Cleaning Your Mac

If you haven’t already, power down the Mac and open the case. Your first instinct might be to simply use the compressed air and blow it everywhere, but that may only move dust particles to other areas or wedge them deeper into their hideouts. If you have the vacuum, use that on the dusty areas and even on places where dust doesn’t seem to appear. Get around the CPU, underneath it if there’s any space, on and around the hard drives, underneath the motherboard, and on and around the ports on the back panel. Even the fan accumulates dust, so be sure to clean that off too. Like water, dust is attracted to other dust particles, so it doesn’t hurt to clean off areas that may appear clean to the naked eye.

If you don’t have a vacuum, or after you’re done using the vacuum, feel free to use the can of compressed air to weasel out the dust bunnies in the same areas described above. The cans always come with thin tubes to attach to the nozzle, so it can get to places the vacuum can’t. On my G4 Mac, I usually start with the CPU heatsink and get around the grills, then use it on the side panel opposite the motherboard, under the motherboard itself, on the backs of the hard drives and their connectors, any other internal places I’ve missed, and then the hidden areas on the case itself like the grills around the power supply and rear ports. It’s also good practice to open the tray of the CD or DVD drive and blow some compressed air in there.

If I want to do a deep cleaning, I’ll disassemble my whole machine and clean off each part, but this is overkill for some and not always necessary, especially if your Mac is in a relatively clean environment. When I go this far I get underneath the logic board and around the chassis (lots of dust there). Even if you don’t want to disassemble your Mac, Q-tips moistened with water will absorb more of the dust in the corners and smaller places. Don’t forget to use a dry Q-tip end to dry the same areas that were cleaned with the wet end.

Taking Care of the Keyboard and Mouse

When it comes time to clean the keyboard, the number one rule is never disassemble the keyboard unless you know what you’re doing. With that in mind, if you want to clean the keyboard completely, be aware of the risks. I’ve found that simply blowing a can of compressed air along the keys in a keyboard can sometimes pop up the dust that will fall right back into the keyboard. The best technique is to tilt the keyboard at an angle, (90 degrees – facing me – or almost 180 degrees upside-down works for me), but this sometimes varies, depending on the way the keyboard is made.

If you’re still using a classic mouse with the rollers and mouse ball, open up the mouse and remove the mouse ball. If there are major dust balls that can’t be shaken out, use a small screwdriver to remove them, and finish by blowing compressed air in different areas in the mouse. There’s a tried and true method of applying Scotch tape across the rollers to remove some of the dirt, and although this works even when getting minor debris off with a small screwdriver, I’ve often wondered if any of the sticky material on the Scotch tape lingers on the rollers. Using a small flathead screwdriver, be sure to remove the dirt accumulated in the gap between the mouse buttons as well. If your mouse has a mouse wheel, there’s no need to use Scotch tape on the edges. Simply find a gap around the mouse buttons and wheel that you can apply the small pipe of the compressed air to blow out any offending dust.

Printers, Monitors, and Everything Else

When it comes to cleaning monitors, it’s important to soak the rag or towel first and not squirt water directly on to the monitor itself. Even that’s not as important as making sure the power to the monitor is off first. Clean the base of your LCD monitor as it too accumulates dust. Anything black tends to show off more dirt. If you’ve got a CRT monitor, I suggest using the same techniques of applying water to the rag or towel first. This way there’s less chance of any liquid getting on the glass tube or anode cap. If you have a speaker system, be sure to wipe that down too. Dust won’t affect audio quality of course, but you may miss the visual excitement of dust settling off of the speaker with every thumping bass sound.

Printers are easy to clean, but just stick to the outside. With scanners, a standard glass cleaner or even an eyeglass solution should work.

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