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Should I vacuum my PC?

A vacuum nozzle under a graphics card (with a bonus terrified Kerbal toy watching on)
(Image credit: Future)

Put the Hoover down. Slowly, now—no one's PC has to die today. Good, now we can talk.

Don't hoover your PC. You'd be better off building a diorama of Dust Bowl-era Oklahoma inside your case and presenting it at a county fair. Vacuum cleaners generate static electricity that could easily mean the death of your system. In fact, get that PC away from anything associated with vacuum cleaners—the carpet, for instance.

It is not the vacuum cleaner's power source that causes a problem. It's the static (opens in new tab)charge that builds up on the plastic nozzle. Additionally, vacuuming isn't effective unless you hold the nozzle very close to the electronics you're cleaning, so an electrostatic discharge is entirely possible. If you've been vacuuming the interior of your case for ages and have never had a problem, you've been lucky—a quick Google search (opens in new tab) reveals lots of people who haven't.

There are 'computer vacuums' or 'electronics vacuums', which advertise anti-static features, but they aren't cheap. Spending your hard-earned cash on one is also a little overboard for a task you can get done just as well with a little elbow grease. The cheapest and simplest way to clean your PC remains compressed air and rubbing alcohol, annoying as that can be.

Move your PC somewhere you can easily clean up later and use compressed air to blow out as much dust as you can. If it needs more attention, remove the fans and motherboard and carefully clean them with a soft cloth and 99% isopropyl alcohol.

Or, if you're really lazy, you could just dunk your whole system in a vat of alcohol. You probably wouldn't have a computer that works any more, but it would be clean. (Please don't actually do that.)

One thing you could pick up to help you with this task is an air compressor, or some lightweight handheld alternative. This would help save on cans of compressed air and make dusting your PC an easy task. You wouldn't have to worry about static this way, either.

If you're looking for other computer cleaning tips, here's how best to clean your mouse pad (opens in new tab). And here's how to best clean off thermal paste (opens in new tab) from your CPU. That stuff gets everywhere.

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.