I would like to avoid frying my computer. I understand dust collects inside on the boards and the CPU cooling unit. How often should I open up the chassis and what process should I use to safely remove the dust?
This depends greatly on how dusty your house is. I open mine up every few months, and use some pressurized air to blow out all the vents, etc.
You'll want to pay special attention to the areas that usually get hot - for instance, the CPU. Make sure there's proper air flow through the system, and if you turn your computer off a lot, you'll notice a build-up on the fans as well.
If you live in a dusty area, or are a smoker, you'll want to do this on a very regular basis.
Its a good idea to run temp monitoring software in your systray (like motherboard monitor) to watch the ambient/Cpu temps - this should allay your concerns with frying your machine. Typically if your CPU cooling / case ventilation fans are installed properly, you SHOULDN'T have cooling problems.
Most modern cases have filters on the fans that draw air into the case as well.
That said, compressed air is your best bet. Unless your house is super dusty or you're a smoker, chances are you can get by blowing it out with an air duster a few times a year.
Your main cleaning areas should be
- CPU heatsink/fan assembly
- motherboard chipset fan assembly
- powersupply if accessible
- case fans
- hard drives.