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Maybe you tidy up your workspace every day, but how often do you give your computer a good spruce-up? If you’re like most people, your daily computer space is sorely in need of a thorough wipe down. The dust in the air and crumbs from your morning muffins can get into your device’s cracks and crevices and impede performance over time. These tiny debris can cause big issues when they get in the way of connections, clog fans and vents, and break down your hardware. 

Opt for better performance, faster startup times, and a longer lifespan by giving your computer a detailed spring cleaning. We know it’s tedious. But if you add up the time and cost savings of preventing a tech breakdown, it’s a worthwhile investment for the 1-2 hours you’ll want to set aside to get the job done. 

How often should computers be cleaned?

Your office hardware should get a complete head-to-toe at least every year. Grab a marker and draw a big circle on your calendar if it helps you remember. If you’re a real go-getter, every six months is ideal. But if your plate feels too full, an annual cleaning is better than nothing. There’s no time like spring to go on a tech cleaning spree, and we recommend picking a slow time that you’re likely to stick to (like wrapping up a Friday afternoon). 

How to clean you hardware

Before you do anything else, turn your device off and unplug it. This is the most important step. 

Next, give your computer and monitor an all-over wipe down with a soft, dry cloth. Regular cleaners can damage your screen, so resist the urge to grab the office Windex bottle. If your screen needs a little deeper cleaning, you can lightly spray a 50/50 water and vinegar solution onto a soft cloth and wipe gently. 

When it comes to your mouse (and erasing that buildup of sticky residue), a little extra boost from isopropyl alcohol is fine if needed. Be sure to dilute with water and dampen a cloth or sponge lightly — a sopping wet bath for your devices is what you’re trying to avoid.

Use a mouse pad? Cleaning your pad will help your mouse perform better, and also stop debris from rolling up inside. Feel free to use warm, soapy water for a good scrubbing, and then let it dry completely. 

For the keyboard, a can of compressed air comes in handy and can be purchased at just about any hardware or office supply store. Clean out the crevices between keys in short bursts (or you can even blow into a straw if you’re short on supplies). The goal is to remove the tiny bits and pieces that can get under your keys and cause stickiness or abrasion. If needed, you can follow up with isopropyl alcohol on a Q-tip to wipe around the edges. Again, avoid overly wetting the swab and let a little go a long way. 

To finish, make sure everything is completely dry before turning your computer back on. We recommend giving it a good hour to be safe. That’s also a good time to tidy the workspace around your computer and make sure you’ve got ample room for ventilation. Clean up the dust, wipe away the crumbs, and start fresh with a shipshape desktop.

How to clean your software

A thorough cleaning means going virtual, too. Get your digital space in shape by decluttering your files and updating your programs. If you’ve been avoiding the update notifications, now’s the time to let them work their magic. You can also start removing all those extra files you don’t need or use (like those grainy photos from last year that you never ended up posting to Facebook after all). 

Start with updating your antivirus software to protect your device from cyber threats. It’s the digital version of your office’s security system, and should be updated regularly in order to protect at its best.

If your backups aren’t automated, now’s a good time to failsafe your data, too. How you backup your digital info is up to you — hard drives, thumb drives, cloud drives.

Learn more about backup solutions and disaster recovery planning here. 

While you’re performing backups and updates, consider deleting any programs and files you no longer use. Decluttering helps ensure that your computer doesn’t get bogged down with extra data, and also limits the number of programs that a malware might target to gain access to your system. 

When you’re finished: empty your trash, close your programs to give them a quick nap, and then restart your computer. 

When to leave cleaning to the pros

Maybe the to-do list feels daunting. Or maybe you have other things you’d rather do with your time. Or maybe your computer is five years old and you’ve never cleaned it and you know it needs to be taken apart to give the insides some much-needed love. 

If an annual clean-up doesn’t seem like the job for you, or you’re hesitant to wield a screwdriver and start taking apart your device, you can call the professionals, too. The main point is: get it done and stop avoiding the task (especially if you’ve never done it in the past — the time to clean your tech is now!).