How to Clean Your PC

Get rid of the dust collecting in your computer

What to Know

  • Remove the PC’s side panel. Use canned air to blow the dust off the components, working from the top down.
  • Blow fans from both directions. Blow dust through ports and catch with vacuum. Clean external peripheral connectors with cleaning gel.
  • Blow dust from CPU fan, peripheral cards, motherboard, and power supply. Replace the side panel and clean case exterior with alcohol.

This article covers the step-by-step process to properly clean the inside of a computer and its components.

How to Clean Dust From Your PC

Cleaning a PC is essentially just dust removal. Your tools are canned air, a computer vacuum and a dust mask. Cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol (for the case only) are optional.

The basic idea is to blow dust off of components while catching it with a computer vacuum if possible. Use alternate items like a dust cloth or a gloved finger in tough spots where the canned air doesn't do the trick.

Here's how to clean your PC:

  1. Disconnect your PC from power, remove all peripherals, and find a good workspace. Use a well-ventilated space, or have a good vacuum on hand to collect the dust as you go.

    A dirty PC witch cleaning supplies.

    Do not use a household vacuum cleaner on your computer. Using a household vacuum close to internal components carries the risk of damage from static electricity.


    The computer vacuum is to suck up dust as you go. Do not use the computer vacuum directly on internal PC components.

  2. Remove the side panel on your PC to gain access to the internal components. You may have to remove a couple of thumb screws, there may be screws that require a screwdriver, or your case may have some other type of fastening method.

    One of the case screws on a PC.
  3. Using canned air, start blowing off components. Work from the top down to avoid having to re-clean components as dust settles. Here we start by blowing off a fan that's located near the top of the case.

    Cleaning a PC fan.
  4. When cleaning computer fans, blow from both directions to remove the most dust.

    Blowing out a fan on a PC.
  5. In some cases, like when a filter is included, it's easier to vacuum vents from the outside and pick up any stubborn dirt or grit with a cleaning gel.

    Vacuuming fan vents on a PC.
  6. Blow dust off and through the external ports, starting at the top.

    Cleaning the external ports of a PC.
  7. Clean off the external peripheral connectors. If necessary, use a cleaning gel, cloth, or cotton swabs.

    In some cases, if dust is packed into the computer case, it may be necessary to use your hands (wearing gloves) to loosen up the dust before it can be removed.

    Cleaning external peripheral connectors on a PC.
  8. Blow dust off the power supply. In this case, the power supply is located at the bottom of the case. Yours may be located at the top, in which case you would start with it and work your way down.

    Blowing dust out of a power supply on a PC.
  9. If you have a CPU air cooler, locate it and remove the fan or fans.

    A dirty CPU cooler.

    

  10. Blow the dust out of the cooling fins from both directions.

    Cleaning a CPU cooler.
  11. Clean the dust from the CPU fan.

    Cleaning a CPU fan.
  12. Once the cooler and the fan are both clean, reassemble. Make sure you didn't accidentally unplug the fan from power.

    A reassembled CPU cooler after cleaning.
  13. Starting at the top, blow the dust off your peripheral cards and the motherboard behind them.

    Blowing off a video card in a PC.
  14. Some cards, especially video cards, are covered with shrouds and may include components like heat sinks and fans. Do your best to blow off both sides of your cards, out of any shrouds, and off any fans.

    Removing dust from inside a video card.
  15. Continue working your way down, blowing off any additional peripherals, the motherboard, and any additional fans.

    Blowing off a peripheral card in a PC.
  16. Continue working your way down. In this case, the power supply is near the bottom. Once you reach this point, you can blow out and clean the bottom of the case.

    Blowing dust off a power supply with a vacuum to clean up.
  17. Blow out the individual drive bays, catching the dust with a vacuum if necessary.

    Blowing out drive bays in a PC with a vacuum to collect dust.
  18. If your power supply has a filter, examine it to see if it's dirty.

    A dirty power supply fan filter on a PC.
  19. Blow off your power supply dust filter if necessary.

    Blowing off a PC fan filter.
  20. Clean the dust from the power supply air inlet by blowing off the internal fan, then use the computer vacuum or a cloth to remove the dust from the outside of the vent.

    Vacuuming off external PC vents.
  21. Reinstall the power supply fan filter.

    A cleaned power supply fan filter on a PC.
  22. Carefully ensure that you haven't accidentally unplugged anything, make sure your wires and cables are routed safely, and replace the side panel on your PC.

    A cleaned PC with the side panel removed.

What Parts of a PC Should You Clean?

Cleaning the exterior of your PC is a good idea just for aesthetics, but for the purposes of keeping everything running smoothly, you'll want to clean essentially every internal component.

When you finish cleaning your PC, there should be as little dust left as possible. Focus particularly on the fans and heat sinks, but don't stop there. Cleaning a computer isn't that difficult, especially when compared with cleaning a laptop, but you want to be methodical about the process.

When Is It Time to Clean Your PC Again?

If your computer starts running hotter than normal, that's usually a good sign that you've got too much dust buildup. The exact interval differs from one situation to the next, as factors like the amount of dust in your home or office, the type of flooring materials, and whether or not you have pets all come into play.

In general, you should plan on cleaning out your PC between one to two times each year. If you notice that there isn't much buildup after six months, then you're probably fine using a one year interval. If you find your computer is getting full of dusting less than 6 months, adjust your schedule accordingly and clean it as often as necessary to keep it running well.

Was this page helpful?