Vermont Bar Journal
Winter 2007 - #2.
Multiverse Musings: A Clean Computer is a Happy Computer
THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL WINTER 2007
Multiverse Musings: A Clean Computer is a Happy Computerby James E. Knapp, Esq.
Maintaining your equipment will keep it working effectively for a long time. Focusing first on the most expensive (and most likely to break, figuratively or literally)--your computer--there are several maintenance activities that will help keep it running. Computer maintenance starts with a backup of all your data. Before undertaking any of these steps, particularly on your key production/ work machines, BACK UP all your data. You should already have comprehensive backups--data alone as well as operating system, programs, and data. Keep in mind that while the software mentioned here is commercial software, tested on many systems, and patched regularly, there is always some risk of unintended damage to your computer files. Much of the software mentioned will probe deeply into the core of the operating system to identify and fix problems. In those cases where the problem is significant, the very process of finding the problem may result in broken systems. Hence, the repeated warning about being sure you have a backup!
There are a few things that are needed for maintaining your system. For hardware maintenance you need a can of compressed air (available at office supply stores, hardware stores, or by mail order) and the tools to open your computer case. The compressed air can will come with a little plastic hose to attach to the nozzle so you can direct the air with precision. Read the warnings on the can--no inhaling the propellant and be forewarned that the can will get very cold during use. When you feel the can getting cold, just set it down for a few minutes and proceed when the can is warmed up a little.
Cleaning the Desktop Computer
What follows applies to desktop computers only. Laptop owners are not encouraged to try this at home! Computers do not need much in the way of hardware maintenance, but the one thing that will really extend the life of the computer is getting rid of the dust that accumulates in the case. There is likely to be a substantial amount of dust in the case of a computer that has sat around for two years or so, or one that sits on a floor or operates in a dusty environment. Dust is the subtle killer of computers because it interferes with the systems that cool the key components of the computer--the processor chip (CPU) and the power supply. To fix your dust problem, first, disconnect the power to the computer by unplugging the computer from the wall. Open up the computer case--it might take a screwdriver, or it might just be one or two latches that need to be pushed or pulled. Once the case is open you will likely see the dust all over the place. Use the can of compressed air to blow the dust out of the various components. Pay particular attention to the heat sink (big metal block with ribs/vanes and probably a fan) that covers the CPU. Keep the canned air upright, so the propellant does not spray out onto the components. Carefully blow the dust out from between the vanes on the heat sink to improve the cooling efficiency. Blow the dust from the fans in the case and from the inside of the power supply. DO NOT open the power supply. Just use the little plastic tube that came with the canned air to direct the air inside the power supply box. Once the dust is out, put the case back together and remember to plug in the computer. Although it might seem like a good idea to use a vacuum cleaner to...