How to clean your Mother Board

by: Ray Geide

If you have not done the inspection mentioned in the previous article - How to Clean your Case, now is the time to do so. Look at the blades of the fan in the back of the computer. Also look at any vents. Is there clusters of dust there? Is there grime caked on to it? If so, the inside needs to be cleaned. If the fan blades are clean but it has been several years since you have cleaned the motherboard or if the computer is around cigarette smoke, it probably should be cleaned anyway. Dust and particles in the air (like cigarette smoke) can build up on the circuitry of the motherboard and cause it to heat up and/or corrode.

The first thing that you need to do is unplug your computer. Then open up the case to get access to the motherboard. Cases open differently. If you don't know how to open your case, look on the back of your computer along the edge for some screws. These screws may hold on side panels or an upside down U shaped panel that covers the sides and top. Removing the screws will allow you to take off the cover. Other cases have the screws on the front of the computer. To get access to these screws, you must first remove the front panel by pressing a hidden latch. The cover is there to give easy access to the inside of your computer, so if you look hard enough, you should be able to figure out how to remove it.

Remember that if you touch anything on the motherboard, you should be grounded by either touching the metal frame of the computer with your other hand or by wearing a special grounding device.

The goal of cleaning the motherboard is to remove all dust and debris from the motherboard and all components inside of the case. This can be done using one of three methods.

The preferred method is to use a can of compressed air to blow it out. Always hold the can in an up-right position to prevent the propellent chemicals which can damage or corrode components from coming out. Dust and dirt should be blown away from the motherboard and out of the case.

Another way to remove dust is to use a vacuum. The common advice is to only use a battery operated vacuum because an AC powered vacuum causes static and static can ruin the motherboard. I have used an AC powered vacuum (before I knew that it was not recommended) to clean my motherboard many times and it has never caused any problems, but I may have just been lucky. When using the vacuum, keep the nozzle a couple of inches away from the motherboard or any other components so that it does not come in contact with them and so that any small parts are not sucked into the vacuum.

If you do not have a can of compressed air or a vacuum, you can use a dry cloth and brush to clean the motherboard. Be careful not to dislodge or break anything using this method.

While cleaning the motherboard, be careful not to unplug any cables or connections or to dislodge any loose components, such as, jumpers.

Methodically clean the whole inside of the case going over all of the motherboard from one end to the other and all other components. Don't forget to clean the fans and heat sinks. Do not open up the power supply box or stick anything in it beyond the fan. If you do, you could get a shocking surprise and ruin your computer.

If your computer does not work when you put it back together, something was obviously dislodged during the cleaning. Open the case back up and push all connections and cards into their slots. Look for anything that may have become disconnected.

Cleaning the motherboard is probably the most dangerous form of cleaning but it is necessary to prevent an early death of your computer.