March 3, 2009

Cleaning Your Laptop

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According to a report (Warning: pdf) done in 2007, almost every college student owns a computer, and 73.7% own a laptop. If we were to transpose that result to Cornell, we’d get roughly 10,000 students with laptops, assuming the numbers (Warning: pdf) are accurate.

So with this many students potentially carrying laptops around, someone’s bound to know how to clean a laptop, right?

Well, yes and no. There are some very basic guidelines that need to be followed when considering physically cleaning your laptops. I’m not saying these are the exact kind of things you should do, but they’ve proven pretty effective for me.

It’s a known fact that laptops will get dirty, as exemplified by some truly disturbing images, but what people often don’t realize is how easily that problem can be resolved if the correct measures are taken. I’ll admit, I experienced this personally, especially with my white Macbook. I’ve tried all kinds of methods: water, rubbing alcohol (ON THE HARD CASE ONLY, using alcohol on the screen will make you regret it), and even detergent. However, none of this seemed to work until I discovered Mr. Clean magic eraser. Let me be very clear about this: it is NOT meant to be used on screens. This product is extremely abrasive and will most likely scratch your screen. Your laptop body is built of a much durable substance, so you should be fine using it there. If you’re using a Mac, there is a nifty little program called Keyboard Cleaner that will basically shut down function to your keyboard save for Command and Q so that you can clean your keyboard while still keeping your computer on. Windows users, it is possible to change your computer settings so that it won’t be allowed to be booted from sleep whenever you press a key.

Now that we’ve focused on cleaning the outer body and keys, there are really only two things left: screen, and exhaust fan.

Your screen is pretty important. After all, it shows you what you’re doing. A basic way to clean the screen would be to take a lint free cloth and wipe it down. If your screen is particularly dirty, then you might want to wet the cloth slightly, wring it reasonably dry, and then wipe the screen. Never using any kind of chemicals on your screen since they can damage it.

That brings us to the exhaust fan. The fan is located in different places depending on the laptop, but you can usually find it by passing your hand over any area of the laptop that seem to have slits and see if you can feel a slight breeze. The fan is a very important part of your laptop. It keeps the internal temperature down to vacuum cleaner to do this but I would hesitate before trying as the vacuum cleaner can generate static electricity, which will fry your laptop’s circuits.

There really are no prevention methods for keeping your laptop clean, so you’ll just have to take the initiative each time to clean it. But I guarantee you, each time you clean your laptop and look at it, you’ll appreciate the cleanliness so much that you’d want to clean it the next time it gets dirty.

Or you can just leave it the way it is, after all, it’s YOUR laptop and nobody else is going to judge you based on your laptop appearance. At least I won’t.