Welcome once again to My Mac’s Tech Tips! This month we’ll stay with the low-tech procedures by focusing on how to keep your computer clean and functional (physically).
You’ll need two types of chemicals for the external parts of your computer: a general purpose degreaser (such as 409®) and some glass cleaner (such as Windex®). Yes, believe it or not these cleaners work great on your Mac’s outsides. Actually, cleaning the computer is straightforward but first a couple tips on protecting your investment.
• Never spray directly on the computer, always apply the cleaning agent to the rag or paper towel that you will be using.
• Don’t saturate your cloth, as excess cleanser could drip into the computer’s sensitive parts.
• Check with the monitor’s manufacturer (usually the manual will suffice) to see what type of cleanser, if any, you can use on the screen. Certain picture tubes have a special coating that does not like having alcohol or ammonia based cleansers sprayed on it. As a rule of thumb, monitors larger than 17” and anti-glare screens can have their special coating damaged by the wrong chemicals, most other monitors are ok.
• I’ve found the best item for cleaning your computer to be the blue Rag-on-a-Roll towelette as it is quite sturdy and leaves very little lint. An old cotton sock would be a good substitute.
• The keyboard often scares most people during the cleaning process since the keys seem so fragile. Actually, they aren’t, but caution should be used as to not excessively push the keys in directions they normally don’t travel. To get in between the keys, I use the towel, but a Q-Tip® works much better (especially if you have the time).
Dusting your computer’s insides can also greatly increase the life span of the electronic components inside. The dust inside can help to decrease the cooling capacity, thus reducing the chips’ life. If you’re squeamish opening the cover of your computer (never open the monitor), then you should skip this section.
I recommend getting a can of compressed air from your local electronics store as it has no static, moisture or high pressure. Open the case of your computer and dust away. Try not to blow the dust towards the hard drive, floppy drive or the power supply. You may also want to move the computer to an area that won’t be affected by dust (such a back porch). Pay extra attention to the fan and the power supply (which are usually next to each other) as they generate/dissipate most of the heat.
The floppy drive is also a major point of concern and also one of the easiest parts to clean. Your local electronics or computer store should carry a floppy drive cleaning disk kit which consists of a floppy disk with a felt for the platter and a small bottle of cleaning fluid. Put a few drops of the fluid on the disk, insert it in your drive (computer turned on) and click eject when your Mac says the disk is unreadable. You should run the cleaning disk in your drive once per month or more depending on your environment or disk usage. If there is plenty of dust around the computer and floppy disks are a daily ritual, then consider running the cleaning disk once per week.
Dust covers are a great idea when your computer is turned off. My experience has found that simple cotton cloths draped over the computer is an effective low-buck method of keeping your Mac smiling. The preformed plastic covers work great as well but cost more, however they can help to keep liquids from sneaking into the system.
Never use synthetic material (especially garbage/plastic bags) as they have a greater potential for static, which can damage many of the components of a computer system.
Real World Experience
The computer: Mac SE
The problem: Unit will not boot, or when it does it crashes almost instantly.
The solution: Replace the keyboard.
The explanation: This particular workhorse had a 3rd party keyboard that had finally seen its day. Swapping the keyboard with another system cured the SE and moved similar symptoms to the other system. This was a rare problem, but it was a lot easier to try another keyboard then to troubleshoot the different pieces.