For a complete rundown
of essential tasks you can perform to keep your PCs optimized and healthy,
check out Tech
Toolshed’s Ultimate PC Preventive Maintenance Checklist
.

Even if you support PCs in a spanking clean environment,
your equipment will accumulate dust—the archenemy of electronics. And most
environments fall well short of spanking clean. So while it doesn’t have the
glamour of, say, protecting your company from a major virus outbreak, regularly
cleaning PC equipment plays a big part in preserving your systems. The
following seven steps represent best practices for keeping dust at bay and
equipment functioning optimally.

#1: Perform a periodic full system cleaning

Take the system apart and bring the canned air over. Remove
all dust and clean the external and internal surfaces of the computer to get
rid of dust and any other particles. Don’t neglect the power supply and CPU
fan, which are especially prone to accumulating dust. If you do not have a
cleaning product, you can make a simple solution of 1:1 rubbing alcohol and
water for external surfaces. Be sure to unplug the electronic components when
introducing a solution and allow it to dry fully. As always, when working
inside the case, make sure you dissipate static electricity.

#2: Clean the keyboard and mouse

Use a dust vacuum and the alcohol/water solution to clean
these dust- and dirt-collecting components. The keyboard can become very
unsightly and even send erroneous keystrokes if foreign particles become lodged
between keys.

#3: Run a CD-ROM cleaner

As with audio systems, CD-ROM drives can be cleaned with
special kits. This is especially useful if you are in a dusty environment.

#4: Clean the display device

Use a cleaner on the surface of the display unit to remove
fingerprints, dust, or other imperfections on the screen. Always spray the
cleaner on a cloth to clean a monitor rather then spraying cleaner on it
directly. If you’re cleaning an LCD, use a product designed for that purpose
and don’t press too hard on the screen. It’s also a good idea to take the
canned air to the vents on the top of monitor cases to get rid of accumulated
dust and dirt.

#5: Clean the floppy drive with canned air

A good blast of air can remove dust collections inside
floppy drives. Use covers/panels if your systems provide them to help keep dust
out of the drives.

# 6: Run a cleaning tape

If your systems have tape drives, run the cleaning tape
through to keep the tape heads clean.

# 7: Keep it covered

Use a keyboard, CPU, and monitor cover to keep dust out
of systems when not in use. If a system is used only partly during the day and
turned off most other times, plastic covers can keep dust and airborne
particulate out. Just be careful not to cover up a powered-on system in a way
that will block airflow, as this may cause thermal damage.

A little spit and polish

Cleaning PCs may not be the most interesting or challenging
part of your job, but it can improve performance and stretch the life of your
equipment. The next time you try to talk yourself into tackling a cleaning
chore, just remember that your efforts will translate into happier, more
productive users, fewer repairs and replacements, and less downtime.