A Beginner’s Guide to Computer Maintenance

Introduction to Computer Maintenance

Recently I was working on a clients custom machine doing a couple of little jobs for them, one of them being removing the front fan controller and moving all internal fans to the motherboard headers. I took the front panel off to make a start when I saw the inside was a little worse for wear in terms cable management and cleanliness, which will become apparent in a moment. Computer maintenance is something that’s so simple to do and could keep your system running much longer if you keep on top of it.

I decided to put together this little guide to help any novice computer builders, gamers, DIYers or anyone else to reduce their system temperatures and keep everything dust free and running for longer.

The Aim:

  • Clear out all dust
  • Tidy unruly cable clutter
  • Replace thermal compound on your CPU

Tools:

  • Standard Philips screwdriver
  • Can of compressed air or a small dusting brush
  • Thermal compound

The Specs:

Mostly irrelevant to this guide but here they are for those of you who are interested:

  • AMD 1100T overclocked to 4.4 Ghz
  • Asus ROG Maximus Formula V
  • Zalman Z11+
  • 8GB of Corsair DDR3
  • MSI GTX760 Twin Frozr
  • Antec Khuler 620 AIO
  • 2 x Samsung 840 Evo
  • Corsair CX750M

Disassembly and cleaning:

Lets have a look at what we are working with initially, take off your both side panels and place them in a safe place to one side. You should then be able to see what you are dealing with, here is what we are working on:

 

OK, so not the worst I’ve seen by far, however could do with a little maintenance as you can see. The cable’s are a mess as after the system was built a good while ago by us, the customer has been adding various parts over time by themselves, hence gradually the cable management gets a bit tangled.

So, with the side panels off, remove the front panel if applicable, any dust filters and unscrew and remove your graphics card. You can also remove any hard to reach fans if required. By doing this, we have can easy access to get rid of all the dust and ensure a clean system to start building on.

Take the case to an open area (outside if possible) and using your compressed air, blow out all the dust from your system, ensuring to pay particular attention to your filters, fans, graphics card and radiator if you have one. Once you have done this, take your small dusting brush and go over any bad areas or places you couldn’t get to. I cannot stress enough, do not use a hoover/vacuum to do clean this out, I’ve seen many power supplies fail because of the static you can build by doing this.

Replacing thermal compound:

Now you have a clean case and components again, let’s replace the thermal compound on your system’s CPU to keep things running cooler and prevent overheating.

In this example, we are working on a water cooled AIO, specifically the Antec Khuler 620, however the same applies to working with an air cooler. You need to look at your CPU cooler and release the cooler from the socket mounting. Once released, you should be able to pull off the cooler to reveal your CPU. Here’s our water block removed with the old paste:

AIO pump and water block removed

Bare CPU with old thermal compound before clean up

Our paste wasn’t that old but was worth doing anyway and was a little dry.

Wipe clean the old paste using some form of tissue paper, ideally with rubbing alcohol if you have it, until completely clean. Then take your new fresh thermal paste and apply a “grain of rice” size amount to the CPU as shown.

Old thermal paste removed with new thermal paste applied using the grain of rice

Replace your cooler back onto the socket and make sure is securely fastened in place.

Cable management and re-assembly:

Unplug and re-route any cables to hide them either behind the motherboard tray or below your hard drive cages if you have no room. It’s sometimes easier and quicker to start again and unplug all your cables, routing them as smartly as you can, even take 5 minutes to plan where your going to route them. Unfortunately it’s virtually impossible to explain exactly how to do this as every case and setup is different, just do your best to make it as need and tidy as you can, running everything that’s possible to behind the tray. By doing this you will increase air flow through the case with less resistance, thus decreasing temperatures.

Time to re-assemble your system, put back in your graphics card and replace any filters you removed along with anything else. Route your fans to the closest motherboard headers and keep the cables out of sight. Below is what we ended up, hopefully you’ll agree it’s a big difference!

System all completed with cable management cleaned

A look at the completed system

 

Power on the system and into the bios to make sure your CPU temperature is looking OK and all your fans are detected as well as anything else you may have removed or unplugged. Boot into your OS and further check the temperatures to make sure you are running nice and cool.

And that’s about it! Hope you followed along and learned something new, you may have your own methods of doing some of the things above, let us know in the comments!

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