Cleaning my computer... Best methods?

Pardon my questions, but I’m just an average computer user with little knowledge of how to handle what goes inside a computer. I have a G4 Macintosh tower, and I’ve noticed that two of the free fans inside have what looks like a nice bit of dust on them. Some questions about this:

  1. Might this be responsible for the buzzing/humming noise I sometimes hear? It’s sort of like electronic bees, or something you might hear from a power line in terms of tone and such. Might it be anything serious? My computer seems to be working okay, and the HD is pretty new. It’s not very loud, and it doesn’t happen all the time.

  2. In my attempts to clean one of the fans with one of those small computer vacuums (couldn’t quite fit it in through the rubber frame to cleanit properly), I ended up, more than once, pressing down (maybe hard) on the center of the fan. What’re the chances I threw it off kilter or damaged it? This was one or two days’ worth of computing ago (consisting of hours of use at a time), during which I noticed no performance changes.

  3. After finding I couldn’t get to two of the fans with the vacuum, I got canned air. If I use it, where will the dust go? Those two fans are either in a metal box, or above/in front of electronic stuff, and I don’t want that dust to just scatter around the insides. Any advice for this?

  4. And finally, is CompUSA’s “Power Clean” service as much of a waste of money as the tech’s hard sell made me think it was?

Thanks in advance!

I’m a PC guy, but I’ll try and help:

  1. Probably, but it’s hard to say. Clean the fan and see if that helps.

  2. Doesn’t the side of the tower open up with just a latch on the G4? IIRC, you should be able to swing open the side without even powering down (though I would). Not sure how durablwe the Mac fans are, but you may have well knocked it’s alignment a bit.

  3. I think you’re only supposed to use canned air on keyboards. I would be worried about throwing more of the eletronics off kilter spraying it around in the case. Normally I just give it a vacuum with a soft horse hair brush when I happen to have my PC case open for other stuff.

  4. Probably. I once saw an electronics salesman sell a lady a ‘component clean’ on a VCR… he then held a vacuum tube up to the fan exhast for 20 seconds or so.

Well, Apple authorized tech here, here’s what i do when i deal with a dusty tower…

take it outside, take some canned air and spray liberally until the dust is gone, don’t forget to blow out the power supply, a lot of dust builds up in there

as far as “knocking the fans out of alignment”, don’t worry, unless you break one of the fan blades off, you can’t damage them with canned air

make sure you keep vaccum cleaners FAR AWAY from computers, vaccums generate a static field and that can damage sensitive components

not familiar with CrapUSA’s cleaning policies, but their service departments are not well regarded by true computer repair shops, we had a crapusa tech at one of my old jobs, he had all the paper certs you could get, but he couldn’t troubleshoot worth crap, i’m sure some crapusa’s have competent tech staff, but my experiences with them have been largely negative

I’ve always used canned air. Vacuums don’t really do much, and you can accidentally knock a capacitor or something on a board. The main thing is to take it outside if at all possible. You’ll blast out plumes of dust, especially if you have pets. Just visualize the places you could go if you were dust (inside the power supply, behind the main board, etc.), and then spray away.

Don’t forget to blast the heat sink and fan on the processor, as dust will increase your cpu temperature. Clean out the floppy drive if you have one, and either turn the computer off with the cd tray open if you can, or use a paper clip to manually eject it and clean inside.

I’ve had buzzing noises in computers, and they were often some sort of cable that was vibrating against something, usually part of the case. Try running your computer with the case open and see if you can identify where the noise is coming from. It could be a wire, the fan, the cd tray, something the computer itself is touching, even the cover not being on properly.

I’ll second MacTech on this one – take it outside, open it up as much as possible, and go to town with the canned air. I do this every six months or so, and it can really extend the life of your components.

Watch for clumps of lint that cling to the pins on your boards, hide inside cable bunches, or underneath drives. The little red tube that comes with the canned air gets quite a workout when cleaning a computer.

One caveat: be careful not to turn the can upside down when you’re spraying hard-to-reach areas. Things’ll get frosty real quick.

Okay, so should I be caring where the dust goes when I use the canned air? Will I have to go through the interior and pick dust bunnies out of sensitive components after blasting the fans?

Oh, and MacTech, you misread my question #2. :slight_smile: That’s okay, though.