With cold season at its peak and cases of the flu spiking higher than ever, it’s important to make sure you are keeping your things clean and disinfected. Your computer is no exception. You spend a good chunk of your day touching it and studies have shown (gross alert!) most computers have 4 times as many germs on them as toilet seats.
But cleaning your computer isn’t as simple as cleaning your bathroom — some parts have sensitive technology that can be ruined by harsh cleaning products.
To help get your device squeaky clean, we’ve created the ultimate guide with a detailed list of computer cleaning tips to make sure no harm comes to the outside or inside of your computer. Happy cleaning!
Exterior Computer Cleaning
What you’ll need:
- A microfiber cleaning cloth
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Compressed air can
- Electronic screen cleaning wipes
First things first, shut down your computer and make sure it’s unplugged. Failing to do so can result in damage to your hardware.
Start by removing any covers or cases on your laptop. Then, begin wiping down the outside of your computer. Take a soft microfiber cloth and wet slightly with isopropyl alcohol. Gently wipe it down, but don’t be afraid to scrub too. If there is sticky residue that won’t just wipe off, you can gently use a plastic pan scraper as well.
Be careful not to go into any ports where you plug in your computer cords. If the ports are filled with dust or have some other debris in them, use your can of compressed air to blow out the debris. Replace any covers that your ports may have.
First, go over the screen with a soft, dry cloth. When you’re done, use an electronic safe screen cleaning wipe to remove any stuck on dirt, fingerprints, or dust. The wipes are great for electronic care because they are anti-static and the only chemical included is isopropyl alcohol, so they won’t damage your sensitive computer or TV screens.
If you don’t have electronic screen wipes on hand you can use a homemade solution of one half water and one half vinegar, but be sure not to get the cloth soaking wet. And never use harsh cleaning products!
When it comes to keyboards, the cleaning instructions vary for desktops and laptops. We’ll cover desktops first and then discuss laptops below. If you’re using a desktop with a wired keyboard, unplug it from your computer. If your keyboard is wireless, unpair it with your computer. Turn it upside down and shake it lightly, tapping the underside to knock out dust, cookie crumbs, or any other debris.
Next, find your handy, dandy compressed air can to clean between the keys. Some keyboards have removable keys, which makes for easy cleaning. But, be careful, we suggest only removing a few at a time. You don’t want to be stuck without a vowel, trust us.
If you’re using a laptop, a microfiber cleaning cloth, isopropyl alcohol, and Q-tips should be your tools of choice. Dampen the cloth with alcohol and gently swipe your keyboard. Lightly dip a Q-tip in the alcohol and use it to go in between the keys.
What to do if you spill soda or liquid on your laptop
- Don’t panic!
- Quickly shut down the computer. You can do this by holding down the power button for 5 to 10 seconds. The screen will turn off and you will hear a “click” when the power is totally off.
- Turn the keyboard upside down and allow the liquid to drain. Don’t shake the liquid off because you may cause it to flow into other components, causing more damage.
- If your laptop has a removable battery, take it out and set it aside while the keyboard dries.
- When it’s completely dry, follow the keyboard cleaning steps above.
If your keyboard is really sticky and clogged, it’s going to be a bigger job. Take it to a repair shop. Friendly PC is experienced in disassembling computers, will clean every component of your computer, and check that everything is running smoothly. Bring it in to our store for a full cleaning inside and out.
Mouse and mousepad
If your mouse plugs into a USB or PS/2 port, be sure you unplug it before cleaning it. If you have a wireless mouse, unpair it with your device. Lightly moisten a clean, soft cloth with isopropyl alcohol and gently clean the exterior of your mouse. If you want to clean inside the mouse, it’s best to use your can of compressed air to blow out dust.
To clean your mousepad, use the cloth you used to clean your mouse and gently scrub the pad.
How often should you clean your computer?
You can wait about 9-12 months for a deep clean, but if you have pets around your computer, smoke regularly, or share it with a lot of people, consider going through these steps every 4-6 months.
That being said, you should disinfect the keyboard and mouse at least once a week. Your computer is a breeding ground for bacteria, even if it’s just you using it. Your skin can easily transfer oils, grime, and contaminants from other surfaces. So, be sure to wash your hands before and after you eat — and we know you’re probably eating at your desk (70% of Americans do). Keep a clean cloth and some isopropyl wipes at your desk, and get into the routine of cleaning it at the end of your day.
Interior Computer Cleaning
Now that you’ve cleaned the outside of your computer, it’s time to clean up the digital clutter inside, including apps you don’t use, junk files that are taking up room, and more.
Clear your desktop and delete files
A daunting task, we know. Like a closet crammed with your old coats, photo albums, and random bills, taking the time to organize your most important files can speed up your PC by decreasing the time it spends combing through all those unused files.
All of a computer’s storage capacity is housed in the hard drive where your files reside. The hard drive also boots up your computer and stores your applications. But, storage space has its limits and it might cause your laptop to move a little more slowly if it’s crammed full. Managing your storage space effectively is an easy way to keep your computer clean and running smoothly.
Dump the downloads and empty the trash
In your Downloads folder, press Ctrl+A to select all of the files, then right click and delete. Next, go to your desktop screen and right click the Recycle Bin. Select ‘Empty Recycle Bin’.
Did you know that some Macs have multiple trash bins? To empty your main trash can, right click the trash can icon and select “Empty Trash”. If you use the Mail, iPhoto, and iMovie applications, these each have their own trash cans.
As time progresses, you’ve probably acquired quite a few applications on your computer that you’re no longer using. Delete every single app you don’t use regularly. You can always download them again later, if needed. Too many applications can take up space on your computer, slowing it down, and giving you unreasonable amounts of apps to sift through when you’re trying to find the one you actually need to use.
Pop-ups can be a hassle, but not all are bad. Windows and many programs you use every day have notifications to alert you when an update is needed. Start your favorite tv show, click the darn button, and let your PC do its magic.
If you don’t have a nagging pop-up, open the ‘Start Menu’ or click the ‘Windows’ key. Select ‘Settings’, ‘Update & Security’ then ‘Check for Updates’. Let any updates found install, then restart your computer. Larger updates may restart your PC a few times, so be sure to leave it on and open till you’re back at the login screen.
Backup your files
You’ve organized your documents and thrown out unwanted ones, now backup your files to an external hard drive or your favorite cloud storage. This way when a catastrophe happens, your files are safe. Don’t know if a hard drive or the cloud is best? We have a post explaining your backup options in more detail too.
Defrag your computer
Defragmentation rearranges data on disks and drives so they work more efficiently. Run Disc Defrag on Windows 10 by typing “defragment” into your desktop search bar. Open the Defragment & Optimize Drives program and click ‘Optimize’.
Run antivirus and malware programs
Avast and Windows Defender are free programs that get the job done without requiring useless add-ons and monthly fees. Run the program to check if your computer is secure. You can even set up an automatic sweep to ensure nothing is missed.
If you’re still using Windows 7 or earlier versions, it’s absolutely time to upgrade because Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7.
We’ve got you covered with an upgrade special to Windows 10, a solid-state hard drive, and removal for any virus or malware your computer may be infected with.
Updated on December 19, 2019: This article has been updated to add instructions for cleaning after spilling liquids on your computer and how to clean up your internal computer files, as well as combining information from past posts.