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  • Nick Thomas

Cleaning your computer

Just this last week, I had to replace the video card on a customers PC as it was starting to fail. It was an older card, but still, not a very common occurrence in my experience. Heat does terrible things to electronic components (actually, it does terrible things to organic components too - if you've ever seen marathon runner stumble across the finish line...) The components in your computer that generate the most amount of heat are your Processor and your video card (if you've got one), then your Power Supply Unit and your motherboard/hard drives etc. Your power supply has a LOT of surface area, so that doesn't really require a heatsink, just a fan to blow air through. Your Processor and video card though, that's a different story - observe:

The heatsink has (commonly) a copper core, surrounded by aluminium heat fins that allow heat to radiate and be taken away by the air the fans are blowing through them. If the heatsink fins are blocked, there's no airflow and the heat cannot dissipate as designed. In laptops this is very noticeable as the heatsinks and fan assemblies are small, so when they get blocked, the fan spins up such that you can really hear it. In the image above, the customers video card heatsink / fan is on the right hand side. The left is my processor heatsink - guess who's been a slack boy? Now I'm not saying that if you properly maintain your heatsinks your components will never fail, BUT if they've constantly overheating, I AM saying that it will significantly reduce their lifespan. What can you do about it? Call me. OR, you can take to it with a vacuum cleaner / brush. Place the vacuum NEAR it, then use a small paint brush to brush the dust away so the vacuum can suck it up - I wouldn't recommend attacking it directly with the vacuum, they aren't delicate beasts, but your computer is. There are also cans of compressed air you can purchase from hardware stores or computer stores - but they've come under scrutiny lately for their ingredients and the kids that get a high from 'huffing' them - you live and you learn eh? With compressed air or air compressors, however, just be wary of condensation for the air stream - short bursts are the key. When to do something about it? Check just before the onset of summer, different computers and heatsinks will clog faster for a lot of different reasons - proximity to pets, sand, coasts, construction sites, freeways, smokers and high-wind areas are some of the more prevalent red flags. If you feel confident to pop the side of the case off and have a look, by all means. If not, give me a call and I can sort you out. As always, if you've got any questions, give us a shout. Now... I've got a date with an air compressor...


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