Keeping dust out of my computer

In an attempt to reverse years of apartment chaos, I’ve begun a frenzied housecleaning and renovation campaign that would rival the space program. In yesterday’s phase of the work I rearranged my computer station. I evicted the CPU off my desk and gave it a new parking space on the floor.

I used the opportunity to open up the unit and give it a good cleaning inside. Now, it should be stated up front that I’m not the neatest guy in the world. Sometimes I let the the dustbunnies breed like, well, bunnies. So I was expecting to find some dirt in there – this is a 5 year old machine after all. Well, call up the producers of Dirty Jobs! It was like the inside of a used vacuum cleaner bag!

Being very careful with a vacuum, paintbrush and blowdrier, I managed to get out all the fine, black slighty greasy dust I could reach before sealing 'er back up.

But now I thinking: this thing is going to get *ten times * as dirty sitting on the floor where the dustbunnies really rule. So, is there something I can do to minimize future dust intake, like taping some air-conditioner type filter foam over the muffin fans and/or in the vents?

Yes, it will probably be exposed to more dust down on the floor. I’ve found that even a slight elevation (I have mine on a board with casters, which raises it up about 1-1/2 to 2 inches) will help it avoid dust.

And you can add filter foam over the fan intake vents. But this may be worse on your computer. If the foam restricts the airflow, or you don’t change it often enough, and the dust-clogged filter starts restricting the airflow, you’ll cause overheating problems that are much worse for your computer.

So only do this if you plan to maintain these added filters regularly.

I’m a contrarian on this one. How much harm was the dust doing? Damn near zero., if not zero. And that was 5 years’ accumulation.

So my advice is put it on the floor, plan to blow it out again in just 3 years & quit worrying about stuff that just doesn’t matter. By then it’ll be 8 years old and you may have replaced it already.

By the time the dust kills the computer, it’s time to get a new one anyway. Don’t worry about it.

I duct tape dryer sheets inside my computer’s intake vents; with good fans this doesn’t really hurt my case temp. I swap the dryer sheets out maybe once a month. The amount of dust they trap is negligible, but I guess it builds up. An annual cleaning (or a cleaning whenever you change out internal hardware) is probably a good idea.

      • You forgot to use a can of air and blow out the heatsinks.
  • Most case companies don’t seem to have given onboard-filtering too much thought, and most people into building high-end or low-noice PC’s will just tell you to accept cleaning dust out every couple months, because there is no good solution. Most cases that have filters at all have them concealed behind some sort of cover, when ideally you’d want them right out on the front of the case, where you could easily see whenever the filter needed cleaning. And they can be a hassle to remove for cleaning; some upper-end cases now come with onboard filters that are halfway convenient (upper-end Antec, Coolermaster and Lian-Li) but most that have any accomodation for filtration at all have a slot on the inside of the front plastic bezel for a piece of foam you have to get somewhere yourself. You often have to take off one or both of the case sides just to remove the front bezel. They bill it as a “feature”, but it seems very much just an afterthought. Much of the lower-priced Antec cases have this, as do the Chenming and Chieftec cases (which appear to be built using the Antec tooling of previous models).
  • If you have a filter, it’s a good idea to run a temperature monitoring program; as the filter gets dirty the airflow slows down and the temperatures rise. Your motherboard manufacturer may have one tailored to your specific mobo, or there are free/generic ones available.
    SpeedFan is the name of one popular free temperature-monitoring program. It can also be used to throttle (slow down) fans on many motherboards.
  • Alternately it is now possible to build a fanless PC without spending a fortune or resorting to water cooling. Such a PC is not so good for 3-D gaming really, but for general office and internet use it does fine and is basically silent, the only noise at all would be the hard-drive. These setups basically cool by convection and draw so little airflow that dust accumulation is not normally considered to be a problem.

I think the best thing you can do is clean your apartment weekly. Comes with the added bonus that girls will like you better that way :smiley: . Otherwise, use a toothbrush when needed, or switch to water cooling or peltier elements.

This reminds me of a question I’ve always had about dust inside computers. Why is it so greasy? Anyone who’s cleaned the inside of a computer can tell you that the dust isn’t just normal “dry” dust. It’s greasy, it get’s on your hands, cloths, the carpet, the wall behind the computer. It’s almost like mud. Why is that?

You could seal up your computer completely in saran wrap.

Don’t, though. It’d probably kill it.

I don’t know. When I clean off the dust inside my computer, it’s just dry dust. I use a combination of compressed air and a vacuum cleaner. No, I don’t stick a vacuum hose into my computer. Maybe once a year, I blast the dust out with air and suck it away with the vacuum. Computer has been sitting for five year on the floor with no problems.

I usually see that kind of dust only when working on a computer that was in a smoker’s house.