It's an 'outside job'

WE CLEAN ourselves everyday. Yet when it comes to looking after the personal computer, we tend to forget about minimum maintenance... till disaster strikes.

How many PCs does one see, where the monitor is grimy with dust; the keyboard almost black with the dirty paw marks of its user/s; the mouse abused and worn out to a standstill!

Here are a few hints about what needs to be done about the externals of the PC. For starters, every PC user needs to acquire a bottle of Collin or a similar brand of glass and household cleaner, preferably one that comes with a sprayer,a cleaning cloth and a small supply of cleaning buds.

If one makes a habit of swiping the monitor, CPU box and keyboard with a cloth soaked in cleaner, every day before starting work on the PC, it will look clean and almost new even after five years.

There is more to this than aesthetics: after a few hours continuous use, you may have noticed the crackling sound when you pass your hand over the monitor: this is the static electricity building up, because the older CRT-type displays work on very high voltages. Spraying some cleaning fluid and wiping dry will neutralise the static, which can otherwise be quite dangerous, even give you a small jolt.

The keyboard needs some extra work, at least once a week. When more than one person uses the machines, keyboards take a beating. Many of us tend to scratch our heads as we ponder on what to type next and bits of hair end up in the gaps between the keys. Some of us munch something as we work and the keyboard soon resembles a menu of our last meal.

Cleaning the keyboard with a wet cloth is not enough. You need to dab between the keys with a cleaning bud. However, do remember that most keyboards particularly the cheaper ones use a somewhat delicate plastic film beneath the keys to make the interconnections. So don't pour cleaning liquid on the keyboard — it will cause an electrical short. And no keyboard is `coffee proof". Spill hot fluid on it and the plastic film will be irreparably damaged.

The mouse is another delicate device that we tend to abuse. After a month or two of use, it will attract a lot of dust, lint and other particles. You can safely open the mouse once in a while, and gently rub the parts, blowing away the dust before closing it. Don't use liquid to clean it.

Most PC units come with mini fans or blowers. And over months, their blades can get clogged with dust. Also the ventilation holes on the back of the CPU units also work in reverse and a lot of dust tends to accumulate. With the PC switched off, it is not too difficult to open the casing. But removing the dust and grime within, requires a vacuum cleaner — not the big domestic one, which will suck half the wires inside, but one of those minivac battery operated types.

Do not try to clean inside the CPU unit with a cloth, since in all probability you will dislodge some jumpers and will not be able to put it back again. However, if you are not comfortable with opening up the PC, it is wiser to entrust this to a service engineer at least once a year.

To clean CD and floppy drives, never poke its innards with a bud or a cloth. Use the special cleaning tapes or lenses that one can buy in most PC accessory stores and follow the instructions.