Heat And Dust
It’s not just digital junk you need to bin – all the dirt that builds up inside the case also cuts efficiency
IT’S COMMON TO give your house a springclean, and you should devote the same love and attention to your PC – you may be surprised by how much dust is dragged inside by the case fans. Dirt you can’t see may not seem a problem, but it can build up and clog the fans, making them less efficient at cooling. Dust also acts as an insulator, so your PC will run hotter and may even crash as a result.
So grab a pair of Marigolds, delve into your case and follow these easy steps to clean it out. By the time you’ve finished, your PC will be sparkling and, more importantly, running cooler and more efficiently.
Case lift Cleaning the outside of the case with foam cleaner is simple, but don’t spray the foam on the front or rear of your PC, as it could get into your drives, power supply and ports. Spray the foam on a cloth and apply it to the front of the case, including the optical and floppy drives.
The rear of the case will be mainly metal, but rub a foam-covered cloth over the parts of the case that wrap round the rear of your PC. Leave the foam for 15 minutes, then use a separate cloth to wipe the case clean.
Fresh air Cleaning the inside of your PC is the biggest challenge, as dust can build up in hidden areas. Remove the side of the PC and any expansion cards from the motherboard. If the PC is particularly filthy, you may have to remove the motherboard, hard disk and optical drives too.
Don’t vacuum the motherboard, as it has too many sensitive components. Instead, spray an air duster over the motherboard – starting at the top – so the dust collects in the base of the case, or in a bin if you’ve removed the motherboard from the case.
Use a vacuum cleaner to remove the worst of the dust from the bottom of the case and from the processor’s heatsink, fan and case fans. Finally, use plastic safe wipes to remove any dust from the cables inside your case.
Blown away Dust on expansion cards can be removed with the air duster. Make sure you’ve removed all the dust wedged beneath components, such as capacitors, and check the heatsink and fan on your graphics card are free from dust. Blow the air duster into your expansion cards’ ports and sockets for extra cleaning power.
Paint job Removing dust helps, but there are other things you can do to help prevent overheating. There’s a thin layer of thermal compound between the processor and the heatsink, which smooths over any imperfections in the two metal surfaces and makes sure that heat from your processor is dissipated efficiently. Eventually, thermal compound dries out and reduces the efficiency of your cooling, so it needs replacing from time to time. This is a simple job that can have a dramatic effect.
To do this, first remove the heatsink from the processor as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the existing thermal compound using a lint-free cloth dabbed with isopropyl alcohol.
Apply a small blob of thermal compound to the top of the processor. Once the processor is operating, the heat will spread the paste. Re-attach the heatsink, making sure it fits tightly. If it isn’t fitted properly, you run the severe risk of overheating, which can be fatal for your PC.
Invisible wire There are lots of power and data cables inside your PC, which can be messy. They can also impede airflow through your case. Fortunately, you can solve this problem using cable ties.
First, find any cables that aren’t in use; there are normally a few unused power cables in a PC. Fold them up and secure them with a cable tie attached to the chassis to keep them out of the way. Now find any cables that run between roughly the same points and bunch them together before tying them up and to the chassis. Finally, find any cables that have excess amounts of slack; you may find your flat IDE ribbon cables are too long, for example. Put a kink in the cable and tie it up.
Ventilate than never Case fans should draw air over your PC’s components and out of the case. As the power supply already blows air out of the back of the case, your rear case fan should be oriented so it blows air in the same direction.
Make sure any front-mounted fans are pulling cool air in and blowing it over your motherboard. Fans have an arrow on them that shows the direction of airflow. If any fans are mounted incorrectly, undo the screws and turn the fan around before reattaching it.
You should clean your motherboard carefully with an air duster