Cleaning out your computer's hardware

The start of a new year means its time to perform desktop computer preventive maintenance. Performing routine maintenance may save money by preventing a future repair job and time by preventing system failure. What exactly should be done? Break it into two areas - hardware and software. This week we cover hardware.

First, give everything a good cleaning. Use a soft cotton rag and mild solution to wipe down everything; pay close attention to ventilation areas while doing so. Turn the keyboard upside down and shake out the crumbs. In the case of a mechanical mouse (those with a ball) open the bottom by removing the ring and clean the gunk from the rollers and the ball.

The next step is to clear accumulated dust inside the case. This step may not be easy for some people but it's important because the dust acts like a blanket causing the system to run warmer than normal which shortens system life. Please note: all electronics are sensitive to static discharge damage so do not directly touch any of the electronic components with your fingers.

Clearing the case requires a small brush and a can of air, called a "duster," available locally for about $5. Disconnect everything, place the computer on a flat surface and open the case. Use the brush to dislodge any built-up dust then take the computer outside blow the dust out with the duster. Replace the case cover, put everything back together and return the system to room temperature before turning it on.

The last step is to check the surge protector. Did you know that a cheap unit can still supply power but no longer provide protection after a surge? If your unit does not have a warning indicator consider replacing it with one that does.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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