What can dust do to your computer?

When’s the last time you cleaned out the dust bunnies from inside your computer? Or your laptop? Or had someone do it for you? More than a year or so? Better read on . . .

Laptop Dust

Last week, my older laptop suddenly shut down. No warning – or at least no warning I had noticed.

And when I tried to restart it – no go.

As I began to remove it from the docking station it’s plugged into, the likely cause of the shutdown was obvious – it was hot. Like H-O-T hot.

I called our local computer repair shop, explained the problem, and he said the fan was likely not working so it overheated. It had probably been running hot awhile, but because I rarely remove it from its docking station, I had not noticed. Since I could not restart it, there was a possibility, he added, that it had been hot enough long enough to damage the motherboard. Not what I wanted to hear.

Computers never stop running when it’s convenient

This particular laptop runs on an old system that lets me continue to use a DOS database program for our WEN membership records, market listings, and so on. I also have the software that runs Writers-Editors.com installed on it. So having it go down so suddenly presented a bit of a problem.

This was late afternoon, so I left it alone until after dinner. After several hours, it was cool again, and when I pressed the button, it started up completely! Big sigh of relief. And it gave me enough time to post that evening’s jobs to the Bulletin Board, plus add a notice about the problem and that it could be a few days before I could post again.

Next morning, Thursday, off to Colebrook I went, and dropped it off. Then came home and tried to work on my main computer, a desktop, with fingers crossed.

Saturday morning it was ready – and with good news. The fan was working fine – surprisingly quiet, they said. What had happened was “simply” a buildup over the years of dust particles.

I can see my desktop computer tower’s air vents and can even see one of the fans spinning, so it’s a constant reminder to periodically clean those vents. I keep canned air on hand for that very purpose. But with the laptop being a closed system, it’s easy to forget dust particles can manage to get inside.

Dust is your computer’s enemy

According to PCMD Computer Services, dust and dirt are truly the enemies of any computer, whether desktop or laptop. “If the dust has a way in, it can do damage. Dust acts like a blanket to warm your computer’s sensitive electronics. Over time the buildup of dust can affect the reliability, and most definitely shorten the life expectancy of the device.”

As much as computers dislike dust, they are very good at accumulating it. Along with the air brought in by their circulating fans are thousands of dust particles. If you have a cat or dog visiting in the area of your computer, the problem is multiplied.

Your laptop may be choking to death

Those are the words of Rick Broida, a PCWorld columnist. “You see, like desktops, laptops can suck up lots of dust. And because everything in a laptop is packed together so tightly, dust is even more dangerous. When the cooling fans have to run constantly, it’s just a matter of time before the machine starts to overheat. When that happens, it may lock up. It may damage system components. And it might even kick the bucket.”

Make it a standard New Year task

Desktop Cleaning with canned airWhat better time to clean out your desktop – or take your laptop in for a cleanup – than the first month of every year! If it’s been awhile, add it to this coming week’s to-do list.

If you’re a do-it-yourself type and accustomed to taking the cover off your desktop, you can probably do a basic cleaning yourself.

♦ How-To Geek has a step-by-step tutorial on How To Thoroughly Clean Your Dirty Desktop Computer

♦ and one on How to Clean the Dust Out of Your Laptop

Personally, I would stay away from opening my laptop, but if you insist, this YouTube video will help: How to Clean a Laptop Fan Bay

You will find many others by searching Google or Bing or YouTube for: How to clean dust from a computer (or laptop)

If you find your time better spent writing or marketing, let the tech pros do it for you. The cost for cleaning out and giving my laptop a once-over check for any other problems was $60. Much less than buying a new computer.

When’s the last time your computer or laptop had a good dust-out?

Please “speak your mind” below.

About Dana K Cassell

Hi, and welcome to our Network. I'm Dana Cassell and am the one writing most of the posts on this blog. I've been in this writing/editing business for way longer than I care to admit. My goal here is to provide you with useful insights from our professional members and from my own experience - to help you achieve your own success, grow your editorial business, and publish successful and worthy books,


  1. Dust is the silent enemy of your electronics and it piles up so quickly. Thanks for these excellent tips. I like to clean out my desktop PC at least once per year, but even then you’re dealing with a wool blanket of dust bunnies. Might have to step that up to at least quarterly.

  2. I one-hundred percent agree about blowing the dust out of your computers. A word of caution though about laptops: Blowing in through the exit vents can merely cram the dust-bunnies into the fan assembly. The proper way to clean a laptop is to have it partially disassembled and have the dust VACUUMED out AND the CPU fan’s blades brushed free of clinging dust. (A dirty fan is very inefficient)
    Routine cleaning as described by Ms. Cassell is okay if done every few months. If you allow your general environment to accumulate dust though, be ready to face the disassembly I mentioned earlier. This detailed cleaning does not take long for an experienced technician. Seek out such a technician and patronize him or her not only for preventative maintenance but for advice on reliable accessories.

    • Thanks so much for your advice, Glenn. I also strongly recommend taking our computers and laptops to qualified technicians – but just do it – before the dust accumulates (even in what you think is a clean environment).

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