We read about preventative maintenance, however...

Rosalie and I painted our computer room the other day. Actually, it was a bedroom in which I built counters to hold our two desktops, laptop, printers, scanner and all the other stuff that accumulates around computers.

Before we started I disconnected everything and removed them so we would have room to paint. When we finished and before reinstalling everything, I decided it was time to do some preventative maintenance.

Preventative maintenance is something we all probably have read about at one time or another but then ignored. There really isn't much you can do in the way of computer upkeep. But there are a couple of things that might keep the old computer going for a few more years.

One thing is blowing out the accumulated dust in the computer itself. Even though I am sure that all of our homes are spotlessly clean, dust does accumulate. Unfortunately, dust is an insulator and can keep computer components from staying cool.

I took both desktop computers to the garage, removed the case sides and used my compressor to blow out the dust.

Dell manufactured both computers but both have different cases. The first job is to try to figure out how to remove the covers. Sometimes this is not an easy task. One computer has a holding screw on the back and two plastic clips on the cover. Removing the screw and depressing the two clips allowed me to slide the cover off of one side of the computer.

The other machine has a holding screw and two plastic clips on the bottom of the back of the case. Undoing this screw and depressing the two clips allowed me to remove the entire cover that encases both sides and the top of the machine.

The point is that I have struggled with some computers just trying to figure out how to remove the covers. Of course, possibly a last resort is to look in the manual and read the manufacturer's instructions.

Once the covers were off, I used my regular shop air compressor with a blower fitting to blow out the dust. This might be controversial, but I kept the nozzle a foot or so away from the computer so that I didn't apply full pressure to the insides of the machine. Also, I have a water trap installed on my compressor so that the blower air is dry.

If you don't have a compressor, you can purchase cans of compressed air just for cleaning electronics.

When I applied the air to the machines I filled my garage with enough dust to keep an allergist doctor happy. I couldn't believe how much dust had accumulated. I also noticed that on our newer computer there is a separate fan just for the Pentium chip. These chips are the brains of the computer and can get very hot. Keeping dust from accumulating on them is a good idea.

After cleaning the machines and reassembling them, I next took out the balls from our mouses (mice?). Dust accumulates on the internal rollers and can make the cursor movement skip around the screen. The ball is removed easily by twisting the cover plate on the bottom. Then I use ninety-nine percent alcohol and a Q-Tip to clean the rollers. You can buy 99% alcohol at a drugstore and I use it instead of rubbing alcohol because it contains less water. It also is great for cleaning the dirt off keyboards.

That really is about all there is to mechanical preventative maintenance on a computer. Blowing out the dust is not something you do every month, but once or twice a year is fine. The mouse can be cleaned any time that the cursor movement becomes erratic.

If you would like to hear more about computer preventative maintenance, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

Return to Doc's Home Page