I don't get into the whole 'New Year's resolution' thing, but if I did, I would commit to being better about cleaning out my PC before dust bunnies set up camp. As you can see in the above photo of my main desktop, I didn't do that in 2018. So, I spent a good portion of my day off yesterday atoning for my neglect.
A little bit of maintenance here and there will save you a whole lot of work later on, as I was reminded. In my case, the dust buildup wasn't nearly as noticeable when the the system was running, and since I leave my PC on all the time, it went largely unnoticed.
That might sound hard to believe, but it's true. See those fans dangling? That gross buildup of dust is on the underside of the fan blades. The other side was dirty too, but not to that extent.
Remarkably, my CPU temps never got out of control, which I guess is a testament to NZXT's Kraken series (X61, in this case). Understandably, I did notice that the fan speed would spike more than usual, but nothing like you would expect. Maybe having an open air case played a role.
In any event, if your PC gets like this, compressed air alone won't do the trick. It's going to take some manual scrubbing. I used 91 percent rubbing alcohol to clean the grime off the fan blades, and a lot of elbow grease overall. Here's an after shot:
Most of the dust is gone, but with an open air chassis, it won't be long until it starts to build up again. Lesson learned (reminded, really) though. In 2019, I'll have to be more diligent about busting out the can of compressed air more often to avoid taking another grimy photo ever again.