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A Good Way to Clean a Computer
(and a Computer Shop)

last updated: 3/28/02

I'll bet we spent a small fortune over the years buying canned air for our computer shop.  It's fine for road work, but mighty expensive for blowing the dirt and dust out of computers in for shop work.  I had always planned to purchase a regular, old air compressor, but never got around to it.  Besides, I think a compressor designed for construction/garage work would provide too much air pressure for computers.  Maybe they can be regulated?

If you use compressed air, do not spray it directly on a fan with the computer running or turn-on the computer right away after doing it.  It comes out of the can very cold and may cool a fan bearing so much that it will seize and wipe (ruin) the bearing.  It may damage other components as well if you "frost" them, especially while the computer is on.

There are specialized air compressors/vacuum cleaners for computers.  We bought one that looked like a small vacuum cleaner that had a strap so it could be carried around and used for road work.  It didn't work well, was cumbersome to use, and was inconvenient to load into a car for road work/or was forgotten.  So, we went back to canned air and the portable vacuum/blower went to the attic. We have always had a vacuum cleaner in our shop, but it never had enough oomph to do the job.

What works (in the shop)?   A plain old shop vac.  My Son bought me one for Christmas a couple of years ago.  It's a 10 Gallon Wet/Dry  ShopVac Model 4025 with a 2.5 HP motor.  Today, we had a computer in for work that was absolutely filthy (That's what happens when you put a tower on the floor for a couple of years).  It sucks dirt in through a slot in the bottom of the plastic on the front of most computers).  We were out of canned air, so THE Wife vacuumed it out with the shop vac and it did a fair job.  Then I said, "did you try putting the hose on the exhaust and blowing it out?"  "No," She did, and it did a better job (point the hose away from the computer when you first turn it on.  It may blow some stuff out of the vac at first--not much in our case.)  I said, "We need a wand attachment (you know, the flat crevice tool like the one in the picture used to clean between couch cushions)."  We couldn't find one (maybe one didn't come with the shop vac).  We tried the one from the regular vacuum, it fitted, and worked great--just the right amount of air pressure, and it doesn't blast stuff all over the work bench--if you vacuum first.  So, now one machine does it all.

By the way, canned air is a rather lucrative business.  If you start a computer shop you can expect phone calls from companies pushing it much like you will get from people trying to sell FAX paper and copy machine toner.  Not all of them are honest.  Most of them treat you like you must be a little slow.  Well, if you pay for air, you must be, right... Larry?

Copyright, Disclaimer, and Trademark Information Copyright © 1996-2006 Larry F. Byard.  All rights reserved. This material or parts thereof may not be copied, published, put on the Internet, rewritten, or redistributed without explicit, written permission from the author.