Radiogurl a la Carte

Saturday, Aug. 28, 2004
Basic Computer Maintenance Part 2

This is the second part of my how-to on computer maintenance. The first part is here. I edited something on that page that I forgot to mention, courtesy of Cosmicrayola. When you're deleting a malicious program, you should also turn off your system's Restore capabilities.

I've covered the weekly stuff you should do, and I've given you warnings on some innocuous-looking programs that are anything but. There are a few other things to keep in mind if you're going to have a computer at home. Easy to do, though there are lots of people who will become instantly hysterical at my next words.

You need to open your computer case for this part.

Tools needed:

  1. Small Phillips screwdriver
  2. Can of canned air (available at Wal Mart, if you don't have any)

Opening your computer case will not break it, but not doing this little bit of maintenance could shorten its life. Print these instructions out first, so you don't have to re-connect everything as you read each step. Then turn the computer off and disconnect the power (that means unplug it, not just turn it off.) While you can leave other, peripheral hardware plugged in to the power (your monitor, scanners, etc.) I'd recommend you unplug them, too, for safety's sake. If you are using a power strip or other comparable surge protector (and I know you're doing that, since without it you're one power surge away from losing $$$ worth of computer equipment, right?), just unplug the power strip.

Unfortunately there are different styles of cases, but in general, you want to take off the side of the case that will let you see your computer's “guts”. Chances are that means removing two small screws at the back of the case and pulling the side off. You want to pull off the side away from your computer's motherboard. Look at which side your mouse, keyboard, etc., all plug into, and pull off the opposite side. For some cases you may have to remove the top panel in order to remove one side. I personally prefer that style because the side panel then just lifts off, but whichever version you have, remove the side AWAY from the motherboard.

Once you've done that, take a look inside and you should see several thing: lots and lots of wires; at least two or three wide, flat gray plastic ribbons; a big steel block, flush against the back, probably on the top; and a small square fan, probably black. This is just for your information. You don't have to do anything to any of those things, but here's a quick lesson anyway. The small black fan is your CPU (Central Processing Unit) fan. The CPU is the heart of your computer. It is probably the Pentium, Celeron, or AMD chip that is the actual computer, in fact. All of the other stuff – hard drives, CD ROM, etc – work around it. The big silver block/box is your power supply. If you look at the back of the computer case, you'll see that's where the on-off switch is, where your power cord plugs in, etc; at the opposite side, inside, it spits out all of those wires you see. It will also have a fan built into it.

At the side of the case opposite from where you're looking in, you'll see the motherboard. It's the big flat panel with all the circuits, and slots at the bottom and to the rear of the machine that allow you to add extra cards. (You may have a bunch of cards in there. The photo here is of a brand-spanking new machine that I'm using to build Linux, so it doesn't have any goodies yet, just the basics.)

End of that lesson. Back to maintenance.

Get out that canned air we mentioned earlier. Use it and blow the dust out of the computer. Be sure to blow it from around the CPU fan and also the fan(s) in the power supply. If you've never done it, beware – that first blast from the canned air will send up a cloud! Scoot back fast or you'll be breathing IN that cloud of dust, and coughing for a while after. Blow out all of the dust you can see and assume that there's even more you CAN'T see.

Now put the cover back on, check to see that all of your connections are tight, plug everything back in, and you're good to go.

Depending on the climate, you should probably blow the dust out of your machine about once or twice a quarter. Once a month isn't too often, though, if you can't remember otherwise.

Before - After

In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )