Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin :
June 2007

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 TECHNOLOGY TALK:

BY JOHN ANDERSON  

I got my first PC when home computers were a little rarer to find. Because of that fact, it was treated like a Bentley, regularly cleaned and dusted and covered when not in use. Nowadays, we expect more from our PCs and expect them to always be there without giving much back in return. Well, it’s time for a little spring cleaning, and now would be great to take a little time and thank your tireless PC partner with a little TLC.

Tools to Get the Job Done

First here are the items you’ll need:

  • A can of compressed air
  • Antibacterial moist towelettes
  • Glass cleaner (such as Windex)
  • A folded piece of soft cloth or a paper towel
  • Lint-free wipes
  • A dust mask
  • Round IDE cables

The Keyboard and Mouse

Besides the regular dust and dirt that might collect in the crevices of your keyboard, other items like food crumbs and other debris we probably shouldn’t have next to the computer can accumulate. Eventually you could wind up with a malfunctioning keyboard.

To clean out the big stuff, hold your keyboard over a wastebasket upside down and give it a shake. Do this a couple of times to make sure you get everything out that you can. Then, get your can of compressed air and spray between the keys while holding the keyboard vertically over the wastebasket.

If you want to get rid of both germs and dirt, use antibacterial wipes on the keyboard and mouse. It’s handy to keep a package in your desk and use them periodically on your keyboard, mouse, phone or other surfaces whenever the need arises.

The Monitor

Staring at a computer monitor for long periods of time is notoriously hard on the eyes. Don’t make it worse by trying to look through a dusty, smudgy monitor.

First, turn off your monitor to better to see the dust and smudges you’re trying to remove. While Windex is great for standard CRTs glass, don’t spray it directly onto the screen; the liquid could seep under the edges of the monitor and damage the components inside. Instead, spray some Windex on a folded piece of soft cloth or a paper towel and then use that to wipe the glass.

For delicate LCD screens, don’t use ammonia-based cleaners. Instead, use a soft cloth dampened with plain water or use a lint-free wipe for cleaning the plastic surface of your LCD screen.

Attacking the Dust Bunny Burrow

Did you know that the same component meant to cool and protect your PC is also the biggest dirt-related threat to your PC? Cooling fans constantly suck dust inside the case, clogging both the power-supply and cooling fans. Dust covered fans have to work harder, and if unchecked the fans may fail completely, leading to serious overheating.

It’s time to crack the case. Turn off your PC, unplug it from the wall and remove the case lid. Starting with the power supply, use your can of compressed air to blow air from inside the chassis or the back. Now would be a good time to wear a dust mask (PCs aren’t the only thing that shouldn’t inhale too much dust). You might consider moving the PC to the garage or outdoors, the dust has to go somewhere after all.

After cleaning the power-supply fan, do the same for any other fans, remembering to blow the dust out the back of the PC.

Next, use the canned air on the interior of the PC, removing dust from the boards, drives, cables and other surfaces. Don’t spray directly at the components you are trying to clean; instead, spray the air at an angle. This will blow the dust out of the case instead of just onto other components. Oh, and keep the can of compressed air upright, don’t tip the can upside down. And while we are on the subject of don’ts, never use a vacuum on the PC interior. Doing so can create static electricity, which is deadly to sensitive electronic components.

Better Airflow

Computer components work best when cool. Dust inside your PC can impede airflow, keeping hot air inside the case, but the nest of flat cables inside your machine not only collect dust but also contribute to reduced airflow.

You might want to consider replacing the standard cables with round ones. They aren’t expensive, going for about $6. Not only do round IDE cables increase airflow and reduce cable clutter, they also make cleaning easier and less frequently needed.

With your computer off and its main AC power cord disconnected, simply unplug your current IDE cables and replace them with the new ones. Before replacing the case cover, power up the machine to make sure the cables are connected properly and everything works.

If you’d rather not splurge on new cables, you can still improve airflow by reorganizing the old ones. For instance, fold up any excess cable and fasten it with rubber bands. Just make sure you leave a little slack so that the connectors don’t become unseated easily.

The Cleanup Continues

Now that your computer is running cleaner, next month we’ll work on making it run faster.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: May 2007