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On The Bench - A Dirty Computer Story

The work bench at Village Tech this week had an HP Computer that had started to make a very loud fan noise. Normally this computer would run nearly silently but all that changed overnight one day last week.

From the front this computer does not look in too bad of a shape.

Even from the back, at first glance it looks OK. However a little closer inspection of the fan reveals the first hint of trouble.

Those fan blades behind the grill should be all black. Lets open the computer up and take look inside.

In case it is not clear, here is a close up of the power supply, and the dust and dirt spilling out of the back vents.

In this computer, the power supply rotates up, and is then slid out of the case. You can see more caked on gunk at the back of the fan housing, under it, and next to it built up on the mother board itself.

With the power supply out, you can better see the build up in the power supply. The dirt on the fan blades make them less efficient at moving air, and the plugged vents in the back give that air no way to get into the computer. This causes the heat to build up, which causes the fan to spin faster making more noise, and possibly causing damage inside the computer.

After clearing out the plugged up vents, we opened the power supply itself, and got a clear view of the fan.

We cleaned each fan blade by hand. Simply blowing compressed air would not remove the majority of the stuff literally stuck to the fan. Also blowing air through one of these fans can cause the fan to spin at a faster rate than it is designed for and that can damage the fan's motor.

Removing the front face plate from the computer we find even more gunk (dust, dirt, hair, etc...) completely plugging the air intake for the computer. There is another fan here, behind the silver plugs in the right side of the case. This fan was in just as bad of a condition as the power supply fan. This computer was literally starving for fresh air, probably running both fans at full speed to try to keep itself cool (thus the very loud fan sounds we started with).

The computer was completely disassembled, and the case thoroughly vacuumed out, then wiped down with disinfectant wipes.

The fans were cleaned as mentioned above, all of the cables inside the computer were wiped down. The CPU Cooler was removed, cleaned and reattached with new thermal transfer paste (this helps remove heat from the CPU chip). Everything was then re-assembled.

Unfortunately, even after cleaning the fan in the power supply would still only run at full speed. Most likely the temperature sensor inside the power supply has burned out.

Because this is an HP Computer using non-standard parts we had to buy a very specific replacement part for $56.88. If it been a standard part, a power supply could have been as little as $25.00.

In summary: This computer was pretty bad, but in all the years I have been doing computer work, this really is only 8 on a dirty scale of 1 to 10. This computer was about 4 years old and had never been cleaned. It certainly cost the owner the price of a new power supply, but any other unseen, as yet unknow issues may still be lingering in parts that have been overly hot for extended periods of time.

At least now the computer is somewhat lighter, and definitely much quieter.

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