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I use an air blower to dust the inside of my PC every few months. I keep the PC fans from turning when doing this to avoid turning them into dynamos and possibly causing damage to the electronics. I've been using this technique for years without problem as it's easier and cheaper than compressed air.

AirBlower Tool

However I've heard that this might cause problems because apparently the friction caused by the air can create static electricity. This somehow is not a problem with compressed air cans.

Is there any truth in this?

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Good question, I'm always afraid about same for my laptop. –  Gnoupi Sep 3 '09 at 11:34
    
I'm not too sure if all that dust would end up in some other component like an optical drive. –  ymasood Sep 3 '09 at 11:38
    
O_o never thought of static electricity.. btw i use an air blower too and i haven't faced any trouble just as yet, though i always keep my computer off while doing so. –  rzlines Sep 3 '09 at 11:39
    
Why not use a vacuum cleaner? That way, dust is removed and does not accumulate in inaccessible places. –  mouviciel Sep 3 '09 at 11:53
    
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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

That blower is connected to your mains and its plastic nozzle could easily damage electronic components if it gets too close - which is an easy mistake waiting to happen (I know by experience ;)... same reason for not using a regular vacuum cleaner near or inside a PC.

Also note that component damage by static discharge is not always immediately or ever apparent (PC resetting or stops working when it happens) but are usually much more subtle like random crashes a few times a month or whatnot... it's a bit like network security, you can't really tell if you've been compromised or not.

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I'd like to add that I haven't researched why such a nozzle creates static discharges - if it has anything with the mains to do or just with the much bigger airflow... just that I've seen it happen way too many times. –  Oskar Duveborn Sep 3 '09 at 11:50
    
Damage from static is like any other damage- if it is truly damaged, the same operations produce the same errors, consistantly. Random crashes may come from random charges of static electricity, but that is not the same as long-lasting damage from a previous static discharge. –  kmarsh Sep 3 '09 at 12:17
    
Yes but say if some parts of a memory chip is damaged, those parts might not normally be accessed or used in a predictable manner so the problem will only surface when that area of the component is used... as well as pretty much everything inside a computer? (it might even boot fine with several blown components ;) –  Oskar Duveborn Sep 3 '09 at 13:00
    
Bit difficult to tell which of these answers is the correct one, so this one is accepted mostly due to vote count –  Manos Dilaverakis Sep 4 '09 at 9:42
    
If your PC is on a static table or mat, and that is grounded to the mains, and your vacuum is plugged into those mains, and you use proper procedure by touching the tool to the case chassis before going inside, you won't have any problems. If you don't follow these procedures, you will have problems no matter what you use. –  kmarsh Sep 11 '09 at 12:37
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I blow out every old PC with a tire shop air compressor before working on it. When I am done they always work better, and run cooler. I have never lost an optical drive this way, but then I am careful not to blow into the drive.

A vacuum with a soft bristle tool is helpful for getting hardened dust off of fan leading edges. Used in combination with the air compressor, it can reduce the total amount of dust in your workshop but catching it as it comes off the PC.

I have done this with literally hundreds of PC's and never lost a component to static, or had something fail (that wasn't already dead.)

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The compressed air cans have a gas that will evaporate thoroughly without residue. )The liquid will evaporate, but it will cause water in the air to condense and freeze, so not a great idea to hold cans upside down when cleaning electronics.)

Air from a compressor will have condensation as well as possible compressor oil that can get on to your components. Unless specially equipped to filter that crap out, it probably would not be a good idea to use a compressor.

As stated, a electric blower can have static issues. If you're thinking about a gas blower, you potentially run into gas/oil residue. There won't be a lot of it by any means, but it can accumulate over time, and I wouldn't want ANY of it on my system.

I would suggest sticking with canned air, multipacks aren't THAT expensive and will last a long time.

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+1 for also addressing my secondary question :) –  Manos Dilaverakis Sep 4 '09 at 9:37
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Sure, just don't create a wind tunnel in your PC. Make sure to keep a reasonable distance back when using the air blower. There's no real reason to create a hurricane in there.

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