Have you ever cracked open someone’s PC only to be horrified at the amount of dust and debris that’s taken up residence inside? It’s not a pretty sight. Worse yet, dust buildup can hamper performance. In extreme cases, those dust bunnies that sneak into a PC can even damage a system’s hardware.
A little bit of dust isn’t going to hurt things, but if left unchecked, a few particles eventually turn into a whole bunch of particles and before you know it, your heatsinks are caked with debris. This prevents precious airflow from reaching toasty components, like your GPU and CPU, which heat up faster and throttle more often. That’s not good.
So what should you do? As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or if you prefer, the best offense is a good defense. Either way, the point is to prevent dust from entering into your system in the first place. The best way to do that is with dust filters.
Many modern cases ship with dust filters. If you’re in the market for a new enclosure, look for one that does, such as Fractal Design’s Define R5 (opens in new tab), NZXT’s S340 Elite (opens in new tab), be quiet!’s Dark Base Pro 900 (opens in new tab), and so forth. There is no shortage of options, so shop around.
If your case doesn’t have fan filters, or doesn’t have enough of them, add them yourself. Magnetic air filters (opens in new tab) typically run about $8 to $10. The magnets are in the frame of the filter for easy installation, and no, you don’t have to worry about them destroying your data.
You can also make your own. Old pantyhose and nylon socks work well, and you can cut and stretch them to fit as needed. Whatever you use, just remember to clean them every now and then, otherwise the dust buildup on the outside will prevent cool air from entering your case.
If you smoke, avoiding lighting up inside your house, especially anywhere near your PC. The dirtiest looking systems tend to be those that are owned by smokers.
You should also keep your system elevated, if possible. The closer it is to the floor, the more it will collect debris that gets kicked up from foot traffic.
Finally, it’s a good idea to clean your PC on occasion. How often depends how quickly dust tends to accumulate. Pet owners, for example, may need to need to clean their systems more frequently, maybe every week or so, versus every month for others.
This doesn’t have to be a deep cleaning. A few strategically placed blasts of compressed air will do the trick. For best results, turn off and unplug your PC, and bring it outside. This way the dust won’t just settle back inside your house.
Be sure to hold the can of compressed air upright. If you tilt or shake it, the contents inside will turn to liquid, which you don’t want to spray all over your hardware. You can also give yourself freezer burn.