Compressed air is extremely useful in cleaning dust from a PC or any electronic device. However, it may not be readily available in your location. Or you may find it wasteful to buy several cans of compressed air to periodically clean your computer.
While using an air compressor or compressed air is the most convenient, it doesn’t mean that there are no other ways of cleaning your computer. In this article, we have provided a detailed guide on how you can do so using some readily available tools.
How to Clean Dust From PC Without Compressed Air
Here is the step-by-step guide on cleaning dust from a PC without compressed air:
Things You Need
Here, we have listed some of the things you may need if you want to clean dust from a PC without compressed air. It’s okay if you don’t have all of them as we’ll account for those cases in the actual cleaning sections.
- Electric air duster or vacuum cleaner
- Silicone blower
- Electrostatic discharge (ESD) safe soft-bristle brushes (not rubber or metal ones)
- Microfiber cloth or lint-free paper towel
- Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol
- Cotton swabs and toothpicks
- Antistatic mat, band, and bag
Disassembling the PC
The first thing you should do is disassemble the PC and remove the internal components from the PC case. Here’s how you can do so:
- Shut down your PC and remove the power cables.
- Disconnect all peripherals from the PC case.
- Remove the side panel of the case and rest it on the table.
- You usually need to unscrew and slide the panel to remove it. However, you may need different steps depending on the device.
- If you have an antistatic band, wrap it around your wrist first to ground yourself and prevent the internal components from damaging due to electrostatic discharge.
- Disconnect all the PSU cables connected with the motherboard.
- Unscrew the motherboard and take it out.
- We recommend you keep it on the cardboard box it came with or an antistatic mat. Placing it directly on the table may make it susceptible to electrostatic discharge.
- If removing the motherboard is not easy, you can first disconnect the large components such as the fan or heat sink.
- Remove any other devices that are not directly joined with the motherboard such as hard disk device (HDD) and case fans.
- Then, remove the Power Supply Unit (PSU) by unscrewing it from the case. You may need to remove another panel of the PC case to remove the PSU. Then, place it on the antistatic mat as well.
Cleaning the Fan and Heat Sink
After disassembling the PC, the first things you need to clean are the fans and the heat sinks.
We have divided the necessary steps for the process into further subdivisions for your convenience:
Disassembling the Fans and Heat Sink
- Remove the Fan header from the motherboard.
- Disconnect the CPU fans and the heat sink from your motherboard. You don’t need to get to the GPU fan yet.
- The heat sink may be stuck with the CPU IHS if your thermal paste has dried out. You need to gently wiggle the heat sink to unstick it.
- Then, place the heat sink and the fans, including the case fans away from the other PC components and even yourself.
- Disconnect the fan from the heat sink by unscrewing its screws.
Cleaning the Heat Sink
- First, you need to apply isopropyl alcohol to the microfiber cloth and wipe off the thermal paste from the bottom of the heat sink.
- After that, use an air duster or vacuum cleaner to clean the rest of the sink. You can use the vacuum cleaner to blow out the air or draw it in. We recommend using the flat nozzle if you are using a vacuum cleaner.
- Make sure to use different angles while cleaning to reach all possible surfaces.
- If you don’t have an air duster or vacuum cleaner, you can use a brush to scrape away the dust. Then, wipe the dust with a lint-free paper towel or a microfiber cloth.
- If the fins contain a thick layer that you can’t remove by using the above steps, you may need to wash the heat sink (only the aluminum block) using running water. If there are sticky gunks on the fins, you should wash the sink with soap and water first.
- Then, leave it to dry for 24-48 hours.
- If some dirt or dust still remains, dip the cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol and clean between the fins.
Cleaning the Fans
- Hold the blades of the fan in place with your fingers or by using a small wooden stick.
- Blow the dust away with the air duster or vacuum cleaner.
- Then, gently use the brush to dust away the fan on both sides. Also, clean the fan housing in the same way.
- Use the air duster again after brushing the fan if there’s still a lot of dust.
- After that, use the microfiber cloth or the lint-free paper towel along with 70% isopropyl alcohol to wipe the fan blades, housing, and cables.
Even if you have a liquid AIO cooler, you can use similar steps to clean it depending on your setup. Then, put your heatsink as well as fan/cooler on a cardboard box to prevent them from getting dusty while you are cleaning the other components.
Cleaning the CPU
After cleaning the fans and heatsink, you can start cleaning any other internal component. However, we recommend cleaning the CPU first as you need to remove the thermal paste.
Before you begin, make sure to wear an antistatic band around your wrist to ground yourself. Then, follow the steps below to clean the CPU:
- First, you need to clean the exposed thermal paste above the CPU. You can drop a little bit of isopropyl alcohol on the microfiber cloth and clean the paste with it.
- Then, unlatch the CPU from the motherboard.
- Wipe all of its surfaces gently with the cloth. However, if it’s an AMD CPU, it contains pins, so you need to use a soft-bristle brush to clean it. You can also use isopropyl alcohol with the cloth and the brush for deep cleaning.
- Now, use the brush to clean the CPU slot. Don’t use the duster and the vacuum cleaner as they generate a static charge.
- If the brush can’t remove all the dirt, use a silicone blower alongside the brush.
- After cleaning the CPU, place it inside an antistatic bag or the box it came in. If you don’t have those, you can place them back inside the CPU slot and fasten the latch.
Cleaning the Motherboard and Other Components
Now, you need to clean your motherboard and all other internal components such as the GPU, RAM, SSD, HDD, Wi-Fi card, and so on. Here’s how you can do so:
- Disconnect all the cables connecting the internal components such as SATA devices or Wi-Fi cards to the motherboard. Also, make sure you know where everything goes for when you need to reassemble it afterward. You can capture a photo if you need help remembering it.
- Then, unscrew all the connected components, remove the parts and place them on the antistatic mat.
- You can remove the GPU and RAM by pulling apart the latches on their slots. They should pop out if you properly pull the latch. Other components should come out quite easily.
- Wipe them clean using isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth. You can use a brush to clean the GPU fans as well as other places you can’t reach with your hands.
- If there’s any gunk that is hard to remove, you can use the cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol or the toothpick to gently scrape it.
- Clean the cables and the connectors as well.
- Then, place the parts inside the antistatic bag or any cardboard box.
- After that, clean the motherboard in the same way (steps 4-5).
- You need to clean the slots using a brush and/or a silicone blower. If you are using just a silicone blower, make sure to align it parallel to the slots and use different vertical angles to blow the air.
- Now, clean the ports on the motherboard using a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. As same as always, if there’s any stuck gunk, you can gently scrape it away using a toothpick and then use the cotton swab again.
- After cleaning the motherboard, place it inside the antistatic bag or its packaging box.
Cleaning the Power Supply Unit
To clean the PSU, you also need to disassemble it if you are not using compressed air. Here’s how you can do so and clean this device:
- Unscrew the PSU frame.
- Then gently pull it off. You can’t completely remove it as the fan is connected to the top portion and its wire with the bottom.
- So, disconnect the fan connector to disassemble the PSU.
- If the connector can’t detach, you need to unscrew the fan from the top frame. Be gentle with the fan as it is still joined with the rest of the circuit.
- Use the duster or vacuum cleaner to clean the fan, the circuit, and the cables.
- Then, use the brush and microfiber cloth to clean the rest of the dust. You should also use isopropyl alcohol along with the cloth and the brush for a more thorough cleaning.
- You can use the brush to clear the dust out of hard-to-reach spots.
- Spread apart the cables and clean them in the same way.
- Now, wipe both surfaces of the PSU case with a microfiber cloth and isopropyl alcohol.
- Let the parts dry out for a bit of time. Then, reassemble them in the same way you took them apart.
- After cleaning the PSU, put it in a cardboard box.
Cleaning the Case and Dust Filters
Since you have cleaned all the internal components, now is the time to clean the PC case. To do so,
- If your PC case contains removable dust filters, you need to remove them to clean them better.
- Use the drier or the vacuum cleaner to clean the case and the filters.
- Then, wipe the remaining dust using isopropyl alcohol and a brush or microfiber, or any lint-free cloth.
- If the dirt and dust are blocking the holes on the filter, you can use a toothpick to gently poke the holes and unblock them. Then, wipe it away using a cloth.
Finishing Up on the PC Case
Now that you have cleaned the dust from your PC, you need to reassemble it. You can follow the reverse of the dismantling process. However, make sure that all the components are dry.
You also need to reapply thermal paste on the CPU. Use a pea-sized amount and carefully lower the heatsink onto the CPU.
After cleaning the PC case, you may want to clean your peripheral devices as well. You can do so easily by using a dry cloth. If they are very dusty, you can also use mild cleaning liquids. Additionally, if you want to clean a mechanical keyboard, you can pull off keys and remove the dust and grime in the same way.