Every notebook computer needs a fan to cool its internal components. Excessive heat can cause many problems ranging from system errors and intermittent hardware failure to permanent hardware damage. The CPU, RAM and graphics card are especially susceptible to overheating. After prolonged use, dust begins to accumulate in the fan and in the case vents, obstructing airflow and reducing cooling efficiency. In a few steps, you can clean the fan and vents adequately, and with a little more work, you can clean them thoroughly.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Can of compressed air
- Small cleaning brush or artist's brush (optional)
Shut down the computer. If the computer is running when you clean the fan, you may damage or ruin the fan.
Locate the vents on the computer case. There are two vents, one for air inflow and one for outflow. The former is on the bottom of the computer, and the latter is on the back.
Blow the compressed air into the vents. You can clean the vents in either order. Adjust the direction of the air up, down, left and right as much as you can to clean the vents as thoroughly as possible. You should not see any dust in either vent when you are done. Since the vents lead directly to the fan, this will also clean the fan.
Prepare to open your laptop by turning it off, removing the power cord, and taking out the battery.
Remove the necessary components to reach the fan. These components must be removed in the following order: hard drive, memory/mini-PCI module compartment cover, optical drive, switch cover, keyboard assembly frame, display assembly, top cover and system board. Refer to the manual in the Resources section of this article for step-by-step instructions on removing these components. Keep the screws you remove in a safe place.
Blow air from a compressed air canister over the fan blades. This will remove most of the dust.
Clean the fan blades with a small cleaning brush or artist's brush. This will remove the last traces of dust that the compressed air might have missed. Do not try to force a cloth or paper towels into the fan to clean it.
Reassemble your laptop in the opposite order described earlier.
Tips and warnings
- Perform basic cleaning of your fan periodically to keep your computer running efficiently. A dust-clogged system slow down if the fan is dirty because the CPU will run hotter, impacting its processing power. Some computers with inadequate cooling may even crash because internal components overheat to the point that they stop working.
- Use only a compressed air canister that is intended for use on computers. Other compressed air canisters could damage your system.
- If you open your laptop to clean the fan, you may void your warranty.
- Be careful when opening your laptop; the delicate electronic components inside can be easily damaged. Dell specifically warns that accidental static discharge can damage your computer. You should therefore ground yourself before opening your laptop.
- If your laptop was running recently, the heat sink may be hot, especially if the laptop has not been cooling efficiently. The heat sink is located next to the fan and it can be recognised it by its numerous metal fins.
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