How to keep your PC clean and dust free

Credit: Leif K-Brooks via Flickr, click for original.

Credit: Leif K-Brooks via Flickr, click for original.

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, NZXT’s S340 Elite, be quiet!’s Dark Base Pro 900, 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 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.

Finally, don’t use a vacuum. Static can build up on the plastic nozzle, which you don’t want discharging on your pricey parts. 

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).