Monthly Archives: September 2013

How To Clean a Laptop

Does your notebook computer look filthy? In this guide we show you how to make your notebook computer look brand new again by giving important areas a good cleaning — that includes the screen, keyboard, cooling system — even the USB ports.

Getting Started

Following this guide takes about one hour and requires the following basic items (most of which you probably have in the house):

  • Two clean microfiber cloths/towels (~$5 at a department store or automotive supply)
  • Canned air (~$8)
  • A bottle of Isopropyl alcohol (80% or better) (optional) ($4)
  • One notebook computer in need of a cleaning
  • A clean towel to rest the notebook computer on
  • A well-lit environment

Before you start:

  1. Shut off and then unplug the notebook computer
  2. Remove the notebook computer’s battery
  3. Press the notebook’s power button a few times to clear any excess electricity
  4. Put the notebook on the clean towel so it doesn’t get scratched


  • This DIY is meant to be a guide only; the steps are ambiguous to apply to the largest number of notebooks. In other words, the steps listed here are not step-by-step for any notebook in particular.
  • Follow this DIY at your own risk; takes zero responsibility for any damage caused.

Clean the Cooling System and Ports

Notebook computers are air cooled; that is, they’re designed to keep cool by dissipating heat into the surrounding air. Just about every notebook computer has an active cooling system consisting of at least one fan which blows warm air out of the notebook. Dust particles in the air can build up on the fan’s blades as well as the heatsinks inside the chassis, reducing the cooling system’s effectiveness.

What’s the plan to get rid of that caked up dust? Two words: canned air. It’s a common off-the-shelf item found in any department, home improvement or electronics store. The idea is to aim the canned air into your notebook’s cooling system and blow the dust out using its high-pressure air stream.

Remember the dos and don’ts of canned air:

  1. Before you use canned air, aim it in a safe direction and pull the trigger a few times; some moisture may come out.
  2. When using canned air, hold it as upright as possible — moisture can come out if held at a weird angle, which is the last thing you want inside a computer.
  3. A straw is usually included with canned air; insert it into the nozzle to concentrate the blast of air.
  4. Use short bursts, a half second or so at a time; this is more effective at freeing up caked on dust and dirt than one continuous pull.
  5. The can may get very cold to the touch after extended use; the remedy is to just let it sit for a couple of minutes.
  6. Observe all safety precautions listed on the canned air’s packaging.

Put the canned air nozzle right up to the cooling exhaust vent on your notebook computer and give it a few short bursts. Remember to keep the canned air upright during this process per the dos and don’ts above. You’re done once you can see no more dust coming out.

Remember to clean out your USB and other ports as well — put the nozzle right up to them and give it a short burst.

Clean the Keyboard

This will be a two-part cleaning. The first task is to use the canned air to blow out as much debris and other unwanted material from between and under the keys. Follow the dos and don’ts listed in the section above; always be careful not to tilt the can over too far — the can I’m using in the picture is about as far as I could tilt it! Using the included straw in the nozzle is especially helpful here, otherwise you’ll have to pick your notebook up and manipulate it. Regardless, you probably won’t get out everything, and that’s fine — it’ll at least look better than before.

The second part is to disinfect and clean the actual key surfaces. In the “Getting Started” section of this guide, I mentioned Isopropyl alcohol — this is a very effective cleaning agent paired with a microfiber towel.

Put a quarter-sized dab of the alcohol on the microfiber towel, and then go over the keyboard using mild pressure. Be careful that the edges of the microfiber towel don’t get caught on the edges of keys; you may want to have only a small portion of the microfiber towel touching the keyboard for this reason. Keep cleaning until the microfiber towel comes away clean, hp elitebook 8770w cooling fan.

Clean the Screen

A notebook computer’s screen is a dust and fingerprint magnet. For this part, we’ll use a microfiber towel but with water instead of the Isopropyl alcohol we used to clean the keyboard. Not all screen surfaces are friendly with alcohol.

Get the area about the size of a quarter on your microfiber towel damp with water, then gently (as little pressure as possible) go over the surface using a circular motion. Look at the screen from different angles as you’re clean to make sure all the imperfections come off. For especially tough spots, you can at your own risk use a tiny bit of mild soap.

Clean the Chassis

Don’t forget to wipe down the rest of your notebook, especially the palm rest. Much like the screen, use a microfiber towel dampened with water to wipe down all visible surfaces.

Stick to a Cleaning Schedule

Use the condition you found your notebook in at the beginning of this guide as motivation to not let it get as dirty again. Like cars, it takes less time to clean a notebook computer if the cleaning is more frequent; there’s less opportunity for dirt and otherwise to build up. For me, I do a cleaning once monthly.


This guide covered how to clean all the most important areas of a notebook computer, including the screen, keyboard, cooling system, chassis, even the USB ports. It’s safe to clean a notebook computer provided the basic safety rules described in the guide are followed. Remember to stick to a cleaning schedule so your notebook doesn’t get as dirty as it was before you went through the guide.