Clean Up Your Act…. or at Least Your Computer

Clean Up Your Act…. or at Least Your Computer

(Part 1 of a series)

Someone I know was complaining that his Windows system would crash unexpectedly all the time. It would run fine for a few hours, then crash. It didn’t matter what applications he was running. Two or three hours after booting up, it would crash. Reboot, crash. Reboot, crash. You get the idea.

Eventually he took the cover off the machine and found that his CPU cooling fan had stopped. Replacing it with a new one was the entire fix he needed; no more crashes.

When was the last time you looked inside your computer? You need to look inside that box on occasion. Not often, just once or twice a year. The computer is a precision instrument, and it needs to be cleaned and inspected.

Dirt? Yes, computers get dirty. In fact, whenever I see an intermittent problem on a computer, the first thing I suspect is dirt. You have a fan in the power supply blowing hot air out. This means fresh air gets sucked in through the computer case, and that air carries dust with it. Even in a clean room, there will probably be some dust, but in automotive office or shop environment it is inescapable.

When enough dust accumulates it becomes dirt… and dirt is not your friend. It settles on the components. It insulates them, so they don’t cool as well. As they get hotter, their performance changes. Transistors change their values spontaneously. And that means data in memory changes, and CPUs perform the wrong instructions. Anything can happen.

The enemy – dirt – has invaded this computer.

The dust also works into the bearings of the fans and eventually stops them. The components get hot and change their behavior. Anything can happen, and your shop management software would not be happy.

If the environment is humid (say, summer in Florida), you’ve got even bigger problems. The dust may get damp and cause low-voltage short circuits. This can send random signals to the components. And again — you guessed it — anything can happen!

Fortunately, this is easy to prevent. For most of you, a simple cleaning once a year is all you need, though some locations will need to clean more often. Read Part 2 of this 2-part series for five simple steps to clean your computer – and protect yourself from the risk of losing your data to the enemy, dirt.

About the Author

John Dwulet

John Dwulet is the Senior Product Manager for Mitchell 1’s shop management software systems, including Manager SE and Manager Enterprise. He also serves as a trainer for Mitchell 1’s popular Management Training Workshops, and is an administrator of the shop management discussion forum. He joined Mitchell 1 in 1992 as a tech support agent and has held a variety of positions including quality assurance engineer, system integration analyst and corporate trainer.