PCs hate dust, but they are very good at accumulating it. Every time their internal fans turn, drawing in air to keep its inner workings cool, they also draw in thousands of dust particles as well. You may have heard before that dust can slow a computer down and affect its performance but how bad is the dust problem really?
One of a computer repair person's most common tasks is to clean out a dirty, dusty PC. Given that dust is the documented number one cause of PC failure, it is a frequent issue that a computer tech encounters when he or she first opens up a PC case to begin a diagnosis.
Just how badly dust affects a computer's performance was recently explained to me by a friend who makes a very nice living from repairing all kinds of computers, many suffering from problems related to dust disease.
He had a personal computer in the shop because its owner felt it was running too slowly and various software fixes did not seem to be improving matters very much.
As I had been asking about the effect of dust on the average computer my friend said this might be a good machine to run a simple test on, as it belonged to a person who had a habit of smoking around his computer. My friend said even before opening it up he was pretty sure he was going to find a good amount of dust inside. Sure enough there was. The dust was present in layers of varying thickness all over the inside of the computer. The fans were covered in a dark brown layer so thick I was personally surprised that they were working at all.
To run his test the tech closed the case back up and took measurements of the CPU temperature and fan speed that the computer was currently running at without any programs running at all. The CPU clocked in at 118.4° F (48° C) and the fan speed was 2,857 rpm.
The clean up took a while, not such great news for the owner since my friend charges by the hour, but I was impressed by just how clean the CPU and heat sinks looked once he was done. Painstakingly he cleared as much of the dirt dust and grime out of computer's insides as he could.
Once he was done he closed the case and ran his measurements again. The CPU was now running at 102.2° F (39° C) and the fans at 3,276 rpm. A simple cleaning had reduced the temperature of the CPU by an extra 16.2° F (9° C) and increased the fan speed by 419 rpm.
According to my friend, this simple cleaning would increase the speed of the computer and the response times of the programs it ran, as well as extending the life of the CPU and its heat sink fans. The cost? Two hours at $60 an hour. As a bonus my friend said he would be giving the newly speedy PC's owner a couple of tips when he returned to pick it up. Firstly, don't smoke around it, but even if you stop that the dust will still build up again if left unchecked. Secondly, he was also going to give the owner a sample of a product he had recently encountered, a self stick filter that cost under $10 for 3 sheets that went over the computer's air intakes to trap dust before it entered.
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