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Don't overlook computers with spring-cleaning chores
The weather has warmed up, and many of us are cleaning out closets, digging up the yard, mowing grass and generally getting ready for summer. Normally, I take to the couch when these moods strike and let the moment pass. Unfortunately, neglecting to clean up your computer can result in an overgrown jungle of electronic mayhem.
Start your computer’s spring cleaning by taking a look at your hardware. Hardware includes your monitor, mouse, keyboard, and hard drive, or CPU (central processing unit).
My monitor was recently attacked by a sticky-fingered 2-year-old, who left smudges and sugary slime everywhere. When cleaning a monitor, do not use ammonia window-cleaning products, as they can remove the anti-glare coating. Use a lightly dampened, soft cotton cloth to remove smudge marks and grime. Do not use much elbow grease -- easy does it is the trick. This cleaning tip also works for smartphones, iPads and tablets.
Computer mice tend to be the next grimiest surface on your desk, especially if you put a lot of lotion on your hands. The lotion builds up over time on the mouse and turns it that lovely shade of brown. To clean the mouse, turn the computer off and unplug the mouse from the back of the computer. Dip a cotton swab in denatured alcohol and start scrubbing. Elbow grease is advised for the outside of the mouse.
Use the corner of an envelope to get the caked up grime out of the recesses. Pay close attention to the scroll wheel on top of the mouse, as dirt lodged in and around it can make your mouse jumpy.
Keyboards also bear the brunt of hand lotions, crumbs and accidental spills. Turn the computer off and unplug the keyboard. Turn the keyboard upside down and use a can of compressed air to blow out debris. If the keys themselves are grimy, use a cotton swab dipped in denatured alcohol to clean them.
The hard drive…
Make sure that your CPU is at least 6 inches off the ground. I’m sure your house is spotless, but a lot of dust and dirt can get kicked up by people walking by. Keeping your CPU elevated helps the fans in the computer. Computers usually have at least two fans in them: one in the back and one in the front to pull outside air in. If your computer is sitting on the floor, it will suck in dirt, dust and pet hair. Also allow at least three inches of clearance at the back and front of the computer so the fans have enough room to draw air in.
If the fans cannot keep the computer cool, the computer can become sluggish and even overheat. We computer folks call that “frying the motherboard.” Unlike a radiator, you cannot add water to it to make it better. You are almost always forced to buy a new computer.
Regretfully, small creatures also like warm things. This includes mice, snakes and bugs. Keeping the computers off the ground gives you a fighting chance of keeping the creepy crawlies out. To be honest, I’ve only seen a snake in a computer after a flood, but I’m not willing to take any chances. If a snake can climb my desk to get into my computer, it can have it. Mice and their nests are much more common, but I’m not fond of either.
Follow these simple steps to keep your computer hardware looking brand new. Next week, we’ll look at how to clean the inside of your computer.