60. Computer spring cleaning
By Andrew D. Wright
Since it's spring, and most are spring cleaning, how about some tips on
spring cleaning your computer?
M. Sheehan, Truro
Here's how to give your computer a spruce-up that can add years to its
Cleaning a computer can be done by anyone, so long as you stick to some
important safety tips.
No. 1 is to turn the computer off before starting. You can also unplug the
computer for added safety.
To clean the outside of the computer case, you can use a mild detergent in
water, enough to make a cloth slightly damp. Never use so much liquid that
it can drip. This will be enough to wash grimy fingerprints off the front
and sides of the case. Leave the back.
Your monitor screen can be cleaned with glass cleaner, but never spray it
on the monitor. Spray it on paper towel and wipe the glass with that. Be
very careful that there are no drips. Clean in one direction with quick
motions running across the screen. Be sure to get into the corners. Repeat
if necessary with clean paper towel.
You can run a duster across the vents on the top of the monitor but never
use liquid there. Monitors hold a large electrical charge even when
unplugged, so don't try cleaning inside.
If your mouse has a ball on the bottom, it needs to be cleaned regularly.
Usually, the ball can be removed by twisting off a cover. Inside, there
are three rollers, and in the middle of each will be a ridge of grime.
Holding the mouse right side up so dirt will fall out, scratch this off
with a fingernail or something flat and plastic like a bread bag tie while
slowly spinning each roller with a finger. The outside of the mouse and
buttons can be cleaned with a lightly damp cloth.
Turn a keyboard upside down and shake larger particles out. Mildly dirty
keys can be cleaned with a slightly damp paper towel. Use damp cotton
swabs for the sides of keys. For very dirty keys you can - carefully! -
use a bread knife to pop off individual keys and wash them in water and
detergent. Only do one or two keys at a time so you don't get them mixed
up and dry them thoroughly before snapping them back into place. Larger
keys like the space bar and shift and enter keys may also have little
metal rods holding them in place, so use care or clean them without
You can remove the cover of the computer to clean inside. Never use any
liquid at all inside.
Computer components are sensitive to static electricity, so ground
yourself by touching the metal frame of the computer case first. Do not
touch any electronic components. You can brush out dust in the bottom of
the case with some paper towel. Do not vacuum as this can create static
You can clean internal case and processor fans by twirling a cotton swab
along each side of the fan blade while you hold it from spinning. This
will collect the pet hair and fluff that builds up on the blades. Change
your swabs often. Canned air from any electronics store can be used to
blow out dust from the processor heat sink fins. Be sure to always hold
the can upright and only spray in short one- or two-second bursts so there
is no liquid condensation. Do not spray fan blades as it can spin them too
Finally, it is best to leave the computer power supply alone except for
removing any built-up dust on the outside of the unit with a cotton swab.
The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community
Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about
computing, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If we use your question in
a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.
Originally published 22 May 2005