I have an old Power Mac G4 tower used at home as an Internet kiosk and personal information manager. A few weeks ago, I decided to open it up. To my amazement (accompanied by slight embarrassment), the internal components were coated in a sickening layer dust. My first thought: Ugh. My second thought: Hey, I could make a video out of this.

In this Macworld Video, you get to see the horror that lay before me. And then I’ll show you how to clean the dust out of a computer. It’s easy to do and won’t take a lot of time—unless your computer is a box of dirt like my Power Mac.

Download Macworld Video #81

  • Format: MPEG-4/H.264
  • Resolution: 432 x 320 (iPhone & iPod compatible)
  • Size: 9.8MB
  • Length: 4 minutes, 36 seconds

Show notes

There's always some risk involved when working on the internals of a computer. Don't do anything you're not absolutely comfortable doing yourself. Paying a professional is worth it if it gives you peace of mind.

Cleaning products I used:

  • Compressed gas (I call them “compressed air” in the video). You can find it in your local computer, electronics, or hardware store. Cost: $2 to $5 per can. I used two 3.5-ounce cans in the video.
  • Cotton swabs. I used the swabs to clean the gunk out of the internal fan. If you can get foam swabs, great, but cotton swabs are fine. I don’t like to use the compressed gas to clean the fan because it can make the fan spin faster than what it was design to, possibly damaging the fan. Some people remove the fan, use something to hold the fan blades in place (like a pencil), and then blast the dust out of the fan. But the fan in my Power Mac isn’t easy to remove and blowing the dust out would simply push the dust into parts of the computer I can’t reach.
  • Rubbing alcohol. Because the fan was extremely clogged, I used a little bit (don’t use a lot) of alcohol on the swabs. Don’t use the alcohol on the components. The compressed gas should be enough.
  • Paper towels. Used with a little bit of alcohol to mop up around my workspace and to clean the dust off the surface areas of the Power Mac.

Don’t use your home vacuum to suck up the dust. Vacuum cleaners can create static electricity, which is dangerous to a computer.

Speaking of static electricity, it's a good idea to ground yourself while working on the insides of a computer. PC World has some tips on how to do this and other ways to prevent static damage.

Always turn off your computer before you clean it. Don't clean a computer while it is on.

Earlier this year, senior editor Dan Frakes talked about his experience with a dust-coated graphics card. A good dusting helped solve his performance problems.

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