What’s the proper way to clean my dusty laptop?

I have a co-worker who is a little bit messy.  Everyone know’s someone like that right?

She’s the girl with the sticky mouse buttons, smudgy display and greasy keys.  I can almost see my reflection in her keyboard!

Can someone say disgusting?

I hate going over to her computer because I’m afraid I’ll catch a disease from just being in proximity to it.

Forget computer viruses, what about human viruses spreading through filthy laptops?

Ha, but hey who am I to talk? I can’t complain because honestly my laptop isn’t pristine either.

I’ve got a a crumby keyboard that creaks and crackles from old Pringles.  And my keys are food-greasy too but hey – I like to eat when I type! Who doesn’t?

Anyway, today I want to show you how to clean out your laptop.  I’m going to tell you why it’s important and then give you some pragmatic reasons for pulling it off.


The benefits are many but the main reason you should dedust (is that a word?) your laptop is to keep it running for years to come.

After about a year of normal use, the fan collects dust which eventually coats the interior board with a thin blanket of soot.  It kind of reminds me of the dryer lint I have to change after each load.

It can get really grimy inside your laptop but most people don’t realize this – or the few who do are afraid to do anything about it – because they don’t have the temerity or tools to attack the issue.

I’m Dusty and Dangerous

I’m dusty and dangerous

That’s what your grimy laptop would tell you if it could.

The reality is that a dusty laptop is deleterious to its longevity because it can stymie its ability to stay cool.  All that dust clogs up the internal air passages.  There is already a paucity of space in your tiny laptop but when you factor dust into the equation it just exacerbates everything.

All that dirt and debris stops your laptop from cooling efficiently which makes it more susceptible to overheating. Overheating leads to hardware damage which leads to a host of discomfiting experiences in life.

What usually happens is the fan has to work it’s butt off to cool the system and this causes laptop performance to decline (which also drains your battery).

So how do I clean it?

The best way to clean your laptop is to open it up.

Fortunately even if you’ve never been dauntless enough for laptop surgery it usually doesn’t require disassembling the entire laptop.

Different laptops have different designs and therefore different ways to get inside.  Usually you can just flip over the laptop and see a panel secured with several screws.

If you get in there you can use a can of compressed air to clean it out.  But one warning: you should make sure that opening the panel won’t void your warranty.

Here are the warranty terms and conditions for the major laptop vendors.  If these links are dead by the time you click them just Google your laptop manufacturer and type in “hardware warranty”:

Usually you won’t void the warranty for simply opening the panel because this is the primary way people upgrade the RAM.  But just make sure you’re clear on the warranty stuff before you take the screwdriver to your laptop.

After you’re clear on that, find an uncluttered space in your office, porch or garage that you don’t mine getting dusty.  Depending on how dusty your laptop is you might want to do this outside.

Make sure the power is completely off, remove the battery and then unscrew the panel.  Most panels are secured with standard phillips scews; however, depending on your laptop model, you might need a smaller, precision driver.

“Old faithful” sitting in your toolbox might be too fat for the job.

Unfortunately, some cases don’t use philips heads and require Torx drivers or drivers of weird shapes.  :: ahem – Apple… cough cough :: – hopefully that doesn’t apply to you!

Dust Busting Bravado

Once you get the panel off you’ll probably start coughing haha.  We’ll that depends on how dusty it’s in there.  The safest ways to clean the insides is to use a can of compressed air.

Here are my top 4 dust-busting tips:

  1. Buy a few cans from Amazon.  I’ve been using Dust-Off Gas Duster for years and haven’t had any issues.  You can grab a pack of 4 for something like $20 bucks.
  2. Make sure you’re blowing the dust out of your laptop and not into it.  I know it sounds like common sense but it’s easy to accidentally shuffle the dust around instead of evicting it.
  3. Don’t just squeeze and spray.  You should use short bursts of air while rotating your wrist so you can hit the board from different angles.  Start from about a foot away then gradually move the nozzle closer.
  4. Never use a vacuum cleaner on your laptop because you’ll create an inordinate amount of static energy which will damage the system board.

If you can’t get into your laptop you can stick the compressed air nozzle into the side vents; however, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Blowing air in from the outside will push the dust further into your laptop – so what’s the point?  We’ll we’re trying to loosen it up so that when the fan revs up it can spew the debris back out the way it came.
  2. Never use long blasts.  The short bursts are key to preventing damage.  If you use a long blast you could unwittingly cause the fan to spin too fast which could damage it.

The Bottom Line

Even a normal, reasonably clean, office will collect dust.  The bottom line is dust is an ineluctable reality of life.  The air is floating with fibers from your clothes, dead skins cells and dandruff from your flaky scalp.

It’s a rough time to be a laptop (and your head)…  lol

But hey! – now you know what to do the next time dust attacks your laptop.

If you liked this article consider joining my team.  I promise I won’t insult you as much as I did today.

Drop your email in the form in the right rail and I’ll send you original content that I don’t send to my non-members.  You’ll be part of an elite squad of techies. hehe – anyway – I hope this article helped you out – if so leave a few comments below!

Thanks for reading.

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