Cleaning your PC with a vacuum cleaner

In summary: Air in either direction...intake or output...it is important to take into account the type of machine, the type of dirt, and the material being blown off.
  • #1
fawk3s
342
1
It is said that its not good for your computer to be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner (the inside) as long as the vacuum cleaner is on "intake" mod. If there is, however, an "output" mod, then its ok. I don't entirely understand this. I understand that the moving air can easily charge up the components of the PC, and it can be harmful, but how does it matter of whether its moving from a high pressure zone to a "normal" one, or from the "normal" one to the low pressure zone?

As my computer has both intake and output fans, this confuses me a tad.
At first, I thought that when using the "intake" mod, the tip of the vacuum cleaner/the metal "pipe" would naturally be held closer the the components, and when the pipe gets charged up by the air, it can, maybe partially, induct charges on the components aswell. But I am not sure this is correct.

Any ideas? I have to admit that I am not entirely positive about this myth though. But I've heard about it.

Thanks in advance,
fawk3s
 
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  • #2
blowing air onto something > applying suction to sensitive little components

how is this hard...?
 
  • #3
Incase you didnt notice, the myth is about how random charges can be harmful, Sherlock.
 
  • #4
G037H3 said:
blowing air onto something > applying suction to sensitive little components
"Sensitive little components" ? Surface-mount components (like those found on modern motherboards) are very durable. You could run a vacuum over them with no issues if you take care not to bend any pins or leave any material that could cause a short.
 
  • #5
My graduate advisor fried 2 of our lab computers trying to clean them with a blower. It blew some dust into the hard drive enclosure and jammed it. My recommendation is to just leave it alone.
 
  • #6
fawk3s said:
Incase you didnt notice, the myth is about how random charges can be harmful, Sherlock.

but why would you make that assumption?

*tokes on pipe*

"Sensitive little components" ? Surface-mount components (like those found on modern motherboards) are very durable. You could run a vacuum over them with no issues if you take care not to bend any pins or leave any material that could cause a short.

If some components or chips are loose, but still working, then applying suction could end badly.

My graduate advisor fried 2 of our lab computers trying to clean them with a blower. It blew some dust into the hard drive enclosure and jammed it. My recommendation is to just leave it alone.

canned air exists for a reason ^_^
 
  • #7
G037H3 said:
canned air exists for a reason ^_^
In this case it wouldn't have made a difference. The dust that jammed the drives was not dust that was sucked into the intake, but dust that was already covering the components. It got blown off of some other component and into the hard drive.
 
  • #8
DaleSpam said:
In this case it wouldn't have made a difference. The dust that jammed the drives was not dust that was sucked into the intake, but dust that was already covering the components. It got blown off of some other component and into the hard drive.

Well, I'm certainly not recommending just blowing air into a computer; that would just move the dust around. I assumed that the case would be opened first.
 
  • #9
I can't imagine blowing a dust into a HDD, they look quite tight.

And I use vacuum cleaner to clean interior of my computers for as long as I can remember - that would mean over 20 years. No problems ever. Not that I do it very often, but probably on average I have to open all each computer once or twice a year for some kind of servicing, and each time there is so much dust inside I clean them before I even touch the components.
 
  • #10
G037H3 said:
blowing air onto something > applying suction to sensitive little components

how is this hard...?


Why? You explained nothing, and then followed it up with a jab at the OP's intelligence?
 
  • #11
G037H3 said:
but why would you make that assumption?

*tokes on pipe*

It wasnt my assumption. Its what the myth is about. I am sorry if I wasnt clear enough.
 
  • #12
fawk3s said:
It wasnt my assumption. Its what the myth is about. I am sorry if I wasnt clear enough.

No problem at all, I should have responded to that bit. I've never heard of that myth, or possibility of something like that happening.
 
  • #13
I clean computer interiors and exteriors professionally with a blowpipe attached to an airline.

On the rare occasions I only hace access to a vac cleaner (eg on location away from the workshop) I use them, but find them clumsy and ineffective comapred to an airline. Particularly in the removal of sticky grime.

Any hard d rive that was damaged by having dirt blown over it was either already faulty or an abnormal drive. They are (should be) hermetically sealed.

If using air in either direction you should be careful to still the fan so that the airflow does not spin the blades so fast it damages the bearings or generates sufficient back emf to damage electronic components.
 
  • #14
I've used an electric leaf blower (huge blast of air, but keep nozzle 2 to 3 feet away from computer) to clean out a few computers (sides of cases off). Other than being careful not to overrev the fans, I haven't had any issues. Maybe I just got lucky so far, haven't done this enough time to warrant recommending it.
 
  • #15
G037H3 said:
Well, I'm certainly not recommending just blowing air into a computer; that would just move the dust around. I assumed that the case would be opened first.
:rolleyes: obviously we removed the case
 
  • #16
Borek said:
And I use vacuum cleaner to clean interior of my computers for as long as I can remember - that would mean over 20 years. No problems ever.
Do you use suction or positive pressure?
 
  • #17
DaleSpam said:
:rolleyes: obviously we removed the case

Hey, I can't know that for certain. It's entirely possible to blow or suck air out of a case through the opening for the fan.
 
  • #18
Studiot said:
Any hard d rive that was damaged by having dirt blown over it was either already faulty or an abnormal drive.
Could be, it was an old cheap western digital. I have had more "normal operation" failures with western digital than any other manufacturer I have used. So it could have just been coincidence.
 
  • #19
It's been my company's experience that the current generation of 150G to 500G Western Digital drives are quite a bit less reliable than some others.
A pc brought in with a failed /failing WD hard drive much more common than one with a different make.
I tend to fit Hitachi, (they bought the old IBM drive business) they seem pretty good at the moment.

You will find most companies that process large numbers of pcs use an airline.
I recommend doing the job in the yard as there is often a great deal of dust and fluff generated.
 
  • #20
Studiot said:
recommend doing the job in the yard as there is often a great deal of dust and fluff generated.
I forgot to mention that. I take the computers outside if I'm going to use the leaf blower, huge initial cloud of dust if it's an old system.
 
  • #21
DaleSpam said:
Do you use suction or positive pressure?

Suction.

Taking into account amount of dust that accumulates, I would be long divorced had I ever tried to blow it out.

Edit: I see the problem has been already addressed.
 
  • #22
G037H3 said:
If some components or chips are loose, but still working, then applying suction could end badly.

If components or chips are loose, your computer isn't working in the first place. Still not sure what point you're trying to make.
 
  • #23
fss said:
If components or chips are loose, your computer isn't working in the first place. Still not sure what point you're trying to make.

My first XT was full of loose components, yet it worked :smile:
 
  • #24
Borek said:
My first XT was full of loose components, yet it worked :smile:

I've never worked on machines that old, but what was "loose" as in "not secured with some kind of connector" ? Even the old chips you could push into the sockets (predating ZIF connectors) were in there pretty solid. On a modern motherboard virtually everything is SMT or secured with some sort of ZIF mechanism.
 
  • #25
On the Multi I/O ISA card there was a whole line of jumpers with connectors that were just pins passing through the PCB and soldered in place. Well, they were soldered only in theory - in fact over half was loose and I had to keep them with my finger on the other side of PCB when closing them with jumpers (I believe that was to assign IRQ to RS ports, or something like that). No idea why it worked - I would expect lack of contact - but it did.
 
  • #26
its a very standard repair technique, I've done it thousands of times with very delicate equipment, as long as you don't go crazy the best way is with a soft brush, with the vacuum cleaner on vacuum, and just brush dirt and dust from the components into the vacuum cleaner.

Take it easy, and you will never see a problem, as for static, generally once components are in place they are safe. And modern componends are not as suseptable to static discharge. And with the supply and Earth's connected (but not on), you tend not to have issues with static.

the 'dustbuster' is a very popular tool in any electronics workshop.
 
  • #27
So does it really matter whether you use positive or negative pressure from the static charge perspective?
And as for reading all the posts, I guess the relatively small static charge on the components isn't that harmful, if at all?
 
  • #28
fawk3s said:
And as for reading all the posts, I guess the relatively small static charge on the components isn't that harmful, if at all?

Erm... it depends on what component the static discharge occurs on. In general, static is very bad.
 
  • #29
if I had to guess, I would expect extracting air would generate less static that blowing air from a vacuum cleaner, as the impeller of the vacuum cleaner would or could generate static charges. So sucking would be better.

Or a pressure pack air spray can would product little static, (its also very dry).

But it is much mush harder to generate static charges on built circuits, with the Earth and power supply componens connected. (not necessarily powered up), but connected will dissipate static quicker than it can build up.

there are a lot more easier traveled paths for any static to earth, or to the power supply capacitance rather than to the sensitive components.

A component on a bench is a totally different story, at a high power radio transmitter site I used to work out, we have to tie wires across electrolytic capacitors as they would build up a significant charge, just sitting on the spares bench.

These capacitors that can deliver 100Kw of power, 10 amps at 10,000 volts they pack quite a punch.
 

Related to Cleaning your PC with a vacuum cleaner

1. Can I use a regular household vacuum cleaner to clean my PC?

Yes, you can use a regular household vacuum cleaner to clean your PC. However, it is important to use a small attachment or nozzle to prevent damage to delicate components.

2. Is it safe to vacuum the inside of my PC?

Vacuuming the inside of your PC can be safe as long as you take proper precautions. Make sure to turn off and unplug your PC before cleaning, and use a low-suction setting on your vacuum to avoid damaging any components.

3. Can I use a compressed air can instead of a vacuum cleaner?

Yes, you can use a compressed air can to clean your PC. It is a safer option for those who are worried about damaging their components with a vacuum cleaner. However, be sure to hold the can upright and avoid spraying any liquid onto your PC.

4. What parts of my PC should I avoid vacuuming?

You should avoid vacuuming any delicate components, such as the motherboard, graphics card, and power supply. These parts can be easily damaged by static electricity or the suction of the vacuum. Instead, use a soft, dry cloth to gently wipe away dust and debris.

5. How often should I clean my PC with a vacuum cleaner?

The frequency of cleaning your PC with a vacuum cleaner will depend on your usage and environment. If your PC is in a dusty or high-traffic area, it may need to be cleaned more often. It is recommended to clean your PC at least every 3-6 months to prevent a buildup of dust and debris.

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