The Dangers of Dust: Can a Dusty Computer Really Cause Major Damage?


Dust layer inside the computer case


Did you know that 73% of U.S. adults own a computer or laptop? That’s a lot of computers that could be collecting dust.

You might be wondering what’s the harm in a dusty computer?

In this article, you’ll understand why it’s important to keep your computer clean and avoid dust.

Read on to discover the hidden dangers of a dusty PC and what to do to avoid it.

The Effects of a Dusty Computer

When you let dust buildup on your computer it can affect your computer’s performance.

The first way is it causes your computer to remain heated.

The second way is it makes it harder for the internal fans to remove heat from the system.

Computers Generate Heat

Computers are generating heat all the time. Even when you’re not using your computer, it’s still producing heat.

Problems happen when more heat is produced than it can get rid of. When dust builds-up, that’s one of the main contributors to a lack of heat dissipating.

Airflow Within the Cabinet Is Halted

Processor throttling slows down your computer to avoid overheating by using less power. When dust builds up inside the cabinet, then airflow within the cabinet doesn’t occur. This then leads to the parts becoming hotter.

If throttling doesn’t help, then various parts of your computer will shut down to avoid getting fried.

Vents get clogged and then the cooling fans have to work even harder to maintain a safe temperature. Dust also insulates the cooling surfaces of your computer, which makes heating worse.

Dirty Fans Can Damage Your Computer

If your computer is dusty or dirty, it will have a fan that’s louder than usual. The fan has to run at higher speeds to cool the components of your computer.

If it has gotten loud over time it’s due to dust and dirt, not the age of your computer.

A fan cools your system by blowing air into what’s called heat sinks which cool parts of your computer such as the CPU (Central Processing Unit). Heatsinks are metal blocks that are finned which get rid of the heat generated by the chip they are on.

If you decide to ignore any warning signs of your computer being dusty, it can lead to a complete system failure.

If you let a computer cool, it can start up again but it’ll just repeat the cycle of over-heating all over again.

This can ruin your computer, and corrupt the file system as well. If a computer goes quiet, that could be a bad sign as well.

How to Tell If Your Computer Needs to Be Cleaned

If you can see your computer is dusty or dirty, that’s an obvious sign it needs a cleaning. Your best option is to catch dust or dirt early to avoid any permanent long-term damage.

It’s important to properly maintain your computer and make sure everything is working efficiently.

Some signs your computer needs to be cleaned:

Is your computer fan running loudly? If the internal fan of your PC has a loud pitch or at a high speed, that’s a sign it’s not removing heat as well as it should. You can use a canister of compressed air to spray any dust out of the fan compartment.

Your computer looks dirty. If you can see visible dirt on your computer’s surface, that’s a good sign there’s probably dirt or dust inside as well. You can either clean it at home or get it professionally done.

Your computer feels hot. If your laptop or computer feels hot to the touch, it very likely is dusty.

What You Should Do

Before you open your system, you’ll want to vacuum dust and any dirt from the fan filters and vents. After this, you’ll want to wipe down all external surfaces with paper towels that have a spray cleaner on them.

Never spray the cleaner onto any surface.

After this is completed, open your PC up. To clean the inside of your system, you’ll want to vacuum all loose dirt and dust.

Don’t use a big or high-powered vacuum when cleaning inside the system. Make sure not to drag the hose while cleaning.

You’ll want to then remove the add-in cards from the PC’s system. Then, reset all the power and data cables. Once the cards are out of your PC you can use canned air.

The dust will fly everywhere during this part. Make sure to have the air hit all heatsinks and fans.

Make sure it’s opposite the direction of the fan’s airflow. If there’s still dust, you can use a brush to move and clean any dust. Once this is done, use the canned air again.

Any dust that’s really hard to remove you can use a microfiber cloth.

Don’t use a paper towel inside the system. You can also reapply thermal paste.

The thermal interface material (TIM) which is used between CPUs and GPUs and heatsinks breaks down over time and isn’t as effective at pushing heat away from your PC.

If you’d like to replace the TIM, remove it from the heatsinks and clean the old TIM from the heatsink’s base and the chip. You can use isopropyl alcohol for this part.

When the surfaces are clean, you can then apply the new TIM and replace the heatsink.

Next Steps For You and Your Computer

A dusty computer can lead to a damaged computer which no one would want, so make sure to take care of your computer.

Follow these steps to identify if something is wrong and to properly clean your computer as well.

Is your computer currently malfunctioning and you want to get it checked out? Contact us today to get your computer working like brand new!