Improper cleaning of a PC can result in problems ranging from mildly annoying to severely damaging. In cases where a new noise is detected, it is imperative that this be investigated and resolved immediately. The possibility that a cable is rubbing against the CPU cooling fan blades and could result in the fan being stopped could cause the CPU to overheat and be permanently damaged.
Depending on how the cleaning is carried out, dirt or other foreign material might have been forced into the CPU cooling fan. This is often caused by using compressed air to blow dirt and debris out of the computer case. Alternately, using a vacuum cleaner can also cause the same issue. This is why this technique is not recommended by experts.
Video Card Fan
As with the CPU fan described above, the fan on the video card or graphics controller can also suffer from having dirt introduced. To complicate matters further, most video cards are now manufactured with an enclosed fan assembly that makes it extremely difficult to remove debris from.
Power Supply Fan
Another fan that can also be affected by improper cleaning methods is the fan or fans inside the power supply. In this specific instance, the entire power supply will need to be replaced, as power supplies are not user serviceable and can be dangerous for the untrained user to try to service.
In situations where a fully assembled computer is being cleaned it is inevitable that the cables that connect power to all of internal devices, as well as the various data connections, will be moved. What many of the less experienced tinkerers may not understand is that these cables are often kept in place using a twist in the cable that may be disturbed when they are handled. As the computer itself is likely to be moved into different orientations, it is also quite likely that one or more cables may move into contact with a fan, specifically the CPU cooling fan or a case fan. Should the cable do so, it may create a situation where it is rubbing against a fan's blades. While this will cause noise, it is also a problem, as the fan blades will eventually wear through the cable and create a failure.
Depending on how a cleaning is performed, it is possible that when parts are removed one or more screws might have been forgotten during the reassembly. This can lead to a condition where mechanical parts, such as a CD/DVD drive or a hard disk, can begin to vibrate. In these cases it is simply a matter of securing the specific device to stop the noise. To diagnose which part is causing the noise, start up the computer with the case side access panel removed and touch each of the possible parts in turn until the noise stops.
Proper Cleaning Techniques
The recommended method to clean a computer is to disassemble the system, clean out the case using a damp cloth, and then pay attention to each of the parts individually. The CPU cooling assembly should be removed from the motherboard with the fan being disassembled from the heatsink before it is cleaned. The video card's fan may allow for careful removal, but most times these fans cannot be cleaned. If possible, replace the video card fan during cleaning and maintenance. Power supplies can be shaken out, and this is the one area that compressed air or a vacuum can be used. When everything is as clean as it is going to get, reassemble the system.
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