How to clean a computer radiator?


We often get asked ‘How to clean a computer radiator?’

Let’s face it, computers function by pumping heat out of their components.  This is why you need to buy heatsinks for your CPU, GPU and whatever else needs cooling.  If the computer overheats, the damage can range anywhere from slower performance to a system crash or even permanent hardware failure.  Over time, all those fans will collect dust bunnies and start spinning less efficiently which means your expensive equipment isn’t getting cooled as well as it could be.

If you’re tired of blowing compressed air into your PC every few weeks to no avail (because that stuff just blows right back in), then follow these simple steps to clean out your computer radiator!

  • Begin with, shut down your computer and unplug it from the power source.  Remove the screws that are holding the case together.  Now you should be able to carefully pop open your computer chassis, exposing all those internal components you’ve come to know so well.
  • Grab some tweezers or needle nose pliers and lift up each of the cooling fans until they stop spinning completely (don’t pull any wires out by accident!)
  •  Look for any large chunks of dust or dirt on all the blades and fans.  Use your compressed air can to blow these bits off into a trash bin or onto some old newspaper for easy cleanup later on.  If there’s too much gunk built up, use an old toothbrush to scrub away at the dirt.
  • When you’re done, take a second look at the fan blades to see where they’ve been sitting.  If they’ve been in a dusty area, clean off all the dust you can find with a mixture of soapy water and rubbing alcohol.
  • Let’s move on to inside your computer case.  Use the same method to remove all the fans from their compartments so that they won’t be in the way of your cleaning session.  Be sure not to accidentally disconnect any power cables!
  • Check out where all those cables end up connecting into your motherboard and other computer parts.  There will likely be some residual gunk built up from long years of regular use.  Take some rubbing alcohol and paper towels to wipe away any old residue that you can find.
  • Next up is any vents, grates, or mesh panels that are on your case.  Don’t forget all the small ridges in there where dirt might have collected.  Use a toothbrush to scrub off any gunk that’s built up too much for your bare hands to handle.
  • Don’t neglect the outside of your computer!  All those dust bunnies are unsightly and will eventually affect the quality of air around your computer.    Use everything from microfiber cloths to cotton swabs dipped in water or rubbing alcohol to wipe down every surface you can reach.
  • Don’t forget the fans, come on now!  However, before you go blow drying your fans, make sure to unplug them first.  These little guys spin at an alarming rate and you might just get caught up in all that dust blowing into your face.

If you have a grill guard thing that’s clogged with dust bunnies then those probably need some extra care as well.  Plug in a vacuum cleaner and use it to suck away all the filth from those plugged up guards. By now nothing is probably left on your computer case except for a gleaming shine of cleanliness, so give yourself a pat on the back if everything looks good.

What happens if you don’t clean a computer radiator?

If you don’t clean a radiator, dust will collect in it and reduce its effectiveness. This means the radiator won’t be able to dissipate heat properly, which means your system could overheat. This is a very dangerous situation and can cause permanent damage to both your computer hardware and software, so make sure you keep that thing clean! Get in touch for a cleaning service.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...