(updated 12/12/2012)

Cleaning and Maintaining your PC

Cleaning the exterior and interior...

A very mild solution of soap and water and a soft cloth is all you really need to clean any exterior surfaces of your PC's components. A household product called Vim is great for removing set-in grime. Your PC should be OFF though, when you do this. Dry the surfaces well, with a second soft cloth, before powering up.

When cleaning your monitor, use a glass cleaner like Windex. Try not to accidentally change the adjustments while you clean. (If you find that your image is gone when you turn your monitor back on, check your brightness control.)

If, like some people, you like to put stickers on things, you may find that the plasticizer in the plastic surfaces will cause the gum of a label to go all gooey. You can use a product like Goo Gone to remove this mess.

If you'd like to remove really stuck-on labels, try a little heat from a heat gun. This seems to reactivate the adhesive long enough so that you can pull off the label in its entirety. You may have to reapply the heat a couple of times if the label cools and sticks again as you remove it. Do not overheat, or the plastic surfaces will melt and be ruined. This technique works well on floppy disks, video tapes, etc.

Mouse pads usually aren't necessary, but periodic cleaning of the underside and ball of your mouse is. If you find your mouse is not working as smoothly as it should, flip it over to see if dirt has been building up on its "feet". Dirt there can raise the mouse up until the ball can no longer make contact with the surface the mouse is on. You can also check inside where the ball is, to see if there is any buildup of dirt on the ball itself, or on the rollers that the ball is supposed to turn. You can simply wipe the ball off, and use a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean the rollers. (Let it dry totally before reuse.)

If your keyboard is dirty, you can vacuum any loose particles out of it with a standard vacuum. For stuck-on dirt, try this: disconnect and hold your keyboard up over a sink, in such a way that you still can lightly spray something like Windex onto its inverted surface. The spray will hit the surface and work on the grime, but will drip off and not down into the keyboard. You can then wipe off what remains with a soft damp terry cloth towel (the terrycloth will reach into many of the difficult places), while the keyboard is still inverted. Let it dry completely.

Smoking near a PC can cause an early death to electronic components of your PC - especially your hard drive. A sticky film will develop on all exposed surfaces, causing dust to cling. For cooling fans, this means slower and less-balanced spinning, or less cooling and a shorter life, for the fan and for the components the cooling protects.

For electronic circuitry, the acids in smoke will corrode the metals and reduce conductivity. In newer hard drives, the smoke particles are larger in size than the gaps between the heads and disk surfaces, and will cause damage there. The acids also eat away at the iron oxide on all disk surfaces (where your data is stored). This, of course, can result in everyone's worst nightmare - loss of data.

Paper dust and household dust can usually be controlled with normal housekeeping. You can use the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner to clean the cooling fan in the power supply at the back of your PC. You can "pop the hood" and blow the dust out of the inside, with a can of compressed air. Vacuum the dust up as it comes free. You should also make sure that your monitor, your printer and your "CPU" have reasonably good air circulation about them, to allow cooling.

There are products in the marketplace that you can get to keep your PC clean when not in use, like keyboard covers (and covers for your monitor, your "CPU", and your mouse). There is a product, it's like a plastic skin, that you install on top of a standard keyboard. You actually type through it, and when it needs cleaning, you simply wipe it off. A cover for your printer wouldn't hurt either, considering it sits idle a good deal of the time.

To clean your PC of viruses, you can get third-party anti-virus programs from companies like Symantec or McAfee. Update your list of known viruses regularly.

Dust covers are a good idea, for when your PC is not in use.

Cleaning up programs and data on your hard drive...

To clean up folders, files and email on your PC, follow this hierarchy...

1) throw unneeded folders, files or emails out altogether

2) make partially-needed folders, files or emails smaller (take out of them what is good, and move the good stuff into something else)

3) keep needed folders or files as-is, but rename them meaningfully, and place them somewhere where you can readily find them

Use Windows Explorer (right-click on Start) to work with files and folders. Work within your email manager to clean your email up.

Note : Windows Explorer makes for an excellent "desktop". You can double-click any file you want opened, and Windows will open the associated program so you can work with it. You can easily delete, rename, and move files and folders to increase your organizational level, and you can readily access all control and system settings as needed. Searches for files by name or content can also be performed.

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