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How to properly clean a motherboard?

By cableman
Oct 18, 2012
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  1. I have just recently acquired an Acer Aspire X3810 desktop. When I first powered it up it proceeded normally except for a hard drive problem. Switched to a known good hard drive and then no power. I seriously doubted a power supply failure that quick but was very concerned about the condition of the motherboard. It looked as if I had been subjected to a roach infested area and this has left some serious "grungy" looking areas all over. I unplugged the connections from the power supply to the motherboard and blew them out with compressed air. Then the computer powered up but I have no video. The computer would be worth the time and effort to see if a good thorough cleaning would fix it but after reading several posts regarding how others have approached cleaning the motherboard has left me still looking for the proper way to proceed.
    I have read where hard bristle paint brushes have been used sometimes cut at an angle to help reach the hard places. I even think a toothbrush could also be used. The main question is to what to use as a cleaner. I thought about some type of electrical contact cleaner but not many people mentioned that. Most posts suggested the use of alcohol (rubbing alcohol I think) and even one suggested using de-mineralized water which I don't think would be wise in my circumstances. On e-bay I saw a "Misty contact and circuit board cleaner" but I can't seem to find any reviews for it anywhere. I have an air compressor to use as a finishing touch to blow out the final debris but would anyone have any advice as to the best cleaning agent to use for the best results? I would greatly appreciate advice on this especially where someone has used a specific cleaner having good results. Thanks in advance for any responses.
     
  2. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,910   +716

    Electrical contact cleaner is the safest, most convenient, and will likely produce the best result. Since it is liquid under pressure it will lift the encrusted dust/dirt without generating static electricity (whereas a brush and/or vacuum will- dry dust particles moving against each other). You may need more than one application, and I'd suggest removing the board from the chassis first (observing safe electrostatic safety measures like grounding yourself first by touching any bare metal portion of the chassis while the power cord is plugged into the wall socket, but the machine powered OFF). You may need to basically drench the board - blast through the CPU heatsink fins while your at it. The stuff evaporates pretty quickly. Remember to use in a well ventilated area.
     
  3. temporae

    temporae TS Rookie

    Would compressed air cause static elec problems as well? I have used it a few times while cleaning out the inside of my desktop and laptop with no ill effects observed.
     
  4. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,910   +716

    The risk of accumulating a static charge is small, but it does exist when using "dry" air. I've used compressed air (via workshop compressor) and also haven't experienced any problems- although I make sure the component is grounded if it needs to be.
     
  5. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Posts: 808   +51

  6. temporae

    temporae TS Rookie

    Haha, nice self-promotion there Marno ;)


    I do like the guide and I'll be sure to give it once-over. One quick Q: I usually use an air compressor plus a vacuum to clean the inside of my desktop, so that the compressor is blowing air from one direction and the vacuum is collecting as much as the dust that gets blown outward as possible. This kind of setup shouldn't pose any particularly increased static risk should it? I actually also have an air purifier near the PC (and no pets) so I think the air is about as clean as can be externally.
     
  7. Tekkaraiden

    Tekkaraiden TS Maniac Posts: 903   +52

    I agree with dividebyzero, contact cleaner works great.
     
  8. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Posts: 808   +51

    Haha, indeed. :p
    Well, no-one's getting paid for it. It's for the benefit of end-users/the general public. :)

    Such an occurance is a rarity AFAIK, happening only for 1 in a 100, but it would definitely suck being the one.
    So if you do use a vacuum, make sure it's on it's lowest power setting. Still, I'd stick to dividebyzero's advice first if I were you.
     
  9. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 4,686   +86

    You might laugh but I use 20V Lit ion cordless B&D Blower to clean out these desktop systems that have collected dust. No issues doing so.. From PSU, HDD, MOBO, an etc. That's about 120 to 155 mph.
     
  10. temporae

    temporae TS Rookie

    Do you mean a leaf blower? Or more something like a hair dryer?
     
  11. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 4,686   +86

    Well yes it's does blow leaves and more.. I had gotten some PC systems and those that smoke heavy the ash (brown) gets clogged into the heat sink of the CPU fan. I can tell you I don't want to touch that or try to use some sort of low power PC vac to clean it out. So what I do is turn off the system take out side use the cordless vac that has 120 mph or 150 mph there is higher than this range like 233 mph. I've use that too which are corded ones. But anyway you want to blow out all the dust, ash or anything else in there out. Make sure you wear protection for your eyes and mouth like a dust mask. Otherwise what comes out of the system flies all over the place. That's why I recommend taking it outside to use the blower. Never use this in the house.

    The results are excellent! Also make sure no boards have come loose. Check everything before you place the system back in service. This should be done every 6 months or every 2 months depends on your air quality in your home or business. Systems that have air intake and air outtake or dual cooling fans these system suck in a lot of dirt and dust, Household dust & dirt & pet dander.
     
     
  12. temporae

    temporae TS Rookie

    Do you recommend any other models/types of contact cleaner? I'm looking around online, and I can find some other kinds of contact cleaner, but none for the one you specify in the link (I can only find that as bulk, where it costs ~$500 for a case). I found some other ones, but being new to using contact cleaner on electrical equipment, I dunno if there is anything to be aware of when using different kinds. Any advice?
     
  13. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,910   +716

    Electrical contact cleaners are all much the same- no special ingredients or secret sauce. I just picked the CRC link because they are a well known brand name- but any will suffice.
     
  14. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Booster Posts: 984   +97

    I'd remove every component and connection I could to assure a really good cleaning, if you made progress just by using compressed air.
     
  15. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 4,370   +125

    TBH I use a vacuum and have not had any trouble yet.
     


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