PCWorld - Computers may have become a lot more user-friendly over the past decade, but they’re still far from perfect—PCs require a certain amount of configuration and maintenance to operate at their full potential. Unfortunately, because we humans are also far from perfect, we frequently don’t put in the work we should, and we end up with a slower, sloppier, less secure machine as a result.
No more excuses! Whipping your PC into the best shape it can be requires but a dozen simple tasks. None are complicated, most take a matter of minutes, and all will have a major effect on how well your computer works for you. Even better, by the time you’re finished you’ll never have to worry about doing many of these tasks again.
Clean the case, keys, and displayThe first task is the most basic: Are you keeping your computer clean? It’s not just important because a dirty PC looks gross, or is less pleasant to use. Simply put, a clean computer can last longer. Dirt and dust buildup in and around your computer can clog the fans and air intakes, causing your hardware to run hotter, which lowers its expected life span. So if your PC is looking a little musty, take the time to clean it.
To do so, you need to have only a few things on hand: a Phillips-head screwdriver, a can of compressed air, paper towels, and rubbing alcohol.
Once you’re ready to begin, shut down your computer, unplug it, and move it somewhere with a little open space in which to maneuver. Look on the back panel, and find the screws that hold the case’s side panels in place. Unscrew them—making sure to put them someplace safe—and remove the side panels, usually by sliding them backward and then pulling them away. If you haven’t cleaned the computer in a long time, you should immediately see some areas where dust has collected.
You’re likely to find the most dust bunnies on the fans inside the computer and on the vents outside. You can remove a lot of dust simply by wiping the fans gently with a paper towel, and by using a lightly dampened paper towel on the vents. Once you’ve wiped away any piled-up dust, use the can of compressed air to blow the dust out of the inside of any heat sinks, such as the one attached to the CPU or the graphics card. Use the air to clean out remaining dust from the system’s various fans too, but be careful: A sustained blast of air can overspin the fan, damaging it. Either use short bursts of air or hold the fan with your finger to prevent it from spinning. Afterward, clean out any other dust you see inside the case.