Nowadays, there’s a computer in almost every house. Because of this, more and more people are trying to learn how to maintain their own computers to save themselves the hassle of having to bring it to the shop as well as the money they have to pay for labor.
While computer components are not as sensitive as some people would believe, there are still a few things you need to keep in mind when opening up and doing maintenance on your PC. Here are a few tips to get you on the right track:
Unplug the power supply when opening the pc
This may seem obvious but I’ve seen quite a number of beginners and even intermediate to advanced users who keep the power supply plugged in. While this is fine if you know what you’re doing, it’s still best to err on the side of safety and completely unplug the power supply from the socket.
Use anti-static wrist straps, an anti-static mat or simply ground yourself on the case
Static electricity is the enemy of every computer component. A bad electrical discharge can fry ram chips, motherboards, video cards, and add-in boards such as sound cards. So if you plan on installing any components or even just popping your pc open to give it a good cleaning, be sure to wear an anti-static wrist strap or use an anti-static mat. In an emergency, you can simply plant your feet properly and just touch the casing to ground yourself before performing any maintenance on your system. Be sure to do this constantly to keep yourself grounded.
Don’t force components into place
This may seem funny right now but there are a lot of people who tend to just force the components into place. Each component was designed to fit in a specific slot and you don’t need an inordinate amount of force to push it in. You’ll end up breaking your expensive components and voiding your warranty in one go.
When in doubt, completely disconnect the power supply from the motherboard
The power supply can sometimes store small amounts of energy that can give you quite a shock. If you’re still learning the ins and outs of your computer, then please disconnect the power supply from the motherboard.
Keep you computer clean with compressed air
Cleaning out your computer with rags and a brush is fine, but you run the risk of building up static electricity or accidentally damaging something by being a little too forceful with the brush. Compressed air is good for cleaning out your components without these risks, as long as you use it properly. That means small controlled bursts to avoid condensation as well as keeping the can in an upright position to prevent liquid air from accidentally spraying onto your components.
Be careful when moving around the case
If you had your PC custom built from a boutique shop or are using an aftermarket case, be careful when moving your system around. Cases nowadays can be pretty heavy, with some of the full towers going upwards of 10 to 20 pounds unloaded. With all the gear you put in, it’s not uncommon to have it weigh in at 30 pounds or more. Drop that on your foot and you’re in for a very bad time. In addition, higher end video cards as well as processor coolers can snap off the mounting if the computer is jolted possibly damaging your board and the component itself. So avoid the double whammy and be careful.
Do not open up your monitor to clean it
Most people nowadays have LCD or LED monitors. Unless you absolutely know what you’re doing, never, ever, open up the monitor thinking you can put it back together. Aside from possibly damaging your monitor, you might even get a nice electric shock for your trouble. If you’re using an old CRT monitor, forget about opening it. The monitor components sometimes have a lot of stored energy in it and getting shocked by it can kill you. So as a general rule, regardless of what monitor you’re using, do not open it!
Wait for your computer to cool down before opening it
Computers can run pretty hot. After all you’re pumping electricity into it to make it work. With that in mind, be sure to let your computer cool a bit before opening it up and doing maintenance. It is possible to get burned by some of the components such as the heatsinks on the motherboard and RAM chip heatsinks. This goes double if you’ve been overclocking your system on air cooling. So give it some time to cool and you can start your maintenance.
All in all, cleaning and maintaining your computer safely isn’t too hard to do. All you need is a few tools, some articles such as these, a manual or two and a bit of time. Don’t worry too much if takes you an hour or two the first time. With practice, you’ll get better at it. That said keep safe and keep your pc well maintained!
Enrico Santos is a regular contributor on the Seton blog. He has been writing professionally for 8 years and is a safety advocate. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the guitar and tinkering with computer hardware.