Your motherboard, like any other part of your computer, may be covered in a thin layer of dust. Since some motherboard components generate heat, dust can interfere with the cooling of these components and cause them to die faster. You probably want to avoid this, so ask how to clean the motherboard.
In most cases, your motherboard is very easy to clean because it is mounted vertically and not too much dust can accumulate at first. When cleaning the motherboard, pay particular attention to the heatsinks. These components must have adequate airflow, otherwise they will overheat due to dust accumulation, shortening the life of the motherboard.
So here’s a complete step-by-step guide to cleaning your motherboard and a few tips to help you do so.
Before you begin, make sure you have prepared some of the following:
- Compressed air supply
- Vacuum cleaner
- Toothbrush with very soft bristles
- Cotton pads
- Toilet paper or dry cloth
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Plastic holder
Don’t worry too much if you don’t have everything on your list. For example, you can achieve pretty good results with a vacuum cleaner and a cloth without using a compressed air canister. The amount of cleaning that needs to be done depends largely on how dirty your motherboard is.
Once you have everything, you need to connect all the cables to your computer. Then put the computer on a large table or on the floor. The best thing would be to take it outside and put it on a dry surface. Try not to scratch it when you put it on concrete. Avoid surfaces such as carpets and rugs because of static electricity.
The next step is to remove the side panels. You can clean the motherboard by removing just the left panel (for standard PC cases), but removing all the panels allows dust to escape from the case more easily instead of getting stuck. You should also clean the back of the motherboard. While you’re at it, you can clean your entire computer.
Now that you’ve taken the entire computer apart, it’s time to clean the motherboard. Please always keep your feet on the ground. Static electricity is your enemy, and you will be working on one of the most sensitive parts of your computer. You should use an anti-static wristband, because you can never be too careful with expensive PC parts.
Step 1: Dusting of surfaces
The first and most important step is simply to remove as much dust as possible without the need for a thorough cleaning. A can of compressed air is your best friend here. Just take the glass in your hand and blow it out. Use the mouthpiece to get into every nook and cranny.
Even though the tip is soft and flexible, be careful when connecting it to sensitive parts of the motherboard. Capacitors can easily be damaged or broken, and that is the last thing you want. You can also use compressed air to clean the heatsinks on the motherboard. While you’re at it, cleaning other components like the video card, CPU cooler and case fans is just the next step, so there’s no reason to be lazy and not do it.
If you can’t get a compressed air canister, but have an air compressor, you can use it. Make sure that the pressure is not too high as it may damage parts of the motherboard. But since most people don’t have an air compressor, a vacuum cleaner is also a good choice.
If you have a vacuum cleaner accessory that allows you to work more accurately, use it. With the right attachments, you will get much better results. Remember, sucking up dust is very different from blowing it out with air, which means you have to be very careful how you do it. Do not try to get too close to the capacitors, because if you move them in the wrong direction, they will detach from the motherboard.
When you have completed this step, your motherboard will probably be very clean and almost completely dust free. When you are satisfied with the result, put everything back in place and that’s it. However, if your motherboard contains sticky spots or unpleasant dirt, this method is not sufficient. That’s why you brought isopropyl alcohol. Let’s go to the next step.
Step 2: Use of isopropyl alcohol
The reason you should use isopropyl alcohol instead of rubbing alcohol is that it has a higher alcohol content. The higher you can go, the better. While other alcohol compounds are not necessarily dangerous, motherboards have many small cavities in which liquid can become trapped and cause a short circuit.
Now that the choice of liquid is out of the world, here’s how to use it. You have two choices. It is up to you to decide which one is best suited for your situation.
It’s a less cumbersome method. All you need are cotton swabs and a soft toothbrush. Quickly inspect the motherboard and see which parts need cleaning the most. As with clothing, it is much easier to clean stains than to go through every piece.
Using a cotton swab, gently apply isopropyl alcohol to the dirty areas and try to remove as much dirt as possible with the cotton swab. Some stains are harder to clean, so bring a toothbrush. Put a small amount of isopropyl alcohol on a toothbrush and gently wipe the dirtiest areas of the board. Again: Be very careful when you are near capacitors, as a mistake can destroy the entire motherboard.
Once the dirt is removed, wipe the area clean with a paper towel, toilet paper or dry cloth. Repeat this process if necessary to remove all the dirt. Concentrate on the heat sinks, as they are the most important and dirty parts of the motherboard.
However, this method may be inadequate when someone has spilled soda or another sweetened beverage and the tablet has become very sticky. This can happen, but don’t worry because it doesn’t necessarily mean your motherboard is running out of power. Cleaning will be difficult, but not impossible.
If cleaning the stains hasn’t worked, you can always drench the motherboard with isopropyl alcohol. You must first remove the motherboard and all other components from the PC case. If the other parts are dirty, clean them separately. Now let’s focus on the motherboard.
Take a plastic container and put the motherboard in it. Then pour isopropyl alcohol all over the motherboard. You can wait a few minutes for the cone to dissolve, or you can start cleaning right away. As with the first method, you will need a soft-bristled toothbrush and a dry towel or paper towel. Gently wipe the soiled area with a brush and dab with a cloth or towel.
Do it very slowly and carefully to avoid damage. Apply more isopropyl alcohol gradually, as this will make the motherboard much easier to clean. Do not use force as this can easily damage the motherboard.
If the PCIe or RAM slots are also dirty, it’s best to slowly drench them with isopropyl alcohol and use a toothbrush to remove as much as possible. You can use a wooden or plastic toothpick to remove the gun if it is particularly stubborn.
This method is very time consuming but allows you to rid your motherboard of all dirt, metal particles, carbon, dust, etc. Once you are done with the thorough cleaning, it is time to move on to the next step.
Step 3: Waiting for the mainboard to dry
Using liquids on your precious motherboards is very dangerous. This means you should wait as long as possible before you can reconnect all the cables. Although isopropyl alcohol is non-conductive, it can cause many problems and still destroy your motherboard. You should dry the motherboard as best you can with paper towels before leaving it outside to dry.
Wait at least 48 hours before reassembling the computer. Make sure the motherboard is dry beforehand. If you have compressed air left over from step 1, you can use it to blow any remaining liquid into the sealed areas between the capacitors and the MRV.
Step 4: Assembly
Now that the motherboard is completely dry and clean, you can reassemble the computer and connect all the cables. Turn on your computer and enjoy a sparkling clean motherboard.
It’s a good idea to check the motherboard and CPU speed when running a stress test or running a demanding program, to make sure everything is working as expected.
- It is much easier to use compressed air than to remove the motherboard from the computer and use isopropyl alcohol and brushes. This means that it makes sense to clean the motherboard at least once a year.
- Do not use rubbing alcohol or other alcohol in place of isopropyl alcohol. The lower the alcohol content, the slower the evaporation, and in case of contamination there is a risk of damaging the components.
- Do not use fluids if your motherboard is still under warranty. This will likely void your warranty. Once you have made your decision, contact the store where you purchased the product or the manufacturer directly.
- Never clean the computer while it is plugged in. Make sure the computer is turned off and all cables are connected before opening the case.
- Seek professional help if you do not want to risk damaging the motherboard or other components.
- Allow the motherboard to dry completely before connecting anything to it. This is especially true for PCIe and RAM slots and for power connectors.
- Use compressed air to dry the liquid faster by blowing it out.
- Be careful. Take your time with this process, because if you are not careful, you can easily damage or destroy your motherboard.
Cleaning your motherboard is not as difficult as you may think. Even if you spilled a ton of dust or sticky soda, it only takes a few hours for your motherboard to be as good as new. The most important thing is to go slowly and be as careful as possible. Snapping a capacitor won’t immediately break the motherboard, but it can be very difficult and expensive to repair.
If you don’t trust the cleaning process, or if you’ve never disassembled a computer before, consider hiring a professional to do it for you or have a technician help you. Unless something terrible has happened to the motherboard, you can do it yourself.
You probably just need to disconnect all the cables, set the computer on a table, clean the panels and use compressed air to remove all the dust and dirt. When you’re done, put everything back in place and that’s it. You don’t need isopropyl alcohol or extensive computer knowledge to do this.
If you must use isopropyl alcohol, make sure the motherboard is completely dry before you plug it back in. Have fun and keep working now that your motherboard is all dusted off.
frequently asked questions
What can I use to clean my motherboard?
Always use 99% isopropyl alcohol to clean the motherboard. If you clean it, let the motherboard dry completely before restarting the computer. Another option is to seek professional help to clean the motherboard.
Can I wash the motherboard?
The plate can be brushed by hand with water and a brush. Make sure you give it enough time to dry (a fan will help you dry and compressed air will help you get the water out of the corners).
Can I use alcohol to clean the motherboard?
If the motherboard is full of sticky substances and solder residue, the best solution is to clean it with alcohol. Take a gallon bottle of 99% isopropyl alcohol in a small container and carefully place the motherboard in it to submerge it in the alcohol (try to shake it out slowly once it’s properly submerged).
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