Keyboards, mice and other peripherals can gather dust, but they're often easier to keep clear of dust and debris since most of it collects where it's easy to wipe away. At the heart of the computer, though, where all the processing takes place, dust can gather out of normal reach. As mentioned earlier, letting this dust accumulate can impact the performance and function of the computer.
The following are steps you can take to get the dust out of your computer.
1. Determine if you can open the computer's casing.
If you have a warranty on the computer, check with the manufacturer to see if opening the case will void your warranty. If so, find out where you can take your computer for warranty service and ask that shop to clean it in accordance with your warranty. Also, if you aren't already familiar with how to open the computer, do a little research to find out how difficult it is to do so. If you're not confident about opening the computer, find a professional who can do it and who is familiar with your computer.
2. Gather a few tools.
First, you'll need to purchase a gas duster, dust mask, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol. Then, grab a screwdriver that fits the screws that hold your computer's case together. Also consider using safety glasses to keep dust out of your eyes.
3. Disconnect and move the computer.
Shut down the computer if it's running and disconnect the power and all peripherals from the computer. For laptops, be sure to remove the battery. Then, move the computer to a clean, well-lit workspace. Be prepared for that workspace to get very dusty while you're cleaning.
4. Open the case.
Use your manufacturer's instructions for opening it so that the motherboard and everything attached to it is easy to access. For desktops and towers, this is often as easy as removing a couple of case screws and sliding or detaching a panel. For laptops, this may be more involved, including removing several screws and panels.
5. Attack the dust bunnies.
Before the attack, put on your dust mask and safety glasses and prepare for much of the dust to fly out of the case. Then, with the case open, find a spot where it would be easy to remove any dust from the case without touching any circuit boards. This could be an opening in the side or a place where you can easily wipe the inside surface of the case. Using a gas duster, aim the gas bursts no closer than about 4 inches to each surface and blow the dust toward that easy-to-reach spot. Keep the can as upright as possible to avoid the liquid coming out of the can. Be sure to target all the fans and narrow spaces, and push the cables aside gently to get to spaces you can't easily reach. Don't open the power supply, from which a fountain of cabling attaches to several parts of the computer, but do blow the dust off its fan -- at least, as much as possible.
6. Swab the tough spots.
If you find a spot where dust has stuck to the surface, put the gas duster aside and pick up a cotton swab. Wet the tip of the cotton swab with some isopropyl alcohol, and use that to rub away the stubborn dust.
7. Evacuate the bunnies.
With the dust moved to one spot, carefully use your hand or an anti-static cloth to pick up the dust and remove it from the case. Avoid touching the motherboard and attached cards when you do this, but moving the cables out of the way is fine.
8. Close up.
With the dust removed, close the computer case in accordance with your manufacturer's instructions and reattach any peripherals and power sources. Then, boot the computer and make sure everything's working.