TechieTalk: Spring Cleaning Your Windows PC

By Roy Mathur, on 2012-03-26, for The Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)

It might not be Spring in Mauritius yet, but it is Spring somewhere in the world, so this week, I'll tell you how to clean your computer. If you are like me, your machine is probably filthy. For example, the teeny, tiny, cheapo netbook that I'm writing this article on looks horrible. And it doesn't take very long to get in such a state either. In the case of my netbook it only took about a week to develop a lovely, thick coating of dust, splatter from drinks, dirty fingers, cobwebs and possibly, somewhere between the keys you might find a few rusty nails or even a pirate's treasure chest. In fact, you name it and it's either coating my computer or lodged in the keyboard. And I'm a pretty clean, germophobe of a person too. So, you can just imagine what the average computer looks like after months or even years of neglect.

Not only might you catch some terrible disease from touching a dirty computer, but it can also lead to the computer's cooling system failing and then you could end up cooking your CPU and killing your machine.

And we're not just talking about physical dirt either. How about all the remnants of uninstalled software, junk files and other now obsolete settings?

So let's gird our loins, roll up our sleeves, don a gas mask and military grade rubber gauntlets as we make our computers sparkle. (Incidentally, the last two items were a joke; I mean if your computer's that dirty, you should probably call the Ministry of Health or the SMF).

As ALWAYS, remember back up your important files before starting.

Be warned, this is going to get messy- messy as me dancing with Aishwarya Rai at Holi, during a monsoon.

Dust: Vacuuming and Baby Wipes (Easy)

First let us physically clean the computer itself. Shut-down and then switch everything off at the plug. Now carefully use a household vacuum cleaner at its lowest setting to very gently suck dirt from all parts of the computer, pay special attention to the vents. After you have done this, take a soft, clean lens cloth (available from your local optician) lightly dampened with water and gently clean the screen. Use alcohol-free baby wipes to lightly wipe down the rest of the computer's surfaces.

Software: CCleaner (Easy)

Now let's clean up your Windows settings and dispose of the hundreds or thousands of junk files that Windows operating systems seems to delight in creating for us. Download CCleaner from and follow the instructions. Don't worry, it is very easy to use.

Heat: Arctic Silver (Advanced)

If you have a desktop computer AND you are technically competent, you could also try replacing the conductive compound between the heat sink and the CPU with a high performance product like Arctic Silver. If this is unobtainable, a thin re-application of an ordinary compound should suffice. The point here is that very often the standard assembly process at the factory is fairly slacking in this area. Badly installed CPUs are a real problem nowadays because CPUs run fast and hot. You should be able to buy conductive compound in you local PC parts or repair shop.

Finally, if you have afford expensive computer equipment, you can afford air-conditioning, so invest in some before your equipment cooks!