Clean the Sink!

Most people know, as I do, that there is dust inside their computers. Some people even realize that dust can cause heat to build. Possibly not to the extent it becomes a fire hazard but the hardware inside your computer is in danger of failure due to overheating long before a fire breaks out.

Blowing through the vents with a can of compressed air rarely has any effect whatsoever,

and could potentially do more damage with the contents of the can spraying out as a super cold liquid. To really clean inside, you must get inside. Fortunately its not that difficult or dangerous but the impact on your commuter equipment can be significant.

This is the inside of my Mac Pro. A veteran machine that is serving well despite it being a 2006 model. One problem it can have is restarting, not booting up, but restarting after, say, a power failure or software installation. The culprit in this case is usually hot ram. So, the cooling mechanism is not doing its job. You can see why.

Heatsink and fan assembly in Mac Pro

The fans have been removed, revealing the heatsink – a block of fins designed to cool the air passing over them much like the radiator in a car. As you can see, not only were the fans carrying extra dust, the fins themselves were quite clogged, preventing good airflow. Resulting in hot ram and additional components.

Heatsink and fan assembly in Mac Pro

Blowing via compressed air would simply disperse the dust all over the inside of the interior components. You really need to take some time to vacuum it away. It need not be squeaky clean but a dramatic difference can be made.

Heatsink and fan assembly in Mac Pro

Heatsink and fan assembly in Mac Pro

You can just feel the machine breathing easier.
So, the process doesn’t take long and is well worth the effort to keep your computer running optimally.

Later that day…..

As if by some weird coincidence or attention jealousy my MacBook Pro suddenly shut down for seemingly no reason. Prior to doing so, the screen went all sorts of crazy. I feared the worst, a graphics card failure. After a few tests of restarting the machine only to see it shut down immediately I decided to open it up and give it a quick dusting around the vents and fans.
This improved the situation some but I guessed I could do more. Sure enough, I removed the fans to reveal the heatsink.

Heatsink and fan assembly in MacBook Pro

Again, had I blown air into the vents without opening up the machine it would have been useless. Here we can see a large amount of dust settled between the heatsinks and where the fans sit, impeding airflow.

Heatsink and fan assembly in MacBook Pro

Heatsink and fan assembly in MacBook Pro

I used a ShopVac with some tiny adapters (available where they sell ShopVacs). Take care not to casually brush over any surfaces that don’t actually require cleaning. Always disconnect the power supply and try to work in a static free environment. Florida is so humid right now, thats unlikely be a problem.

We cannot prevent dust from getting in the machines, but do consider a “spring clean” once or twice a year.