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The Green Computer: Dust

Submitted by on Friday, 9 October 20094 Comments

Green ComputerThis week’s tip is a quickie, but it’s one of my favorites: clean out your computer. Over time, your vents and fans get clogged with dust bunnies and pet hair, so air can’t circulate to keep the inside cool. This is bad for three reasons. First, it means the fans have to spin faster, using more electricity and generating more noise. Second, if the temperature gets too high, your computer’s thermal protection might kick in, deliberately slowing down the processor until the temperature drops. Third, hot computers wear out faster, becoming more prone to crashes and hardware failures as the temperature rises within.

What you will need:

* A dusty computer that can be easily opened. Most laptops aren’t designed to be user-serviced, unfortunately, but desktops can typically be opened by loosening a few screws or latches.
* A screwdriver or other necessary tool to open the computer case.
* A can of compressed air (available at any computer, electronics, or office supply store).
* A vacuum to clean up afterwards. (Might as well clean your desk, too, while you’re at it.)
* Common sense.

The common sense part: Poking around inside your computer can be dangerous! It goes without saying you must turn off the computer before proceeding, but even when the power is off, you can get a deadly shock if you touch the wrong parts. The highest voltage is contained inside the power supply, which looks like a rectangular box with a fan inside located near the AC power connector. Never open up the power supply or poke anything inside of it. Please consult the owner’s manual for additional safety tips and detailed instructions on how to open the case without breaking anything.

So now your computer is laying wide open, and you are marvelling at the impressive dust bunnies. Before you go poking around, though, you need to discharge any static electricity stored in your body. (The little zap you get from touching a metal doorknob can really fry the insides of your computer.) You can discharge yourself by touching the metal case of the computer with one hand, or buying one of those dorky elctrostatic wristbands if you want. Static is also the reason you shouldn’t vacuum the inside of your computer (unless you have an anti-static vacuum designed for electronics).

Now, you can carefully blow the dust from anyplace it’s gathered. You want to use quick blasts of compressed air; a concentrated stream is not necessary. The fans and air vents are the obvious places. Carefully clean any heat sinks, which look like metal grilles or fins and are very important for dissapating heat from your CPU.

Once your computer is clean inside, you can simply close it back up and turn it on. A clean computer is a green computer!

Next time, we will go green by making a tiny change to an everyday routine. See you then!

Matthew Edward Liston is a writer, editor, musician, and green computing consultant located in the rural hill towns of New York. You may contact him through the comment field below or at www.matthewliston.com.


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