Is your machine clean?

When was the last time you cleaned your computers? The answer is probably, "huh?" If your office computers are more than a year old, you might want to think about it, especially any computer in a treatment room or sitting on the floor. Dust and other gunk inside your computer can act like a blanket, making it prone to overheating. A scummy keyboard, a monitor covered with fingerprints, or a dusty mouse looks bad and is more prone to failure. A clean machine is a happy machine

Larry Emmott, DDS

When was the last time you cleaned your computers? The answer is probably, "huh?" If your office computers are more than a year old, you might want to think about it, especially any computer in a treatment room or sitting on the floor. Dust and other gunk inside your computer can act like a blanket, making it prone to overheating. A scummy keyboard, a monitor covered with fingerprints, or a dusty mouse looks bad and is more prone to failure. A clean machine is a happy machine

Don`t use soapy water and a scouring pad to clean a delicate computer. Water and electronics don`t mix well and a sure way to really mess up a computer is to spill liquid on the keyboard or CPU. However, the cleaning equipment you do need is inexpensive and available at most computer stores. Compressed air in a can, cotton swabs, and a bottle of denatured alcohol should do it. If you want to get fancy, you can buy one of those little computer-cleaning vacuums and special cleaning solutions. But they are not really necessary. On the other hand, most of us have ready access to compressed air and a little vacuum in our treatment rooms.

The dirtiest parts of your computer are the ones you`re handling all the time, the keyboard and mouse. Turn off the computer before starting any cleaning procedure. Flip the mouse on its back and turn the ring on the bottom, pop out the ball and look inside. You`ll see two rollers. These tend to accumulate hair, dust, and mouse-pad goo. Remove the goo from the rollers and the mouse ball with a little denatured alcohol and a cotton swab. Do not use rubbing alcohol - it has oily glycerin in it. Plain alcohol is best.

Cleaning your keyboard is a little trickier. Before you start, turn off the computer and disconnect the keyboard. Now pop the keycaps off. This is easy on most (but not all) keyboards, but do it carefully to avoid losing any tiny parts. Some keyboards have springs inside the keys. Be sure to map where the keys go. It`s not always obvious how to put the thing back together.

Once you pop off the keys, you`ll see the gunk that`s been collecting inside. Blow it out with compressed air. If the key tops are smudged, clean them with a little soap and water, but let them dry completely before putting them back on.

Monitor screens tend to turn into dust magnets and need to be cleaned regularly. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners like Windex. They can strip the glare protection right off. Use a mild cleaner formulated for monitors and LCD screens called Klear Screen. It comes with a lint-free cloth for polishing. You can find it, or something similar, at most computer stores.

If you`re comfortable with a screwdriver, you can open up your CPU and check inside. Make sure the computer is turned off and unplugged. If static electricity is a problem in your office, discharge it by touching the case around the power supply. Microchips hate to be shocked.

Once you`ve got the case open, look inside. If you`ve got a computer vac, or central vac in the treatment room, use it to remove the biggest clumps of fuzz. You also can use canned air to blow the dust away, but try to blow it out of the machine, not into its corners.

Put everything back together and you`re all done. That`s all it takes to clean your computer. Just use a little common sense and check your computer`s manual or with your local vendor for instructions specific to your hardware.

The other alternative is to avoid the whole thing by paying to have your hardware vendor come in annually to perform these tasks and give you a good check up.

The future is coming and it will be amazing.

Dr. Larry Emmott is a practicing general dentist in Phoenix, Ariz. He is also an entertaining, award-winning professional speaker. He has addressed hundreds of professional groups. He is a featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute, is a member of AADPA, and will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming ADA Technology Day. He has written many articles for national magazines on dentistry, computer use, and management. He produces a monthly newsletter on management and computer use in the dental office. He has developed and maintains an Internet Web site at www.drlarryemmott.com; his e-mail address is emmott@primenet.com.

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