DUST BUNNIES: Chewing the Life Out of Your Computer

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DUST BUNNIES: Chewing the Life Out of Your Computer

Ever wonder what lurks in the dark unknown of your computer case? Perhaps you should. After many years in tech support and as an independent consultant, it is still amazing how many people treat their computers more like disposable batteries than the complex machines that they really are. What do I mean? How many consumers do you know that buy a new computer and plug it in, expecting it to “just work” as it should seemingly forever…or until it’s time for a new one? The truth is that users have a direct impact on exactly when their computer will “bite the dust.” In fact, it’s the dust that does the biting.

Now that our society depends so heavily on computers for everything from ordering pizza to performing complex job functions, it is a wonder that there is not more said about their much needed maintenance. We’re not talking about pulling everything apart and getting the Q-Tips out or even understanding the inner guts of your monster. However, there are some simple steps that can be taken to avoid costly repairs due to one of the least talked about electronic culprits: Dust.

Breathing is NOT overrated-

Just like putting a plastic tarp over a crib is not a smart thing to do, the same thing can be said about suffocating your computer. One of the easiest ways to extend the life of any computer and prevent major dust buildup is to let it breathe! As tempting as it can be to shove computers in any nook and cranny that befits your current imagination or satisfies your zest to organize, the first thing to do is make sure that the computer’s tower has enough room around any part where any air will flow in or out. This usually means the front and back, but some can vent hot air out of the side panels as well.

The amount of open space around your tower can depend on several factors, but a good rule of thumb is to leave at least 3-6 inches of free space between the vents and the nearest solid surface. The benefits of this approach are twofold: Overheating is prevented and air (hence dust) can move freely through the computer case instead of being caught in the rear case fans and other components.

Dust Kills-

Ever had any of the following computer issues:

  • Computer refuses to turn on at all?
  • Computer works for a while and then randomly shuts off without warning?
  • Laptop keyboard gets hot after several hours of use?
  • Computer seems to slow down and runs sluggish the longer it is running?
  • Strange buzzing or whistling noises suddenly start coming from your computer?

While some of these symptoms can be serious issues, many are the result of dust!

Tucson dust in computer cases causes repairs!

Fire can be cozy…or scary!-

Although dust might not seem like such a big issue to the average user whose computer has not experienced a dust related meltdown, we have personally seen computers catch on fire due to dust. The following pictures show this computer. The other pictures throughout this post are from everyday business and residential computer users that come from all walks of life and have all sorts of different computing habits. Please do not think that you are exempt from a dust disaster just because you keep a clean house and have not heard noises. Speaking of noises…

A Computer’s Cry for Help-

Buzzing, whirring, whistling…all are a computer’s cry for help. While the sounds of a jet engine coming from your computer case may elicit thoughts of might and computing power, they are really like a red flag that could mean your computer is closer to a funeral than a birthday. If the culprit is dust caught in a cooling fan, or even the fan itself, the problem CAN be dealt with early and avoid much more costly repairs later.

Canned Air: A Cost Effective Solution

Compressed air, or “canned air” as it is sometimes called, is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to clean out a computer once every few weeks or months. This is a much safer cleaning method than others for the following reasons:

  • Vacuum Cleaner: Static electricity; May damage components with heavy suction
  • Air Compressor: Some are oil based and will damage components; May damage components with heavy blast of air
  • Cloths, Feather Dusters, Dust Mops: Leave small particles behind that can either burn at high heat, clog air flow, break fans

Xcentech offers cans of compressed air from 8-10oz for $5-6 per can plus tax. In addition, we can talk to you about a maintenance plan that includes canned air or an overall system cleanup that will include case dusting. While the cans offer directions on the label, those who are uncomfortable taking apart a computer case, unplugging cords, or dusting sensitive components in general should seek professional service.

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