How to clean your computer properly- Matt S.
Heat is one of electronics worst enemies. Whether you are over-clocking or putting off cleaning that huge dust bunny jumping around your electrical components, heat is bad news bears for your desktop computer. Computer desktop temperatures can range from 95 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes! Enthusiasts who over-clock are mostly concerned with heat so they use after-market CPU air coolers such as Noctua and Corsair. In order to battle heat there are other mediums that computer builders use: water and oil. Many companies such as NZXT and Corsiar make water-cooling, while many custom computer builders make oil filled systems. Heat slowly causes damage to the internal components to the point of no return. Some people never clean their computers internal components, which is a perfect way to block cooling fans and decrease airflow. You paid good money for your PC, so lets make it last.
Your computer is made up of several components: central processing unit (and cooler), temporary storage (RAM), permanent storage (HDD or SSD), sometimes a discrete graphics card, power supply, optical drive, and most importantly the motherboard. The reason I list the motherboard last is to emphasize its importance. It is the backbone of your computer system and next to the hard drive storage it is usually the first component to go bad. So take care of your motherboard. Its best practice to keep the internal part of your desktop computer clean every once in a while by using compressed air can to blow out the dust from CPU and case fans. What else can you do? Our simple steps can help extend the life of your computer.
First you will need to check any obstructions in your case filters, which you can check for outside the case. A little compressed air might help blow out some dust. Next you will need to open the case, so make sure you turn off the power supply and unplug the computer. Inside the case you can go to town on the compressed air, cleaning out all the dust that has accumulated around the CPU fan and motherboard. If you have room you can add more case fans in order to increase your airflow. Heat rises, so generally the flow of air starts at the front of the case at the bottom and flows up as the air heats up.
Next, make sure you remove all dust from the CPU fan or heatsink. You can even go as far as to unplug the CPU fan from the motherboard, unscrew the mounts, and carefully pry the CPU fan from the CPU. It may be difficult to remove because of the thermal paste, which transfers heat from the CPU to the heatsink. You can use a small alcohol swab to remove the previous thermal paste and reapply thermal paste (about the size of a grain of rice) using a plastic card. Do not to apply too much thermal paste, this can ruin your CPU. If you have room you can re-mount an after-market CPU cooler instead of the stock fan and this will help keep your CPU and the rest of the system cooler. Lastly, make sure you clean your discrete graphics card. If your graphics card is working over-time, so to speak, it may be time to upgrade.
If you are an over-clocker you might direct the heat that best cools your system. For example Azza, a computer case manufacturer, has built the traditional case upside down (Azza 9000 and Azza GT1). This way all the components that generate all the heat are at the bottom. Since heat rises, the heat will naturally be removed from the system and with some great case fans it will optimize removal of all the heat.