Why & How to Clean Your Gaming PC
While Gaming PCs provide the adequate power to play most games on the market, they are not without their essential maintenance and cleaning requirements.
PCs accumulate dust in filters and components every 6-12 months, affecting performance through constricted airflow. Cleaning off this excess dust is paramount to maintaining marginally better airflow and heat dispersion—tactics for cleaning range from vacuuming, compressed air, or isopropyl alcohol and cotton balls.
This article covers how to clean your gaming PC and proper cleaning methods that should take 10-15 minutes to complete.
Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Your PC
The general steps to cleaning your PC include the prep work and the cleaning of internal components.
- Power Down & Unplug PC & Peripherals
- Open Case
- Vacuum / Blow Out Large Debris
- Wipe Down Components
- Vacuum / Wipe Down Peripherals
- Repeat Regularly
Here are the materials needed for doing a deep clean of components and case internals:
- Compressed Air
- Hand Vacuum
- Isopropyl Alcohol
- Q tips/Cotton Balls(Optional)
Power Down & Unplug Your PC & Peripherals
Turn off your PC, unplug your PSU power cable and move the PC to an accessible area. Getting into most nooks and crannies between the case fans, components, and heatsinks or radiators is essential.
Open up the Case
After opening up the case, find the locations of the majority of the filters for your case. Depending on the manufacturer, removable dust filters and fine mesh panels are the hardware that catches the most dust.
Vacuum / Blow Out Large Debris
Clearing off the front panel or dust filter is the first step in increasing the airflow of a system. Depending on your environment and dust generation, dust accumulations can look like this within a year of use.
Image Source: Reddit user u/chrisslyi
For this cleaning method, use either a vacuum for easy clean-up or compressed air while holding the filter in a trash can.
Radiators from AIOs and Water loops are also tricky by hand. The most effective way is a hand vacuum against the radiator fins to get a majority of dust out or apply compressed air.
Wipe Down with a Non-static cloth
Wiping down nooks and crannies inside the case clears the dust that sticks to the chassis.
Please Note: Using a cloth or a vacuum on components like the GPU, CPU cooler, Motherboard, or PSU have the potential for a small amount of static shock generation which can discharge in the system. Please only apply compressed air to sensitive components like the RAM, GPU, Motherboard, and PSU.
Using a finger is also effective as dust accumulates over the blades' entire base.
Vacuum / Wipe Down Peripherals
Peripherals like keyboards, mice, and monitors are the most durable to clean and maintain.
You can treat monitors with Isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth to eliminate fingerprints and dirt. Wiping the screen the same way can reduce smears with the fabric as multiple passes may be necessary.
Unlike other components, peripherals like the keyboard can be vacuumed and cleaned with isopropyl alcohol. Some tools like a Keycap remover are beneficial for exposing a majority of hair, dirt, grime, and foodstuff between the keys.
Rags and isopropyl alcohol can also clean mice with isopropyl alcohol and rags for the best result.
Doing this process every 4-6 months keeps the least amount of dust in the system. If not that, then every 8-12 months.
Contributions to dust build-up
Factors between case types and configurations contribute more or less to the accumulation of dust and the affected performance over time.
For example, let's look at the differences between the Corsair 5000D and Corsair 5000x
Between the two variations, the main difference is the glass panel covering all sides. This glass on the 5000x restricts airflow but is an excellent showpiece for PC components and wire management. Extended use in a somewhat dusty environment only encourages increasing temperatures as dust blocks air intake.
This leads to cleaning more glass cases than airflow-oriented cases. Every case still requires cleaning, but airflow-oriented cases tend to last longer without affecting performance or hear dispersion.
Why You Need to Clean Your PC
Besides the constant hampering of performance via dust, there are multiple benefits to cleaning and maintenance not obvious to budding enthusiasts.
Components Get Dusty & Affect Performance
As stated above, dust accumulation happens at different rates over months or years, depending on the environment. Overall, cleaning a PC case every few months is an excellent habit for getting the best performance.
Gamers Nexus has a great video regarding the performance differences between clean and dirty radiators. A difference between 1-5 degrees Celsius will contribute to a small amount of thermal throttling. Here is a graph showing the slight increase in performance between a 240MM radiator being clean or dirty.
While this may not seem significant in the grand scheme of the user experience, most variables like airflow and components contribute to the FPS experienced by the user in the game.
Too Much Dust Can Harm Components
While dust can affect the case's airflow, it can stop parts from functioning in extreme cases. Years of neglect lead to massive dust accumulations past the vents and dust filters, clinging to the fans, heatsinks, and most importantly, internal fans like the chipset fan and PSU housing.
Cutting off circulation through dust prevents components from functioning and puts other components in harm's way.
Peripherals Attract Bacteria
While not an issue in an arid environment, humidity and airflow can be a great bed for bacteria to grow in the crevasses of peripherals. Keyboards are the worst offenders as foodstuffs left unattended for months or years even start to produce mold.
Isopropyl alcohol and rags are efficient ways to deal with mold or bacteria from heavy use.
Whether you are looking to get into essential maintenance for performance or give your PC a dust-free facelift, there are multiple reasons to clean out dust and debris. Compressed air and Microfiber cloths are the best methods to do so, with an expedition being a vacuum cleaner for only certain parts of the case due to static electricity.
At Apex Gaming PCs, we assemble all our gaming prebuilts from components out of boxes from manufacturers in air circulated facility. Before packaging, all PCs undergo a cleaner and microfiber cloth treatment before shipment. Whatever your cleaning standards and needs, we hope to fulfill them at Apex!
Written by William Wilson
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