Is it OK to vacuum clean the interior of the system unit?

By eddy05 · 24 replies
Jun 10, 2005
  1. I heard that the vacuum cleaner will emit some sort of field that destroys PC components, but the inside of my machine is pretty dusty, I need to clean it. Any advice?
  2. Rik

    Rik Banned Posts: 3,814

    I brush my pc out with a paintbrush (thats never had paint on it) and that seems to do a good job. I also tend to do it outside if the weather is good enough.

    Hope that helps. Rik
  3. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942

    Using a vaccuum is quite safe, if your computer is off. Keep a vaccuum away from floppy discs. However, the people telling you that it will destroy your hard drive or destroy whatever, I can assure you, are full of crap. However, after vaccuuming it out, make sure to grab the chassis after putting the vaccuum away before touching the PC anywhere else to make sure you didn't build up a static charge, which can happen much easier when using a vaccuum.
  4. bayouboy

    bayouboy TS Rookie

    *Oh my!* Just be careful, some old vacuums are poorly wired and may not be grounded. A static charge can build up on the metal nozzle. For the most part though, it is completely safe as long as the comp is off and unplugged while you do it. Just take the nessisary precautions about static charges and you'll be just fine! There is more risk to your mobo then there is to your hard drive here.
  5. MrGaribaldi

    MrGaribaldi TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 2,512

    Or use a plastic nozzle, and it'll insulate any static buildup and thus removing the problem...

    Same goes if you're using a can of compressed air with a metal nozzle, add a plastic end for it, so there are some insultation, and you'll be fine....
  6. Insanity_Police

    Insanity_Police TS Rookie

    No It Is Not Ok

    Ok, static electricity does not require metal to build-up on.


    These "geniuses" that tell you there is less risk to your harddrive or motherboard are insane. Static electricity can build up on anything. Plastic,
    etc, blah blah.

    Ever rubbed a baloon on your head? Any metal involved there? no.
    Hair and plastic.

    Why don't you take your rubber-soled shoes and drag them across carpet
    and then go hug your motherboard? Because that's gonna kill it.

    The risk here with the vaccum is not YOU touching it, it's the air movement and the movement of the plastic/natural bristles. Do not do it.
    Plastic IS NOT an insulator for static electricity.
    Discharging is the DANGER and the SOLUTION.

    ALWAYS discharge to ground. NEVER risk the build-up of new static.
    NEVER discharge to your equipment.

    Compressed air only. Short bursts.

  7. MrGaribaldi

    MrGaribaldi TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 2,512

    Just to be pedantic, it's not even the air, it's the dust particles that rub of the metal/plastic/whatever that causes the buildup of static electricity...

    So even using compressed air gives a chance of getting a buildup. The absolute best solution is to ground the vacuum nozzle so that any buildup is run of it.

    And the reason for using a plastic end is that it does insulate a bit not from static as such, but from the static that might be building in the rest of the nozzle, making it easier for the buildup to discharge elsewhere...

    And as for your example of baloon and hair, ever tried rubbing your hand in your dry hair? No plastic involved, but still great effect. Or how about your hair standing on end when taking of a wollen hat?

    Oh, and next time, you might want to check that attitude at the door...
  8. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942

    Most definately take that attitude somewhere else.

    Using a vacuum on your PC is safe.
  9. ripken204

    ripken204 TS Rookie Posts: 139

    its totally safe, just did it the other day on my dads pc, it was FULL of dust b/c he hasnt ever cleaned it the 7 yrs hes had it-i was in there replacing the cd drive the crapped out-there are no problems at all with it
  10. Mark37

    Mark37 TS Rookie

    I've used a vacuum on my old machine many times before without a hitch. Make sure when your doing it to keep the pipe (metal or plastic) in contact with the chassis of the PC case. If the PSU is plugged in this will automatically ground and discharge any static buildup to the ground on your wall plug. Always be carefull with it though!!!
  11. Finchy

    Finchy TS Rookie Posts: 353

    I never knew you could do that, I thought you could only use compressed air to clean properly. But I must stress that is you do that to be very careful of damaging your equipment. An over-zealous movement with a vacumn nozzle could smash into something, and you don't want to crack your £200 motherboard just because you were rough with a brush/vacuum. Although most of the hype is about Static, there is always room for human error!

    Also, I don't really see why you need to unplug your PC (as long as all Power outlets/PSU are off) when working inside it, it releives most of the bother of grounding and lets you use both hands rather than having one touching the back plate. I suppose if you practice yoga you could touch it with your foot.
  12. Mark37

    Mark37 TS Rookie

    Hi Finchy,

    Yes, thats what I meant....leave the PSU plugged in to supply ground for the vacuum tube to discharge any static build up. :)
  13. alesh

    alesh TS Rookie

    NO it is not safe because of the static which can build up.
    It might be ok 9 out of 10 times, the 10th time you'll mess up your MB.

  14. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942

    Tell that to the 607 machines I've repaired at my job in the past year. As long as you are careful you will not damage the motherboard nor any other components. A desk vac is absolutely needed for many people's PCs because of how filthy they are.
  15. dement0r

    dement0r TS Rookie

    To be honest, in my experience, people are over-careful about static and it's really not that risky at all. Only problem i've ever had with static was when someone dusted their motherboard with a duster whilst it was switched on... other than that, i have used vacuum cleaners, (unused) paintbrushes and never had any problems!
  16. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    I've never had issues and I always make sure the vaccum line is grounded to the case.
  17. foozy

    foozy TS Rookie Posts: 139

    I usually use compressed air and a vacuum cleaner in conjunction. Keep the cleaner running and vacuum the dust out as you loosen it up <with the compressed air>.

    I'm not very careful when it comes to static, and I've never had a problem in quite a few computer builds. I have many times, however, dropped my screwdriver on boards and destroyed components. Suppose some things are more dangerous than others to certain people :)
  18. CCT

    CCT TS Evangelist Posts: 2,653   +6

    This is a laugh and a half.

    If you have EVER looked at the end of your vacuum cleaner's crevice tool or brush, what do you see?

    Hair and crap!


    Posters here have danced around it - power down, turn off, pull plug, press power button, open case, loosen the crud with a short-bristled paint brush, blow it out with air at low pressure:

    NOW we can use a vacuum cleaner with an air OUT connection for that OR canned air or anything that has a relatively low pressure but constant air supply.

    Loosen some more crap - repeat.

    Reverse the disassembly.

  19. HPCE_Larry

    HPCE_Larry TS Rookie Posts: 132

    I've vacuumed several PCs with no negative effects. One must simply be careful not to smash the components inside. While it is true that static can build up on the nozzle if it is grounded nothing should be a problem.
  20. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Using a vacuum is NOT safe as a way to clean a computer case or motherboard. We see several failed units permanently ruined by vacuum cleaners each month... the Swirling dust and hair creates a great deal of static electricity it conditions are right.
    There are 12 different brands of "dust" removing gas with a form of difluoroethane gas that is static free... such a Dust Off... $4.00 to $7.00 a can. Combine that with a cloth dampened with a dust remover. You will remain clean and safe.
    Most of the time, a vacuum cleaner will do no harm, but why chance it. When you do get damage, it is usually going to require you to replace CPU, memory, motherboard, video graphics card, or power supply.
  21. HPCE_Larry

    HPCE_Larry TS Rookie Posts: 132

    Its also likely to cause more issues in the winter when the air is drier. I wouldn't recommend it if your noticing static when you touch metal objects during the day.
  22. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Most of the damaging static is untestable, and certainly not visible, before it causes the costly damage. There are instruments that will easily detect it.

    But why take the risk when canned air and a damp cloth will do everything you need.
  23. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,039   +9

    I second raybay.

    It might be safe to vacuum once, maybe twice.

    But there is still that chance for your vacuum job to fry the components in a PC, even if its 1/1000 chance.

    There was a post on Techspot before about how to vacuum your PC safely. It had a full explanation on how static builds up, how it discharges, how it destroys components, and of course, how to overcome static damage.

    From what I remember, the easiest way is to make sure either both vacuum and PC are grounded, or both aren't. Most vacuum cleaners are grounded, and most PCs are grounded too. Most damage occurs probably from people putting their PCs on carpets (ungrounded) and then vacuuming it (grounded).

    So, just leave the power cord plugged in, and vacuum it, so both are grounded. Just make sure that your PC is switched off.
  24. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    The grounding doesn't necessarily help. The static electricity is created by the swirling movement of the dust and hair itself. You will have the disasters only occasionally as it only occurs when the temperature, humidity are just right, combined with the moisture content of the dust, lint, and hair.
    You can run your own tests using a spare computer and static meters. It is not difficult to do this. You can easily see the static charge build up and discharge when you use simple equipment.
    Anyone who uses a vacuum cleaner puts their computer components at risk, as this vacuum cleaner induced static can easily destroy a motherboard or a power supply... memory, video cards... anything with a chip...
    When the tests are so easy to do, and the problem is so obvious, it is amazing to me that experienced techs believe this is baloney.
  25. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,039   +9

    Risk vs reward. A vacuum cleaner is the easiest way to clean the insides of a comp, and the cheapest. Given those simple safeguards (and maybe even without), most techs don't even run into static problems.

    Of course, if someone worked in a busy computer store, where they probably service 500 computers a month, they'd see a few comps burnt from vacuum cleaner incidents, just because of the numbers. Its all in statistics, given enough tries, even with an infinitely small probability, it will still happen.
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