How should I remove dust from my system?

Dust inside your system can interfere with the flow of electricity. Dust also collects on fans, which hinders their performance, raises system temperature, and increases noise. You want to keep your system’s case as free of dust as possible to keep air flowing throughout.

Note: For this procedure you will need a can of compressed air which you can buy at most electronics or office supply stores. You’ll also need to open your system’s case. If you are not comfortable opening up your system's case, then do not perform this procedure.

Note: The best place to perform this procedure is outside. Otherwise, when you blow the dust out of your system, it will hang around your workplace and settle around your desk. If it’s not possible to be outside, be near a fan or vent that will carry away the dust particles.

WARNING: This procedure requires you to open your system case. When working on the inside of your system, you must take the proper precautions against electrostatic discharge (ESD).

Since computer systems operate on precisely-controlled electrical currents, you can seriously damage or even destroy any component inside with just a small amount of static electricity. In fact, you can’t even feel the amount of static electricity it would take to permanently damage your system.

When working on the inside of your system, you MUST take the proper precautions against ESD:

  • Discharge all static electricity from your body by touching a grounded metal surface. The metal chassis of your system case works fine for this procedure.
  • Avoid placing your open system on any thick carpet. If you must place the system on a carpet, use an anti-static floor pad between the system and the carpet.
  • Wear an anti-static bracelet (sold at any software store or office supply store) when working on the inside of your system. An anti-static bracelet connects you to a grounding source and will ensure that your body does not build up a static charge.

To remove dust from your system:

  • Power off your system and remove all connecting cables. (Follow the above instructions to eliminate static electricity.)
  • Locate the two thumbscrews on the rear of the system that secure the left side panel (right if your case design is flipped).
  • Remove the screws, slide back the side panel about half an inch and the panel comes off. In some cases, it makes sense to remove both side panels.
  • Locate sources of dust inside the case. Dust tends to gather on any fans on the outside of the case, horizontal surfaces (such as video cards connected to the motherboard), around the power supply unit, and on the bottom of the case.
    * All fans attached to chassis of the case.
    * The fan on the aluminum heatsink-fan (HSF) combination (which cools your processor)
    * Video card fans (cards must be removed to do this)
    * Dust in or around the hard drive cage, floppy and optical drives
    * Dust in the bottom of the case
    * Dust in the Power Supply
  • Spray the compressed air can at the dusty components so that the dust is evacuated from the case. (NOTE: If using an air compressor system rather than canned compressed air, be sure your compressor unit is oilfree to avoid spraying oil on hardware components).
  • Wipe down external fan blades with a damp (not wet) paper towel or cloth. Doing this will remove any stubborn dust that has attached to the blades. Do not do this to any fans on your CPU or your video card.
  • When complete, reattach the side panel(s) to your case.
  • Re-connect all cables back to the system and then power it on.