Own a Dirty PC?
We've spent a lot of time talking about protecting personal computer files, because not doing so is an invitation to disaster. Still, how do we protect that most valuable of investments, the PC, from a premature rendezvous with fate? In recent years, the trend has been to replace PCs more often than car buffs replace their cars. Usually, new PCs are faster, smaller, and cheaper, so it just make good sense. Right? Raised by children of the Great Depression, I find the trend amusing and disturbing. The reality is that, if not for the evolution of software, computers could run for decades. In fact, I've seen PC's running business applications, 15 and 20 year after going into service. There are, of course, caveats to how they accomplish these feats.
Firstly, many of these DOS-based PCs work in relative isolation, with little or no access to other computers or the Internet. In the not too distant future, the PC simply will not work in the absence of an Internet connection, making this a moot point.
More importantly, these “ancient” personal computers are well maintenance, free of excessive dust, heat, and humidity. Unfortunately, their home-based cousins rarely enjoy such accommodations. PC's run better and longer when they are clean. Laptop owners may be surprised to learn that the hotter a laptop gets, the slower it runs. This is part of their design. Unfortunately, the dirtier the laptop inside, the faster it heats up and hotter it gets. Whether a PC has a dozen fans (such as Laura's) or none as is common in newer, smaller laptops, they all collect dirt. Vacuuming out the keyboards and fans at least as often as one vacuum the house is imperative. Don't know where the vacuum cleaner is kept? Then let's say every few weeks.
Keep a couple of cans of compressed air on hand. Use it to dislodge debris the vacuum can't pick up. Feel confident enough to do so, open the side panel to the desktop computer and blow out the dust that collects on the microprocessor fan, motherboard, and between the drive. Don't touch anything inside and unplug it from the wall before opening it. If the laptop has a fan, PC card slot, removable drive bay, or battery, remove the component and blow compressed air inside the openings. Of course, turn if off and unplug it before starting. Don't forget the fan to the power supply. More computers die prematurely from overheated power supplies than can be counted. I've seen more power supplies pulled from computers weighing significantly more than when they were installed. Power supplies are the perfect lint collectors.
The rule of thumb for cleaning a PC is “as often as it needs it.” If the PC is in a sewing room or other area where a lot of lint and dust is created or collects, check the PC more frequently. No matter how frequently a room is cleaned, if the PC runs for extended periods of time it picks up whatever is in the air.
A routinely cleaned PC will not guarantee a 15 or 20 year run. Still, a clean PC can mean the difference between buying that next computer when it's convenient or when it unexpectedly stops working.