Dust

Discussion in 'hardware' started by John Bull, Aug 12, 2010.

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  1. John Bull

    John Bull Registered Member

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    My computer after some months becomes clogged up inside with dust and airborne rubbish. It sticks to the fan and all the insides like the aftermath of a greasy dust storm. All fans are subject to this problem and need regular cleaning.

    It gets to a stage when the computer over-heats and goes on the blink.
    I paid $47 to have it cleaned out a few months ago and it may be coming up for another medical.

    How do you handle this problem ? Is it easy to take the back off the computer and brush/vacuum clean it out ?

    John Bull
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
  2. SweX

    SweX Registered Member

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  3. tgell

    tgell Registered Member

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    I usually clean my PC every 6 months. Its easy for me to take off the side cover and dust out the contents. I use a small painters brush to loosen the dust on the fan blades and then blast the dust off of them. One word of caution, make sure the fan blades do not spin. Hold them with a wooden stick or your finger because when spinning they generate a current back into the electronics. You can also overspin them and do harm to the bearings. Make sure to blast out the inside of the power supply. Avoid touching the electronics and if you must, make sure you have touched the metal case to discharge any static or use a static strap. Never use a vacuum cleaner as these generates lots of static. Also, do not hold the can upside down as liquid can come out of it.

    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1031703/how_to_dust_out_your_computer/

    http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/tutorial118.html
     
  4. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I use a tack cloth myself for both the inside and outside of the case. Get a great many cleanigs with one if you refold it to the still tacky sides.

    Sul.
     
  5. firzen771

    firzen771 Registered Member

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    i just get the vacuum cleaner hose lol and then use compressed air for the small tight to get at areas :p (and for my video cards fan i just blow into the fan with my mouth over a sink, that seems to get the dust out the best in my experience lol)

    i dont suggest my method to most people but it works quite well for me :p
     
  6. John Bull

    John Bull Registered Member

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    I entered my details on an online cleaner site and it came up that I should clean my computer internals every 11 months.

    Honestly. when I saw the photo of my computer inside, I was shocked. It was just a mass of sticky dirty crap all over the fan and everything else.

    Is it easy just to take the back of the cabinet and clean it out with a brush, cloth and vacuum cleaner ? If I can do that, I see no reason to pay somebody $47 to do it.

    John B
     
  7. ronjor

    ronjor Global Moderator

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  8. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat Registered Member

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    Can of compressed air, done.
    What kind of environment is it in?
    Computers are more apt to fill with "junk" if the tower or desktop unit is on the floor (where all the dust and dirt is from gravity, settling, foot traffic, etc), moving up higher like on a desk can help.
     
  9. John Bull

    John Bull Registered Member

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    Well, not an operating theatre, but it is home to me. See below :-

    Dirty Computer 2.JPG

    John B
     
  10. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Here's my canned text on Computer Maintenance – Safety, Cleaning, and ESD
    Safety First. It is common practice, as taught in any electronics course, to ensure safety first, so that's what we are doing here. Fuses and circuit breakers are used to stop excessive current events in overload situations. They react to, but do not prevent such events. They are fast, but not instantaneous, and they do not make any device 100% safe. Anything that plugs into the wall can kill! We must never assume a power supply unit (PSU) is safe and working properly, that the wall outlet is wired correctly, or that the building has a good "ground" ("Earth" in some countries).

    There is some confusion as to whether it is necessary to unplug the PSU (power supply unit) from the wall when doing maintenance inside a computer. When doing any kind of maintenance (routine, preventative, or unscheduled) when potentially lethal voltages are present, safety dictates that it is essential to unplug when digging around inside.

    There are only three exceptions:
    1. IF the PSU has a master power switch on the back of the PSU (many do not) - but that assumes the power supply and $.50 switch are not defective, or damaged
    2. When necessary to have power applied for troubleshooting
    3. When inspecting fans to ensure they are spinning
    The problem with those exceptions is they all assume the power supply is functioning properly, has no manufacturing defects, and has not been physically damaged by some external force (dropped in shipping, a prime example). You should not assume with something that can kill. I have no doubt millions of off-brand, generic PSUs in use today were made under horrible working conditions in filthy unsafe factories under the watchful eye of corrupt third world governments. Some by children in slavery. :( You cannot trust the quality of the materials and components used in construction, the training or skills of the assemblers, or the integrity of their quality control. And remember that even name brand, quality PSUs can fail, or be damaged.

    It is necessary to unplug before doing maintenance even with a perfectly functioning power supply to prevent damaging the motherboard or other components. The ATX Form Factor Standard, as indicated on page 21, paragraph 4.1.3.2, requires +5VDC @ 2 amperes "standby voltage" (normally designated as "+5Vsb") be applied across several motherboard points whenever the computer is in "Standby Mode". Standby Mode is enabled whenever the power supply is plugged into an AC power source (the wall - or UPS), and if equipped, the rear master power switch is turned on. If the PSU does not have a master power switch, and many PSUs do not, Standby Mode is enabled whenever the power cord is simply connected!Standby Mode allows for such features as "soft power control" enabling the case's front panel power switch to power up the computer. It also allows other features, such as Wake on LAN, Wake on Modem, Wake on Keyboard, and Wake on Mouse.

    While it is true that the exterior (output) side of a properly working PSU does not present a hazard to humans, if the supplied +5Vsb comes across the wrong contact on a critical component, it can easily destroy the device.

    It is important to remember that RAM modules, CPUs, cards, etc., have many 100s of exposed electrical contacts/pins in very close proximity to each other. The likelihood of electricity jumping (arcing) from one conductor to another is dependent on 2 simple factors:
    1. The greater the voltage the greater the chance of arcing
    2. The smaller the gap the greater the chance of arcing
    So even though the highest voltage we are talking about on the motherboard is 12VDC, the close proximity of the conductors (contacts/pins) on vulnerable devices greatly increases the chance electricity will jump the gap (arc) to an adjacent contact (and circuit), and destroy the component or a device in the related circuit. Even if there is no arc, the mere proximity of the closely grouped contacts and pins DEMANDS perfect (straight in/straight out) steady-hand alignment by the user when inserting or removing such devices so that adjacent pins/contacts do not physically touch the wrong insertion point. If no voltage is present, damage from accidental contact is avoided.

    Therefore power MUST be completely removed before doing maintenance to any computer to ensure a simple distraction or less than rock-steady hand does not cause that +5VSB to contact the wrong point.

    I know what safety and electronic technical/service manuals say, but in researching for this post, I wanted to see what the motherboard and video card makers say. I could find no documentation from any maker to support leaving the power cord attached when doing maintenance. I did find, over and over again, motherboard and video card makers who feel unplugging the PSU is necessary. I note a few examples:
    Abit AT8 32X Motherboard Manual, Page 2-1:
    ASUS P5LD2 Deluxe Motherboard Manual, Page 2-1, Before you proceed (their bold emphasis):
    ATI Radeon 1600 Graphics Card Manual, Page 8:
    Gigabyte GA-945P-DS3 Motherboard Manual, Page 9:
    Intel D945GCCR Motherboard Manual, Page 30:
    Crucial Installing a DIMM in your desktop
    Kingston How To Install 168-pin DIMMs

    The Problem with ESD.
    Electro-static charges (static electricity) easily builds up in the human body. The "potential" (voltage) of the static electricity in humans can easily exceed 30,000 volts!! The threshold for human awareness is only around 3,500 volts, depending on many factors, including dryness of the skin, sensitivity, etc. Electro-static discharge (ESD) sensitive devices used in sophisticated electronics, such as computer processors (including CPUs and GPUs) and memory integrated circuits (ICs), can easily be destroyed by static with potentials as little as 30 volts! This means that a static shock can totally destroy a sensitive device without you even being aware a discharge occurred!

    So how do we prevent such damage? It is simple actually. The key is to remove the "difference in potential" between the two conductors - you, and the device.

    Notice I did not say you have to "ground" the static. I said you must "remove the difference in potential between the two conductors". What this means is that it is not necessary to have the computer case connected to the facility ground to effectively eliminate static. Just as you can eliminate static in your body by touching the doorknob of an ungrounded, wooden door (or the dog's nose ;)), simply touching the case will work just fine. When you touch the case, you equalize and eliminate that difference, thus eliminating the chance of a static discharge to a sensitive component. Think of a "floating" ground - such as used in avionics - (airplane electronics). Continually touching the bare metal case (through a wrist strap, or dangling pinky finger) will prevent static caused by wiggling around in your clothes, moving on the carpet, sliding on the chair cover, etc. from ever building up. If you can't stay in constant contact with the case, frequently touching the case to discharge any build up before reaching damaging potentials is generally considered a sufficient precaution as long as you are self-disciplined enough to discharge yourself often.

    Heat, Cleaning & ESD.
    Heat is the bane of all electronics. To control heat, computers use fans to pull cool air in, and expel hot air out. Unfortunately, this same process also draws in heat trapping dust, dirt, hair, dander, microscopic critters that eat dander, and microscopic droppings from those microscopic critters.

    Cleaning the insides of the computer presents a problem because sticking your hands or cleaning tools in the case without care can result in ESD damage. Yet it is a user responsibility to keep heat trapping dust from blanketing heat sensitive devices inside the computer. And today's computers generate a lot of heat. In particular, the CPU and increasingly, the GPU (graphics processor unit). Both can generate as much heat as 100 watt (or more) light bulbs!

    I recommend inspecting monthly, and cleaning if necessary. While observing ESD precautions, I take my systems outside and use a soft paint brush and compressed air from an air compressor. With compressed air, you can blast out the PSU (make sure you do it from inside the case). WARNING: If using an air compressor, ensure it is of the oilless type, configured for use on electronics. It must be equipped with a suitable in-line moisture and contaminant filter or risk spewing rusty water and other contaminants. Alternatively, you can use cans of compressed dusting gas to clean the PC. (Note: Even with cans of dusting gas, I still recommend cleaning outside. There's no need to blow the dust back into the room, ready to be sucked back into the computer by the fans).

    With care you can use a vacuum cleaner and a soft paint brush. But it must be remembered that air and dust particles zipping past the nozzle of the vacuum will generate static in the nozzle, which can then be discharged through, and destroy ESD sensitive devices. So using a vacuum does raise VERY SERIOUS and legitimate concerns. But so does heat! And using some sort of forced air is best at removing heat trapping dust, so if compressed air is not possible, vacuuming is the next best thing.

    Because of this static, it is absolutely essential ESD precautions are observed to prevent static buildup and damage from ESD, as well as physical damage from banging the nozzle into fragile devices, or scratching the motherboard. But the process is simple. With the computer powered down and unplugged, and with a soft brush in one hand and the vacuum nozzle in the other, extend a finger on your nozzle holding hand out past the tip of the nozzle and plant that finger on bare metal of the case. Then simply use the brush to sweep the dust into the vacuum. With your finger(s) touching metal, and your hand wrapped around the nozzle, no static can build up, no ESD damage can occur. Every time you reposition the nozzle, touch metal with an extended finger before moving in close.

    Note: With compressed air or vacuum, resist the temptation to see how fast you can make the fans spin. You can make them spin faster than designed limits and damage the bearings. I use wooden Popsicle sticks, available at any crafts store, to hold the fans, including those in the PSU, stationary.

    So the bottom line here is this: When doing maintenance (cleaning, installing and/or removing components) on your computer, ALWAYS remove the +5Vsb voltages from the computer by unplugging the power cord, or setting the master power switch on the back of the PSU to off. Keep yourself in contact with the case to ensure there is no difference in potential, and to prevent/eliminate static buildup in your body. This will prevent standby voltages from destroying your components and provide efficient ESD control as well.
    ****

    For those who practice leaving the power cord connected to use as a ground wire, let me address that. Use a grounding strap designed to connect equipment to "station" or facility ground, and not a power cord carrying lethal voltages! This old, bad habit came out of the old days when using ground straps to station/facility ground were not always available. It was and still is a "shortcut" in safety protocols to put the case and facility ground at the same potential, the same "common ground" by leaving the power cord connected so the ground wire in the cord would provide the necessary ground. That bad habit came about when,
    (1) An understanding of ESD was not complete, and
    (2) The old "AT" Form Factor standard was the standard. ​
    With AT Form Factor cases and PSUs, the front panel power switch was not a remote power switch like those used today on ATX systems, Rather, it was a hardwired switch that went straight back to the AT Form Factor power supply. When you killed power from the front panel power switch on old AT systems, all power was removed from the motherboard. With the old AT motherboards, there was no such thing as exposed standby voltages present across the motherboard, as there is today with the ATX standard.
    ****

    Static comes from our movements in our clothes, across certain floorings, and even by moving through the air. To minimize the buildup, do not work on carpeting. Sitting naked on unfinished hardwood flooring in a draft-free room works best. Or on a wooden bench. ;)
    ****
     
  11. Bob D

    Bob D Registered Member

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    I use lots of cotton swabs dampened w/ isopropyl to clean dirty heat sinks, fans.
    Also as a preventative measure, I retro'd my box with filters on both air inlets. They're quite effective at minimizing (but not eliminating) interior cleaning frequencies.
     
  12. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Yeah, I will never buy a case again that does not have removable, washable filters. They make a big difference in how often I have to lug a computer outside for a thorough blasting/cleaning.
     
  13. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat Registered Member

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    So home environement...but I see smoker. If you're a heavy smoker, that tar in the air will stick to surfaces inside the computer..creating a more sticky surface for the dust to stick to when it blows by in the constant airflow of a computer case.
     
  14. John Bull

    John Bull Registered Member

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    It does just that. A vacuum cleaner would not get it off, it needs a paint brush first. I am not a heavy smoker, just a pipe puffer. But I have never had the back off - it is easy to do ?

    John
     
  15. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat Registered Member

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    I'm a smoker too..so I'm not coming down on you in that way.
    If the cover is easy to remove...that depends on your case.
    What make/model is your computer?
    Many newer ones are quite easy, some others require 2 or 3 screws to be removed from the back, and then the side panel will come off.
    You shouldn't have to remove the "back"..just the "side panel" if it's a tower PC, or if it's a desktop chassis...the top cover will slide off.

    Speaking of dirty computers...I'm about to head out to do an onsite that will be nasty....gotta give the computers and network a "tuneup" at an auto repair garage. The ones out in the garage life shop area are usually wicked nasty.
     
  16. John Bull

    John Bull Registered Member

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    Here is my set-up. It does get hairy and dusty.
    Device Manager gives Computer = ACPI Multiprocessor PC.
    I think there are screws at the back to releae the covers.

    Computer desk.jpg

    John
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2010
  17. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat Registered Member

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    Standard ATX generic case.
    Slide tower forward, may have to unplug some cables in the back so take note of their setup, which USB is plugged into which USB, etc.
    Once tower is out and on a table or something...if you're at the front of the computer facing it (like you were going to insert a CD)...the cover on the left (next to your green tape dispenser in the picture) is what will slide off. Probably 2 or 3 screws that hold it in...often thumb screws, sometimes just philips. Remove screws, slide the cover back about an inch and then it should lift off.

    Have fun with compressed air. Note hard drive mount in the front...some of them mount vertically flat against the front of the case and extra care is needed when removing the dust bunny blankets. Usually (as with clone builts) the hard drives are laying horizontal and no extra steps are needed for them. Do pay attention to the lower front part of the computer case (like below that little square logo sticker)...that's the air intake for the case behind the silver plastic.
     
  18. John Bull

    John Bull Registered Member

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    To :- YeOldeStonecat

    What a super reply, I really appreciate it.

    When all the nicotine impregnated dirt gets too bad, the thing overheats and keeps cutting out. I usually get a mild warning before all that happens, so I will now be ready for it armed with your instructions. I expect it to strike about Novemberish.

    From what you say, it looks reasonably easy providing one takes care as you pointed out not to wreck any vital organs.

    My sincere thanks
    John
    What`s the betting it gives me a nice Christmas present ?
     
  19. Pinga

    Pinga Registered Member

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    The good news is that dust is very low in fat:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcVZg2tVswk
     
  20. MikeBCda

    MikeBCda Registered Member

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    Nice case on my current system (from OEM-dealer with whom I've been doing business for a lotta years now) ... for nearly any kind of maintenance, the side panels come off individually (secured with clips, not screws) so access is a breeze.
     
  21. John Bull

    John Bull Registered Member

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    I don`t know whether this guy smoked, but this typical picture is just like my computer was last year when it was cleaned by my PC doctor. It has worked perfect ever since. Like I said, it must be getting close to a new triple bypass.

    dirty_computer_Orlando.jpg
     
  22. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I have cleaned many a computer that dirty. Your best bet IMO is to get a vaccuum or canned air or something, and do a monthly blow-out. The residue from smoking always puts a film on computers, even the white/beige plastic parts start to turn yellow and get a film. A routine "preventative" every month will do wonders. The tar or whatever it is that builds up will eventually need to be wiped off (rubbing alcohol) but you can go for quite some time with a monthly blow-out.

    Also don't dismiss that tar/whatever buildup on the blades. A small fan only moves maybe 25cfm. Gunk on the blades creates drag, which restricts the cfm. By how much is anyones guess. For best efficiency/performance, clean and smooth is the key.

    Here is a note for you. Fans such as those used in your computer have a directional flow because of how the bearing works as well as the comm and windings being exposed on one side. If you examine your fan, you note that the "back" side is the one that you can see "inside" the blades to the usually red or green wire windings. A large box fan is easy to see this on. The direction of flow is such that the air moving over the blades first hits the "front" of the fan, the through the blades and out. Using compressed air and blowing dust "into" the void where the comm and windings are is very bad. This can cause a fan to shorten its life dramatically. You do want to be careful to keep from doing this.

    Sul.
     
  23. KookyMan

    KookyMan Registered Member

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    If your in a dusty environment (like mine) I've come to an understanding. Fans. LOTS of fans. Have them arranged so that there is always a positive pressure on the inside case. In other words, make sure your Intake airflow exceeds your output airflow. Once you have this in place, put filters in front of the intake fans, I'm trying some 'homemade' filters here by combining fiberglass screen (like what you use in your screen doors) and cheesecloth. Cheesecloth works great as an airfilter, it is just so loose that the airflow actually pulls it into the fan. Putting the screen tight behind it should prevent that (Bought the screen, haven't installed it yet at this point).

    Reason you want positive pressure is this: If you have intakes providing the majority of the air in, all your air will flow through those fans, and as a result through the air filters that are built in or that you slap on. When you have negative pressure (More blowing out than fans blowing in) the air starts trying to get in along with all the dust, through any possible crack. The result is lots of dust along case seams, and more dust makes it past the filters and directly into the case.

    The more you can catch in the filters, the less often you need to crack open the box. Downside is, if your filters are good and effective, you'll have to clean them more frequently or the box will be air-starved. (I'm almost having to clean my cheesecloth filters about once every two weeks.. WAY too dusty in here.)
     
  24. Boost

    Boost Registered Member

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    Do not try this @ home! Boost is the only guy crazy enough to use this method.

    I fire up the air compressor and use the lowest air pressure setting and carefully blow the dust,debris away for a clean PC :D

    Been doin this for years,never had an issue.
     
  25. KookyMan

    KookyMan Registered Member

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    And its cheaper than buying can after can of compressed "air".
     
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