleaning fluid. Allow the fluid plenty of time to evaporate before using the drive. Reseating all of the plugs and sockets on the back panel is a good idea too, though make sure you know where they all go; if necessary label the cables or draw a simple diagram first, before you disconnect anything. Give the whole case a wipe over with a lightly moistened cloth and some washing up liquid to remove the finger marks, especially around the disc slots and switches. While you’re at it give the outside of the monitor a wipe over and clean the screen with an anti-static cleaner wipe or a dab of window cleaner liquid on a soft cloth. 

Now for the mouse. On most models you can remove the ball by rotating a small circular plate on the underside, this will release the ball and expose a set of rollers. You can remove any deposits from the rollers with a lightly moistened cotton bud; stubborn encrustations can be gently removed with a sharpened matchstick. Blow out any dust and debris with a can of compressed air, clean the ball and pop it back in. Give the outside a wipe over with a damp cloth.

Most keyboards are held together with lots of tiny screws, they can be a real pain to dismantle, and even harder to get back together again so only take yours apart if you enjoy a challenge. Otherwise turn it upside down and give it a few blasts with the compressed air can. The keys tops and outer surfaces can be cleaned with a damp cloth and washing up liquid. If any water gets inside place the keyboard near a warm radiator and preferably leave it overnight before using it.

The compressed air blower with its long extension nozzle is ideal for cleaning out the printer, debris collects around the rollers, gears paper path and the parking slot for the ink cartridge, wipe the rollers to remove any inky smears. Finally, if you’ve got a scanner use a quick squirt of window cleaning fluid to remove smears from the glass and backing pad and wipe over the case.

Next week – Spring clean your hard disc drive

 

JARGON FILTER

CLEANER WIPES

Fabric cloths moistened with specially formulated cleaning and anti-static fluid, available from most office supply companies

PLATEN

The glass plate on a flatbed scanner onto which documents are placed

WET CLEANERS

Floppy disc cleaners that use a fabric disc, moistened with isopropyl alcohol. It’s important to follow the instructions and allow the fluid plenty of time to evaporate as any remaining liquid can damage the magnetic coating on the disc

 

TOP TIP

Here’s a very handy little utility that will appeal to all users of Office 2000 or any of its components, including Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint etc. It’s called WOPR 2000 Place Bar Customizer and it’s all yours for the price of a two-minute download from the Microsoft web site.

WOPR 2000 allows you to modify the Places Bar, that’s the row of five folders that appears on he left side of Open and Save As etc. dialogue boxes used by all Office 2000 applications. The five folders that appear (History, Personal, Favourites, Desktop and Web Folders) cannot normally be change but with WOPR 2000 you can specify the folders or disc drive that you use most often, making the Place Bar a lot more useful. You can also double the number of folders displayed to ten by selecting the Show Small Icon option. The download file is small – just 423 kilobytes – and is easy to install and configure from a new item that appears on the application’s Tools menu.

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