Basic Computer Maintenance Tips for People Who Work from Home

7658225516_00cf277f83_bIf you work from home, you probably spend a lot of time in front of your computer. That’s why it’s very important to make sure you maintain your computer properly, both on the inside and on the outside. In this post I’ll provide some basic computer maintenance tips.

The first thing you want to do is keep your computer physically clean. In the following steps I’ll talk about how to clean the various components of your computer:

Cleaning the Keyboard

Dust, food and liquids can get stuck under your  keyboard, which can cause it to not work properly. The first thing you want to do is check your owner’s manual to see if the manufacturer of your keyboard has provided any instructions for cleaning your keyboard. If they haven’t, use the following tips to clean your keyboard.

  1. Unplug the keyboard from the  USB or PS/2 port. If the keyboard is plugged into the PS/2 port, you’ll need to shut down your computer before you unplug it.
  2. Turn your keyboard upside down and shake it gently to remove dirt and dust.
  3. Use a can of compressed air to clean between the keys.
  4. Moisten a cotton cloth or paper towel with rubbing alcohol and use it to clean the tops of the keys. Do not pour alcohol or any other liquid directly onto the keys.
  5. Reconnecthe keyboard to the computer once it’s dry. If you’re connecting it to a PS/2 port, you’ll need to reconnect the keyboard before turning on the computer.

Dealing with Liquids 

If you spill a liquid on the keyboard, quickly shut down the computer and disconnect the keyboard and turn it upside down to allow the liquid to drain. If the liquid is sticky, you’ll need to hold the computer on its side under running water to rinse the sticky liquid away. Then turn the keyboard upside down to drain for two days before reconnecting it. The keyboard may not be repairable at this point, but rinsing the sticky liquid off is the only chance for it to be usable again.  The best way to avoid this is to keep drinks away from the computer area (Note:  While I agree with the previous piece of advice, I realize that’s not always feasible for people who work from home, so my next best pieces of advice are to keep any liquids you drink at your computer in a container that’s sealed tightly, like a water bottle or small thermos, and also to wash your hands thoroughly after drinking any liquid or eating anything at your computer that might be sticky).

Cleaning the Mouse

There are two main types of computer mice – optical and mechanical. Each is cleaned in basically the same way, but  mechanical mice require a bit more work.  Optical mice require no internal cleaning because there aren’t any rotating parts. However, they can get sticky over time as dust collects near the light emitter. This can cause erratic cursor movement or prevent the mouse from working properly. Mechanical mice are especially sensitive to dust and particles that can collect inside the mouse, which can  make it difficult to track,  or move, properly. If the mouse pointer does not move smoothly, the mouse may need to be cleaned. Before you clean your mouse, check your owner’s manual to see if the manufacturer has provided instructions for cleaning your specific mouse. If they have, follow those instructions. If not, follow the instructions shown below.

  1. Unplug your mouse from the USB or PS/2 port. If the mouse is plugged into a PS/2 port, you’ll need to shut the computer down before unplugging it.
  2. Moisten a cotton cloth with rubbing alcohol and use it to clean the top and bottom of the mouse.
  3. If you have a mechanical mouse, remove the tracking ball by turning the ball cover ring counter clockwise. Then clean the tracking ball and the inside of the mouse with a cotton cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol.
  4. Let all of the parts dry before reassembling and reconnecting the mouse. If you are connecting to a PS/2 port, you’ll need to connect it before turning on the computer.

(Note: If you want to give the mouse a quick cleaning, place it on a clean white sheet of paper and move the mouse back and forth. Some of the dust and particles should rub off onto the paper.)

Cleaning the Monitor

Dirt, fingerprints and dust can make your screen difficult to read. However, it’s easy to clean your screen when needed. There are monitor cleaning kits you can buy, however they may damage your monitor if they’re designed for a different type of monitor. For example, a monitor cleaner that’s designed for glass screens is not the right thing to use on non-glass LCD screens. The safest method that will work for any monitor type is to use a soft clean cloth moistened with water.

(Note: Do not use glass cleaner to clean a monitor – many monitors have anti-glare coatings that can be damaged by glass cleaner)

Tips for Cleaning Other Computer Surfaces

  • Dust is your computer’s worst enemy – use antistatic wipes to clean the outside of your computer. Don’t use strong solvents or furniture cleaner on the outside of your computer.
  • Use a can of compressed air with a narrow nozzle to blow out debris from your computer’s air intake slots.
  • Spray cleaning solution like diluted ammonia cleaner or glass cleaner on a paper towel or paper towel or antistatic wipe. Use this to clean the monitor housing and case, not the monitor screen, by wiping in a downward motion.
  • A safe cleaning solution for computer surfaces is ammonia diluted with water or glass cleaner that contains mostly ammonia and water (check the label). The milder the solution, the better.

Keep your Computer Cool

  • Don’t restrict airflow around your computer. A computer can generate a lot of heat, so the casing has fans that  keep that keep it from overheating. Don’t stack papers, books, or other items around your computer.
  • Many computer desks have an enclosed compartment for the computer casing. If you have a computer desk like this, position the case so it is not up against the back side of the desk. If the compartment has a door, you may want to leave it open to improve airflow.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful, in another post I’ll discuss how to take care of the inside of your computer.


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