Learning how to clean your computer is important, and it can help prevent your gaming PC from gathering dust and keep things running smoothly. Choosing the right PC case and making sure to manage cables in your rig helps, but you still have to roll up your sleeves and scrub your guts from time to time. Implementing a good PC hygiene strategy will ensure your machine looks the part, but it will also help increase fps and maintain peak performance while running the latest Steam games.
If you have researched how to clean your computer, you’ll probably be aware that it’s not like cleaning your room. Removing physical dust, dirt and grime from your gaming PC requires special care, especially if your rig is powered by the best graphics card. While cleaning your machine can feel daunting and tedious, it’s also a rewarding process that should help your parts live longer—an invaluable boon given the cost of ongoing component shortages.
To help you thoroughly clean your computer, we’ve put together a handy guide on how to clean your computer, including the tools and steps required to refurbish your PC. We’ll even give you some tips on how to clean up your hard drive and SSD, as digital dirt can be just as problematic as the dirt in your case.
How to clean your computer.
Tools for cleaning your computer
Before you embark on an electronic dust-blasting escapade, it’s a good idea to get your computer cleaning tools in advance. Not only will this help ensure you have the right weapons to wage war against your gaming PC’s dirty interior, but it will mean you don’t have to improvise – which can put your machine at risk.
Here’s what you need to clean your PC:
- Compressed air
- Q-tips (cotton buds)
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Microfiber cloths
- Face mask
If you plan to dust your PC inside the house, you should put away some old sheets. You may be surprised at how much dust and dirt resides in your machine, as there are many nooks and crannies for dust bunnies to hide in.
Using compressed air will help you blast compressed crud from its hiding place, with Q-tips and isopropyl alcohol acting as a way to clean delicate parts, like your expensive gaming motherboard.
Cleaning inside the computer
When it comes to cleaning your PC, you should start from the inside, as dirt from the inside can get to the outside of your case during the process. This way you won’t ruin your efforts by doing to the outside of your rig.
How to clean the inside of your gaming PC case:
- Put on a face mask
- Turn off the PC and disconnect all cables
- Move the PC to a flat, ventilated area
- Remove the PC case side panels and fan filters
- Use short bursts of compressed air to remove dust from the filters
- Wipe the remaining debris from the filters with a microfiber cloth
- Repeat the same steps for the inside walls and floor of the PC case
To tackle a rig with years of dust build-up, you need to take the components out of the case. This is essentially the opposite of how you build a gaming PC, meaning you should take similar precautions while handling your expensive parts.
You’ll also want to do this on a large, flat surface, but be sure to put something down to prevent cosmetic damage to your gaming console. Once you’ve removed the parts from your rig, you can start making them look shiny and new again.
How to clean the motherboard and PC parts:
- Use short bursts of compressed air to remove larger clumps of dust from the motherboard and graphics card
- Dip a Q-tip in isopropyl alcohol and gently clean the surface of the motherboard and other delicate areas
- To clean the fans, hold them steady and use compressed air to blow away stuck-on dust
- Wipe the PC cables with a microfiber cloth
It’s worth noting that although the power supply may collect dust inside the housing, you should think twice before opening one. Not only will this potentially void your warranty, but fiddling around inside high voltage parts is potentially dangerous. We suggest you simply use compressed air to clean the PSU without opening it, as you’d be surprised how far you can get without opening the shell.
Once you are satisfied with your cleaning job, you will reassemble the rig and replace the side panels and fan filters. If you’re a perfectionist, you might want to use a flashlight to inspect your work and find the places you’ve missed. However, it’s impossible to completely eradicate dust forever, so it’s best to just accept the fact that you’re going to do all this again in the future.
Clean the outside of the computer
Cleaning the outside of your rig isn’t as much of a chore as the inside, but a little polish can help your gaming PC shine. Keeping your computer case in top shape also helps prevent dust from getting into your case, which can make the whole process easier next time.
To clean the computer case:
- Use short bursts of compressed air to push dust from ridges and crevices
- Rub down the PC with a microfiber cloth, including removed side panels
- If your case has a glass panel, spray a small amount of glass cleaner on a microfiber cloth and wipe in circular motions
If you’re interested in the idea of describing the best PC case like a car, then there are some optional extra steps you can take. Although we advise against the use of extra-strength cleaners or solvents, adding a small spray of furniture polish to the microfiber cloth can visually rejuvenate your rig and help prevent dust build-up.
How to clean the hard drive
Now that you’ve spruced up your PC, it’s time to consider wiping down your digital space. Taking the time to clean your hard drive or SSD makes all the difference, especially if you want things to run smoothly. Fortunately, sanitizing your digital space doesn’t require a lot of elbow grease, and most of the tools you need are built into operating systems like Windows 11.
To get started, let’s remove potentially unwanted files and programs from your PC. If you’re using a prebuilt machine, you may find that it’s already clogged with software you don’t need. With that in mind, here’s how to uninstall programs on Windows 10 and beyond.
- Navigate to “Storage settings” using the search tool on the Windows taskbar
- At the top of the page, click “Apps and features”
- Click on the “Sort by” filter at the top and select “installation date”
- Scroll through the list of apps and remove any programs you no longer need
Windows Storage Manager can also help you identify unnecessary files, folders and apps, so you can quickly free up space. This can be useful if you’re using one of the smaller SSDs for gaming options out there, as it means you don’t have to do much to get new Steam games onto the drive.
In addition, you can also ward off nasty digital germs with the help of built-in Windows security. If you are not using a third-party security suite from the likes of McAfee or Norton, “virus and threat protection” should already be turned on.
To turn on Windows 11 security:
- Using Windows Search, navigate to the Windows Security app
- On the “virus and threat protection” page, select “manage settings”
- You will be presented with various services, including real-time protection
- Make sure each function is turned on with the green switches
Windows 11 will now keep an eye out for malicious files and software, and it will regularly scan the drive for digital dirt.
What can I use to clean my computer?
It may be obvious, but you should also be careful if you use water-based cleaning solutions. You can use soap and water to clean particularly dirty PC cases after removing components, but you need to make sure everything is dry before reassembling. Of course, you’ll want to clean electrical components with something like 99% isopropyl alcohol instead of a household cleaner, as this will help prevent residual moisture and chemicals from damaging your parts.
Can I vacuum my computer?
Refurbishing your PC may seem simple enough, but there are a few things you should avoid when trying to clean your computer. As tempting as it may be, don’t reach for the vacuum cleaner, as using one can generate static electricity and damage your parts. To remove layers of dust and compacted dirt, it is best to use a can of compressed air or an electric air cleaner designed for computer cleaning.
How often should I clean my PC?
You should clean your PC regularly, but how often depends on various factors. If you have pets or use your computer in a dusty environment, your computer will end up collecting more dirt than usual. Naturally, vacuuming and polishing the room’s floors and surfaces will tackle dust particles before they reach your rig. Beyond that, you’ll want to check in on your building every couple of months and give things a light cleaning.
How to keep dust off your computer
Dust is one of life’s domestic pains, and it can be challenging to keep it away from your gaming PC. Using the best PC fans is a good way to discourage dust build-up, as creating positive pressure in your case helps with exhaust residue. If your cooling setup creates negative pressure, it can draw in more air and foreign matter—a trade-off that’s often made to reduce CPU and GPU temperatures by a few degrees.