I will admit from the start. The reason I am writing this guide on how to clean your computer is because my computer is in some condition. Worse country than PC builds itself? Maybe. A fan, or perhaps a fan, started making the kind of grinding noise that takes away the feature of my morning coffee. The slapping on the top of the can seemed to loosen it up a bit, although it would eventually get me bitten in the ass, I know. I’m just not able to do much of the first thing when I settle into the morning meeting, grab a big cup of coffee in my hand.
Your next device
Can’t be bothered to clean your device? Just buy a new one, I won’t judge you.
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I blame Covid-19 for this unfortunate condition. My temporary office space means that my pride and joy, my Threadripper system, is now on a carpeted floor in what was once my dining room. I am well aware that this is a bad thing. You don’t have to be angry with my device. But there’s not much I can do about it, as my home has become my office, and I now have five computers crammed around one desk. There is no space on the desk itself, and while there is a side unit that I can use, it is packed with hardware I need to test.
do not judge me. (I judge myself enough for all of us.)
So yes, the system needs a good clean. Spring has come, so it seems like a good enough time to give him a “spring cleaning” and give him some advice in the process. Not only does it sort out fans and general dust that attracts computer powers, but it sorts out software as well. Using TreeSize, which is a much better utility than WinDirStats that Jacob adores – you might not be, it’s just the tool I’ve always used for this job.
Dust buildup is of course a perennial problem, and if you’re looking for more ideas, check out this guide on how to clean your PC (from 2018, but not much has changed in all honesty) and Wes a More Phlegm Guide to Sorting Your Device Definitely worth a look, too. Basically, this is something we should all probably do a little bit more, you know like back up, eat greens, drink more water, etc.
How to clean your computer
Fans, fans and more fans
When it comes to cleaning your device well, I’m mainly talking about the fans. These rotating air pumps do a great job of keeping even the toughest gaming rigs cool, but they’ll collect a layer of fur if left unchecked. The solution is to blow air on them until they regain their original fuzz-free shine.
The best way to do this is to turn off your pride and happiness, unplug it, take it outside, or somewhere where there is plenty of ventilation, and go to work with a can of compressed air. These are so cheap to buy, I bought a 400ml can from Amazon for $6 (£5). It’s way too many, and for once you can probably check out user reviews on Amazon – it’s an air can, how bad can it be?
If dirt is baked on the fan blades, the compressed air may not be enough. In this case, you will need to use a microfiber cloth to help remove the dirt. I’m not an advocate of anti-static wrist straps, but make sure you keep yourself grounded while doing this to make sure you don’t damage anything.
If you haven’t cleaned your system for a while, a partial stripping might be the only option to get all the fluff out of the various nooks and crannies. This should be the same as building your own computer but in reverse. And with a can of compressed air in your hand to help eliminate dust.
You will need a screwdriver, in order to free your graphics card and, depending on how clogged the system is, also to free the fans and possibly the motherboard if things are really bad. You don’t have to release the cooler from the top of the CPU, but if you do, you’ll need some isopropyl alcohol to clean the old dirt between the cooler and the top of the CPU. You’ll also need new thermal paste if you’re going this far.
If your machine has any fan filters, they are very easy to clean. Just extract or peel it if it is magnetically attached and wipe it with a microfiber cloth. Or failing that, some kitchen roll will work, too.
How to clean your SSD
TreeSize is your friend
Friend is a bit strong. It can be useful though. If you want to quickly see where all of your drive space is gone, TreeSize is a great tool, and there’s also a free version, so what’s not to like?
Why should you care? Whether you’re running a modern, ultra-fast NVMe SSD, a SATA drive, or a spinning hard drive, you’ll want the space to optimally run these devices. And besides, you will undoubtedly want to install and play more games over the next year, so free up space now. This way, you can act on the moment and buy loads of games in the upcoming Steam sale, knowing you have a place for them.
Simply open TreeSize, right-click on the drives in order and select TreeSize Free from the dropdown menu and stare in disbelief as you see how big your Steam installation is.
Install the game
TreeSize is really good at highlighting those games that take up too much space. Take a look at your Steam, Epic, Ubisoft, and Origin folders with TreeSize Free, and by default you’ll see where your hard drive space is headed, with the worst culprits at the top. If you play these games this is obviously fine, but this game that you haven’t touched in months, but takes up close to 100GB can probably go.
If you’re on a limited connection or it’s a slow connection, backing them up somewhere local is fine, but just leaving them on your device without running isn’t very smart. I haven’t played Destiny 2 on this console in years – I installed it when I moved to Steam, but never after making sure my character has moved on. This is 85 GB of space that I can easily recover. Simply head over to Steam (or whatever client you’re using), and uninstall the game from there.
Just let it go. It’s more trouble than it’s worth. Well, this is not helpful. How about taking a look at the size of your Documents folder and assessing whether it’s worth sorting or not. If it’s not taking up much space on your drive, it’s probably fine. I mean, everything that matters is in the cloud these days anyway, right? right?
If you’re dead to trying to sort through what has essentially become your computer’s loft space, by all means do it carefully and get rid of anything you know you don’t need anymore. Get a figurative yard sale and get rid of anything you don’t want or need anymore. If you’re going to back up anything, this mess of folders is probably where you should start. At the very least, throw it on a USB drive and lose it in a drawer somewhere.
Snapshots and videos
My screenshot folder is an absolute mess. Partly because of the job, but also because of my strange compulsion to capture great moments in my life. One of the fun things about playing the likes of Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering Arena is that there are plenty of times when I try to capture shots of intense matches that don’t make any sense at all moments after I capture them. The current screenshot count is 521, although there are plenty of working images out there as well.
Unless your day job involves keeping all that nonsense going, you can probably do the “Ctrl + A” and “Random Delete” command, although if you want to take the time to relive those moments feel free. If you enjoy a trip down gaming memory lane, you can leave it as is. Screenshots generally don’t take up much space — even my upload folder only takes 1.4GB. I can ignore it for a while.
The videos folder might be a different matter though. You don’t need many examples of your internet antics to be able to free up a lot of drive space quickly. It depends on your capture resolution and on what format it’s saved in, but I’ve sat on 19 5GB files doing nothing for anyone. Delete it and get that space again.
Ctrl + A and delete the widget. You might want to do a quick scan first, but your Downloads folder will probably be huge and full of utter junk. You don’t really need the Ubuntu ISO image that’s been laying there for a year, and all of your Nvidia driver downloads can be turned into a lot of virtual dust. Erase everything.
Scan your desktop
I admit it sounds a bit trivial, but if you have trouble sorting the rest of your device, but leave your desktop in tatters, you won’t feel like you’ve done anything at all. Go to the desktop and get rid of as much as possible. You will feel cleaner and more streamlined. You’re only really kidding yourself, I know, but we need these little psychological tricks to get through the day sometimes.
Depending on how you use your computer, you may be able to get rid of everything here except for the Recycle Bin. When was the last time you launched a game, or anything for that matter, from your desktop? If that’s your preferred method, that’s okay, keep it, but at least group it logically.
Empty the trash
After you’ve done everything else, cleared all your unplayed games, and scrolled through your Downloads and Documents folders, you can vaporize the contents of the Recycle Bin and enjoy all that space you’ve freed up. It’s also a good idea to turn on TreeSize (or WinDirStats if you prefer) and make sure there isn’t a huge space eating up the giant you’ve crept through.
you’re good. Good job and all that. Give yourself a pat on the back, rest in your chair and play that game you’ve been meaning to get around.