How To Clean Your PC

We’ve touched on cleaning your keyboard in a pinch, now let’s get to some real hardware upkeep. Given the fact that most computers suck in loads of air — and therefore dust — it’s a matter of time before they clog up. If you want to make sure your system runs optimally, here’s how to clean your PC, the easiest way possible.

No matter what kind of exact rig you’re running, these few steps should be in every beginning PC gamer’s arsenal. We’ll mostly be running some light maintenance, no deep cleaning of components. If you were to repeat this routine every two months or so, there will rarely be the need for deeper cleansing. 

Not only does your hardware last longer in cleaner conditions, it will ensure maximum gaming performance. That’s a win-win scenario, apart from how you perform in-game. Let’s get started on how to clean your PC.

Picture of an opened up desktop PC, with slightly dusty components.

Step 1 — Power down and unplug

First of all, we need your PC to be absolutely off the grid. Make sure you power off your system properly, before getting down to clean. If it’s fully powered off, you want to switch the I/O button of your power-supply unit to off — that’s the O in the I/O. If your motherboard features some kind of status light when in slumber, this will power off now too.

As soon as your PC is closed off from the power network, you can unplug the power cord, as well as all other cables. When fully unplugged, you’ll want to take the PC to a place where you can easily perform your cleaning ritual. Your desk or a regular table will do, as long as you have enough space and some proper light to work with.

Step 2 — Discharging yourself

Before we start touching the gritty components, make sure you discharge yourself. Your body might hold some static charge that could unwantedly jolt up hardware, damaging it. The actual chances are small, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Using an anti-static wrist band will keep static charge off of you, but you can always discharge yourself too.

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By touching large metal components that aren’t connected to the PC’s hardware, you’ll avoid frying anything. This could be an exposed metal bit of the chassis itself, a radiator or a metal part of furniture. As long as you’re not grinding on carpet while working on your PC this should be enough. 

Step 3 — Opening that bad boy up

Time to unwind some screws and start surgery. Most modern PC cases have easy accessibility, specifically for what we’re doing today. Start unscrewing your left facing panel first — often the windowed one. And open remove the panel completely, if possible.

If you want the cleaning to be easier, try opening up more panels. The backside is often just as accessible, and might reveal some more dust bunnies. Depending on how your PC case is built, removing two panels is all you need to get a clear view (and access) of all important spots.

Some cases offer more panels and dust filters that can be removed. If that’s the case, make sure to take these out too, while you’re at it. 

Step 4 — Dusting off all these components

We mostly want those built-up dust bunnies to be evicted, so let’s get to that step. This can range from easy and safe, to some weirdly angled wiping. The easiest are probably dust filters, should you have found any. Run some clean water through the mesh panelling, and be sure to (let them) dry properly.

When it comes to the actual inside of the case, the majority of dust can be blown out. Whether you do this by vacuum, mouth, or compressed air cans — be sure not to damage your hardware! In case of the vacuum, opt for low-to-mid suction, and use a plastic end piece. Steer clear of hitting metal parts together, or bumping a diode out of place.  

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If you want to blow out the dust, compressed air cans should be your go-to. These will have great results on hard-to-reach spots, without all too much effort. Just make sure you follow the instructions on the product itself, as faulty use can lead to liquid droplets being spat out. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but exposed hardware and liquids don’t go together all that well. 

Also, be sure to not just blow air through your fans. Spinning them too fast (or the wrong way) might mess up their coiling. Tape them down beforehand, or just wipe them down. The latter actually brings us to our final step on how-to clean your PC.

Step 5 — Getting down to the nitty-gritty 

If you want a somewhat deeper cleaning, consider wiping down some components manually. Inside surfaces of the case might be covered in small layers of dust, as well as the blades on most fans. For this step, you’ll probably want to use a microfiber cloth.

When wiping the dust off, be sure to not apply too much pressure. Try softly holding components in place while you dust down specific parts. Most hardware is built to withstand some of this, but let’s not actively try to break the pricey stuff. 

Getting even grittier

For the best results, it helps to remove as many components as you can. Graphics cards are usually removable without a hassle, but removing CPU coolers and case fans can up your maintenance time by quite a bit. Depending on your cable management, a more thorough wipedown might take up an evening. 

These steps into deeper cleaning are all up to you. But remember: running the aforementioned steps from time to time, ensures you won’t have to put in this amount of elbow grease too often. 

Step 6 — Re-assembling your rig

As a final step in how to clean your PC, we’ll list the obvious: reassembly. Double check if components like dust filters are dry to the touch, and make sure to put everything back in place. When the case is all together again, plug in all your cables and switch your power supply back on. You’re good to go for a quick session on your cleaned-up battlestation.

We hope our beginners guide on how to clean your PC was helpful to you. Do you still feel unsure about certain things, or do you have a great tip of your own? Be sure to let yourself be heard, in the comments down below. We’d love to keep talking about PC upkeep, and other readers could benefit from your suggestions too.x

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