BOOT CAMP 313 (17/02/04)




With spring just around the corner why not take a few minutes to spruce up your computer. A clean PC is also a more reliable PC but if it’s getting a bit sluggish then next week we’ll look at how to clear out the clutter on your hard drives, and if you still feel the need for speed then in part three we’ll tackle some simple hardware upgrades.


Before you start equip yourself with a cleaning cloth some general purpose cleaner, a soft clean paintbrush and pop down to your local stationary supplier or computer store and pick up an ‘air duster’. This is a can of compressed gas, with an extension tube for getting into nooks and crannies.


Switch your computer off and disconnect both the monitor and system unit from the mains then disconnect all of the plugs going into the back panel. Don’t worry, there’s little chance of putting any of them back in the wrong socket or the wrong way around but if you are concerned draw a diagram or use your digital camera to take a photograph of where everything goes, and if you have more than one USB device jot down the order of the plugs.


Start with the keyboard, turn it upside down and give it a good shake to get rid of the worst of the crumbs, nail clippings and paperclips but to muck it out properly you really need to take it apart.  It’s usually fairly simple but have a little pot or container handy if there’s more than half a dozen screws holding it together. Use the paintbrush to get into the crevices and blast the inaccessible areas with the ‘air duster’. After reassembly give the case a wipe over with the cloth and cleaner then de-grime those keycaps; it’s a nasty job but someone’s got to do it.


‘Roller ball’ type mice are gunge magnets; release the ball by twisting the retainer ring on the base and give the insides a good puff with your air duster. The tiny rollers inside are often encrusted with a hairy residue, resulting in jerky or erratic pointer movement. This can be removed with a match or cocktail stick. Give it a wipe over with the cloth and cleaner and clean the cable while you are at it. Upgrade to an ‘optical’ mouse as soon as possible, they just need a quick wipe over and a check to make sure there’s no fluff or dust around the sensor window on the bottom.


Give the ventilation slots on the back of your monitor a few good blasts from the air duster and make sure there’s nothing blocking the grilles. Clean the screen with a good quality glass cleaner. If it’s a CRT type monitor use one with antistatic properties or buy some monitor screen wipes.


Printers accumulate a good deal of debris so get the air duster extension tube into awkward corners but avoid blowing too close to the printer head, or anywhere there’s likely to be ink, it could get very messy!  If the heads and cartridges are combined it’s wise to remove them first.  A wipe over with the cloth and some cleaner will have it looking like new again. If you have a scanner clean the glass platen and case.


We’ve left the best to last and that’s the system unit. If you and your PC work in a smoky or dusty atmosphere you really should do the job properly and remove the lid or a side panel and get busy with the air duster. A little bit of dust isn’t a problem but if left to accumulate it can harm your PC, especially if it blocks ventilation slots or clogs up the cooling fans. Overheated components, such as the processor chip, memory modules and disk drives can have their working lives drastically shortened, or worse!


Be very careful not to touch anything and always keep the end of the air duster tube a few centimetres away from electronic components. Direct your air jet onto the finned heat sinks and fans on the motherboard and graphics card but the biggest accumulation is likely to be inside the power supply module. Give this an extra long blast, from inside the case so that the dust blows out, rather than back inside. Run the air duster tube around the disc drives as well as the internal fans draw air in through the gaps between the panels.


Replace the side panel or lid, give the cables a wipe over and reseat all of the plugs. This helps to renew the connections, which can tarnish due to atmospheric pollutants. This is also a good opportunity to sort out your rat’s nest of cables. You can easily tidy it up using plastic tie-strips (available from hardware and electrical stores), to gather cables together and shorten leads that are too long.


Finally, give the outside of the case a thorough clean, especially that horrible grimy area around the on-button… It’s also worth giving the CD/DVD drive a run through with a good quality disc cleaner. Plug everything back in, cross your fingers and switch on. There’s unlikely to be any improvement in performance but it might run a bit quieter and it should look and smell a whole lot better!


Next week – Spring Clean and Upgrade, part 2





Cathode Ray Tube – TV type picture tube, as opposed to more recent LCD (liquid crystal display) flat screen monitors



Finned metal plate or casting bonded or attached to electronic components, designed to dissipate heat



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




Here’s an optional cleaning job for those familiar with their PCs. Whilst you have the lid off the system unit unplug and reseat the cables going from the motherboard to the disc drives, and remove and replace expansion cards and memory modules. This prevents a condition known as ‘contact creep’, where cycling temperatures inside the case cause components and connectors to expand and contract, which in extreme cases can unseat plugs and even cause microchips to rise up out of their sockets.  Remember, no plugs, sockets or connectors on a PC should ever require more than light finger pressure, if you have to force it then it’s the wrong socket, or the wrong way around.

Search PCTopTips 



Boot Camp Index















Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME






 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.