Tuesday, December 12

Cleaning a Computer

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A computer comes in different parts. If you’re using a standard desktop, you will have a CPU, a monitor and a keyboard (I’m not counting all the peripherals like printers and mice, although you probably have these as well.

Dusting is the first port of call for cleaning all parts of a computer. Dust getting into the system can cause computer malfunctions and crashes and even, in rare cases, fires. Keep your whole workspace dusted regularly. A damp rag works well, as does an old-fashioned feather duster. They say that ostrich feathers make better feather dusters for computers, as these are lower in static than chicken (or turkey) feather dusters or the nylon “feather” dusters. Don’t try to dust or vacuum inside your CPU – a regular vacuum cleaner’s nozzle is too wide and can damage circuitry. Some hardware technicians have a special small vacuum for doing this job – leave it to them! Dust the keyboard, the monitor and the CPU. And your desk! In this respect, make sure that the carpets in your office are vacuumed frequently, as this will reduce the overall amount of dust in your office environment.

The screen of the monitor will need cleaning from time to time. It’s amazing how much grime gets onto these screens – fly dirt, general dust and even finger marks (and, in the case of the old joke about how you can tell if a (insert nationality/hair colour to be picked on here) has been using your computer, correction fluid on the screen). Most monitors can be cleaned like you would clean any other glass surface, although using a spray-on product isn’t wise, as the spray can get onto and into the keyboard and other bits of hardware very easily. Apply the house cleaning fluid (or dilute vinegar) to a soft cloth or paper towel, then dry with a lint free cloth or crushed newspaper. My preference, however, is to use a microfibre cloth that has been designed for lenses, CDs and screens.

Keyboards seldom need much more than just the regular dusting to keep them working. However, it pays to know what to do if you spill coffee (or another drink) on your keyboard. Because no matter what good intentions we started out with, we all end up having coffee while working (or playing) on the computer. If you have a spill, act immediately. Unplug the keyboard and run it under the cold tap to rinse off any sticky residue. Never use hot or even warm water. After you have done this, let as much water as possible drain out of the keyboard. Then put the keyboard somewhere warm (e.g. in the sun or in a hot water cupboard) to dry, but avoid getting it too hot, such as in front of a radiator or fire. Wait until it has dried before using it again.

Computer mice are prone to not working correctly if they get dirty. Dust inside the mechanism can play havoc with a mouse’s function. The easiest way of dealing with this is “mouth to mouse resuscitation”, as I have heard this process described. Simply blow on the ball part of the mouse. This usually manages to get rid of any gunk. If you have an infra-red mouse mechanism, check from time to time that the lens is clean and dust-free. Blowing off the dust can work quite well, but if you can see stickier residue, use a cotton bud dampened with meths or white spirit (or vodka or even vinegar), or else a microfibre cloth to clean the lens.

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