A cleaner PC

It's still a few months until you begin spring-cleaning, but if your PC's insides are dirty, that could make for a sluggish system. Here's how to whip things into shape.

The Hassle: My PC overheats (the motherboard monitor beeps) toward the end of the evening, even though my home-office temperature is cool.

The Fix(es): I'll lay odds that your computer's case is full of dirt, dust and other crud. If you have a pet, the system is likely to be loaded with hair, too. Another bet: your PC sits on the floor, under your desk, gathering dust. Here's what to do.

Before opening the case, unplug everything - power cord, phone line, cable modem and Ethernet cables. After opening the case, touch the power supply to discharge any static and to ensure that you and the inside of your PC are at the same voltage. (Repeat this process every time you touch the PC's innards.)

Start by removing the foam filters, if your PC has any, on the fan vents. Gently clean the filters in a mild solution of dish soap and cool water, and let them dry before putting them back into place. (Better still: buy a foam air-conditioner filter, cut it to size, and replace all of the filters.)

Remove large clots of dust by vacuuming the fan vents from the outside of the case. However, be very cautious about vacuuming inside the case. Don't touch the motherboard or any add-in cards. At most, just suck away the dust that is lying on the base of your tower and on the bottoms of the system's empty drive bays. And avoid using brushes on components.

Alternatively, if the weather is dry and not too cold, carry the PC outdoors, and bring along a can of compressed air. I bought a can that had a foot-long hose attached; you can also buy tubing at a hobby store. The hose is perfect for clearing away dust throughout the case. It lets you hold the air can upright, as well; spraying the can at a tilt causes a wasteful blast of icy liquid propellant, and the resulting temperature change can damage components.

You may be tempted to spin the fan blades of the CPU's heat sink with a gust of air to clean them, but don't. The fan can't take the high rpm's. I know - I ruined one. Your best bet is to hold the fan and then blow with the air. Next, use a cotton swab with a weak alcohol solution to finish cleaning each blade. Carefully blowing the dust from between the blades of the heat sinks is even more important than cleaning the fan. Place the nozzle between the fan blades and along the open sides of the heat sink until no more dust flies out. Do not use an air compressor (like the kind you use to fill your tyres at a gas station) - they often contain a mix of oil and water.

Finally, put your PC on rollers. Raising your computer off the floor, even just six inches, will reduce the amount of dust that gets sucked into the fan vents. I use a small furniture dolly, available at hardware and home appliance stores.

Heat-monitoring apps protect your PC

Overheating is a sure sign your PC is dirty. But unless you have a tool to monitor your CPU, you won't have a clue if the system is nearing a meltdown. Here are a couple of programs I like. If one doesn't work, try the other. SpeedFan watches data collected by the system - the temperature and the fan rpm rate. This freebie displays the info in the PC's system tray and can sound an alarm or send a warning e-mail to you or someone else (not me, please). Get it at almico.com/speedfan.php. If you have an Intel motherboard, try Intel Active Monitor (intel.com/design/motherbd/active.htm). Not sure of your motherboard's brand? Get CPU-Z (cpuid.com/cpuz.php).

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Steve Bass

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?