How To Clean A Motherboard

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Do you know how to clean a motherboard? If you use a computer, it may never have occurred to you that this might be a valuable part of computer maintenance. But the motherboard is a bit like the central nervous system of your computer. Without it, nothing will work.

And while it's usually tucked away safely inside your computer, it can still get affected by dust and dirt. And in extreme cases, a spillage on your computer might get onto your motherboard. By keeping it clean, you reduce the risk of overheating, and any performance declines as a result.

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Now that we've told you why it's a good idea to clean your motherboard, how do you actually do it? That's exactly what we intend to tell you.

How To Clean A Motherboard

We'll cover two main types of cleaning: basic cleaning and deep cleaning. Basic cleaning, as you'd expect, is relatively quick and easy. For most people, this will be all they need to do to look after their motherboard.

Deep cleaning, on the other hand, is reserved for occasions where somehow, your motherboard has got into a mess. Maybe something was spilled on it. Maybe your computer was being used in a coal mine. We don't know. This is much harder, and takes a lot of care.

Read More: How To Clean A PC Fan: Our Guide To Making It Run Smoother

Basic Cleaning

To give your motherboard a routine clean, you'll need a soft brush and a can of compressed air. You may also want to use an anti-static wrist strap. This will protect the internal components of your PC from any potential static damage.

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  • Start by powering off your computer, and unplug it from the wall.
  • Remove the side panel from the computer to gain access to the motherboard.
  • Use your compressed air to remove any dust that has built up. When you are using this on your motherboard, make sure the tip of the compressed air does not touch the motherboard.
  • If there is any dust still stuck to the motherboard, use the soft-bustled brush to very gently and carefully remove it.
  • That's it! Put your computer back together and you are good to go.

Of course, if you are taking apart the computer, it's also a good opportunity to do some general maintenance. Make sure there are no loose connections (especially after using compressed air) clean the fans, and that sort of thing.

Deep Cleaning

As we mentioned earlier, deep cleaning your motherboard should be unnecessary for most people. It's really for when the motherboard is absolutely filthy. You'll need a few pieces of equipment:

  • Isopropyl alcohol - ideally a 99% solution
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  • Lint-free cotton pads and drying cloth
  • A nylon brush
  • A metal tub large enough for the motherboard to fit into

Don't attempt to do a deep clean while the motherboard is still in the computer. Instead, remove it from the computer, and disconnect all other components from it first.

If your motherboard is partially dirty, here's what to do:

  • Use the isopropyl alcohol to wet a lint-free pad. Gently and carefully dab it on the dirty areas. Don't wipe or rub, as this can damage the motherboard. Swap the pad as it gets dirtier, until the motherboard is clean and the pad no longer picks up any dirt.
  • Give your motherboard time to dry out before putting it back into your computer. Some experts advise allowing around 24 hours.

But what if your motherboard is just a complete mess? In this situation, you'll probably need to give the motherboard a wash in your alcohol solution. And we preface all of this by saying that if your motherboard has got into the state where it needs this kind of intervention, there's no guarantee that cleaning it will repair any damage that's been done.

It certainly doesn't hurt to try though.

  • Fill your metal container with enough 99% isopropyl alcohol to submerge the motherboard. The purer the alcohol solution, the better it is for the motherboard, as it contains less water. And water isn't great for electrical components. Even using 99% alcohol can cause your motherboard to stop working. So it's worth testing the motherboard first. If it's still working, you probably don't want to continue with this process.
  • Place the motherboard into the container, and gently move it around to let the alcohol get to all the dirt.
  • Lift it out, and use the nylon brush to gently loosen any dirt.
  • Put it back into the container and move it around to remove as much dirt as possible.
  • Once you're finished, place it on a lint-free cloth and allow it to dry for 24-48 hours.
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If you're unsure of doing this, you may prefer to take your motherboard to a professional to have it cleaned. And if it's still under warranty, then attempting to clean it may void that warranty. Having said which, physical damage can also void the warranty. But it's worth checking with the manufacturer, in case they can offer a repair.

How Often Do You Need To Clean A Motherboard?

A deep clean should really only be done in extreme situations where your motherboard is no longer working.

But maintenance cleaning can be done far more frequently. As ever, this will be influenced by your environment, and how quickly dust and dirt accumulate in your computer. A decent rule of thumb is once a quarter, possibly more frequently if you work in a dusty environment.

Read More: How To Clean A Monitor Screen Without Streaks

Following these tips is the best way to keep your motherboard in good working order. And if you can prolong its lifespan, and maintain its performance, that will save you money in the long run.