How to clean up your laptop

In this project, we'll show you how to get inside and clean the guts of your laptop, and how to keep it looking spiffy on the outside, too.

What you'll need:

  • Hardware: Torch, can of compressed air, microfibre cloth, small Phillips head screwdriver, glass cleaner, and lint-free wipes
  • Software: Microsoft Windows

Step 1: Keep your cool
Computer components -- processors, graphics cards, and the like -- get hot when they run. To mitigate this, laptop makers put in elaborate heat sinks that absorb the heat generated by the processor. In addition, all but the tiniest models have at least a single fan; some bigger systems have two or even three. When the temperature rises above a certain level, the fans automatically come on to keep the laptop out of the red zone. Unfortunately, like all fans, the ones in your laptop will eventually end up covered in dust and dirt, and that could spell trouble.

An occasional cleaning will keep your laptop fans spinning effectively for years. But before you can clean them, you'll have to find them. Fortunately, in most cases, they're near the vents that are located around the edges of your case; these slats let cool air in and hot air out. Don't worry if they're covered in dust and lint, we'll get to that. Now you'll need to open up the laptop case.

Look for a few sets of screws, underneath the laptop near the vents. Remove the panel and look for the fans -- they're circular and plastic, usually about the size of a 10c piece, with a small propeller inside. Again, it may be covered with dust and lint.

Step 2: Dust bunny patrol
Now that you're inside the laptop, use a torch to look around for built-up dust and dirt. Using the eraser-end of a pencil or tweezers, pick off any nasty deposits you come across.

Start at the fan, then work your way to the ducts and vents. Look under the ribbon cables, around the hard drive, and near the tiny circuit boards. Grime can hide in the oddest places, like the processor's copper-coloured heat sink, so make sure you explore all the laptop's nooks and crannies.

Step 3: Air it all out
You've done the detail work, and now it's time to go big. Put on a dust mask, if you have one. Grab the can of compressed air and spray down the inside of your laptop. Go nuts. Blow out all the dust you can find. It won't be pretty, and you might want to have a vacuum cleaner running nearby to grab all the junk it as it comes out. Don't be surprised if a lot comes out of that little laptop.

Step 4: Shake, rattle, and roll
Now that you've made your first pass at cleaning out the inside, give your laptop a little shake to dislodge any particularly resilient dust and grime. Keep cleaning and shaking until nothing more comes out.

Step 5: Key to the crumb highway
Now that the inside of your laptop is as clean as a whistle, it's time to tidy up that nasty keyboard. Don't be embarrassed by what you find: Most keyboards have enough crumbs to feed a flock of pigeons for weeks. Use the can of compressed air to blow it clean, but be careful not to break any keys off.

Step 6: Tighten up
While you've still got the laptop open, give each of the major components a quick look to see if any are loose. A loose motherboard or hard drive can cause damage in the long run, so make sure all of the screws are tight and all of the cables are well connected. When tightening the screws, be careful not to overdo it -- gently tighten until you feel some resistance. When you're done, reconnect the access panels on the underside of your laptop.

Step 7: Clean your screen
All laptop screens are susceptible to nicks and scratches, and the latest glossy, high-contrast displays show off fingerprints that even Columbo couldn't miss. We like to give our screens a quick rubdown about once a week. You can use any brand of window cleaner so long as it doesn't contain ammonia or any harsh detergents. We're partial to Sprayway, because it gets all foamy and doesn't leave annoying streaks; unfortunately, Sprayway can be hard to find in some places, and you may have to make a special trip to a glass or mirror store to find it.

When wiping down the screen, stay away from tissue that leave lint behind or rough fabrics that may scratch the display. We recommend lint-free cleaning cloths, a soft cotton chamois or a microfibre cloth.

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Sally posted a comment   

My laptop turned off and won't turn on again, so maybe cleaning it might help?
I found where one fan is but I'm afraid to open up the laptop, there is a sticker that says "The lamp in this display contains mercury. Dispose according to local, state, and federal law."

 

Jack posted a comment   

Be sure to clean the radiator on the end of the system fan (cooler) - the one that blows the hot air out of the laptop. You have to take the fan out ... but it's not that hard (a couple of screws).
I removed a lot of dust and other things from my radiator and the system temperature went down about 20 degrees Celsius.

 

krugle posted a comment   

not a bad guide but people that should open laptops already know how to and people that shouldnt probly dont need to think that they can do it :P

 

lilmister posted a comment   

Ok this is nice but I'm scared to open my laptop. But anyway does cleaning my laptop relate to a problem of my laptop screen going green and fuzzy? Because recently when I'm using my laptop the screen goes green and fuzzy then everything stops working. It's been doing this for quite some time. Any help?

 

salieeee posted a comment   

any danger in shocking the internal parts when doing this? is it really ok to use a pair of tweezers to pick out dirt? and i have read in other places to wipe surfaces with isopropyl alcohol and a q-tip...

 

Sizzlor posted a comment   

My concern with opening up the bottom of my laptop would be voiding the warranty. If it breaks, it is unlikely the manufacturer would take it back




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