If your users keep their PCs on the floor or they operate in dirty environments, the dust bunnies can quickly take over. Don't believe me. Check out the dirty machines in our gallery of dirty computers.
Jody Gilbert, host of our 10 Thing blog, recently published a 10-point cleaning checklist for keeping equipment healthy. She reminds us that cleaning, although boring, is an essential part of regular system maintenance.
Yet as critical as cleaning is, I suggest you encourage users to try the following tips that will help keep their systems dirt-free in the first place.
- Don't keep the PC on the floor. I know this is a tough sell with many users. Tower cases naturally lend themselves to be placed on the floor, users often hate to give up their valuable desk top real estate, and older case fans can be a little loud. But, moving the computer off the floor is one of the best, and easiest, ways to keep the dust bunnies at bay.
- Keep the area around the PC clean. This can be tough in naturally dirty environments. (I know. I supported computers in coal-fired power plants.) Yet, most users should be able to regularly vacuum around their machines and keep the area generally free of dirt and debris. This includes the tangle of cords and cables that snake their way around most PCs.
- Keep your pets away from the PC. I'm not suggesting you kick Fido out of the house for the sake of a clean computer. But, it's a good idea to keep pets, particularly long-haired ones, away from the computer while it's running. Intake fans and cat hair just don't mix.
- Don't regularly eat or drink directly over or right next to the PC. I know almost everyone, including myself, violates this rule. But, it's worth repeating. If you ARE going to eat and drink near a computer, just make sure you're not directly over the keyboard or the computer's case. And, don't set that 64oz soda or nonfat, chai latte right next to the PC. This goes double for laptops.
- Keep your sticky fingers off the PC. This seems like common sense, but I've seen enough dirty keyboards and mice to know that too many people refuse to wash their hands before they sit down at the computer. Why? Where they suddenly inspired to finish that sales presentation while eating hot wings and couldn't take 5 minutes to use the sink—or at least a wet nap?
Of course, there are work environments in which equipment is bound to get dirty or worse—construction sites, industrial facilities, outdoor operations, and the like. These tips are not for them. Individuals who work in harsh conditions should have ruggedized equipment specifically designed for the given situation.
Yet the average office worker and home user would do themselves, and their IT support professionals, a big favor by following these simple steps to keep the dust bunnies from taking over their PC.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.