GEEK-TO-YOU: How to Safely Troubleshoot, Clean, and Repair a Computer




About: The author of the GEEK-TO-YOU series: a series of Instructables designed to educate YOU about computers. I am interested in computers, and the world of technology in general. I am pursuing a career in softwa...

This Instructable will teach you some basic rules to follow when working in the inside of your computer.

Important note: The components you see outside of the computer are components no longer in use either because they are dead or too outdated to be useful. PLEASE do not remove your components unless it is necessary, and you take appropriate precautions. I do not want you to ruin your computer for the sake of experimentation. If you do want to experiment, use a junk computer, but still practice appropriate handling.

***Disclaimer*** I take no responsibility for any damage caused to your computer.

Step 1: One Byte at a Time

This is a basic list of safety precautions:
- Wash your hands
- Keep children at a safe distance
- Keep pets at a safe distance
- Place the computer you are working on atop* a stable surface
- Get permission from the person whose computer you are handling
- Take your time!

*Didn't want to say "on on"

Step 2: ESD: Instant Death for Computer Components

ESD (electrostatic discharge), is perhaps one of the most prevalent hazards to any computer like device (including cell phones, laptops, and tablets). I barely touched on it in one of my previous Instructables. ESD is when static build up is released into another object, like when you touch the outside of your car and get a little shock. This can be very damaging to the components in your computer, completely destroying that component. This can happen to your hard drive as well. 

You can expose components of your computer to ESD other ways as well. Plastic bags carry ESD, garbage bags, zip-lock bags, and any number of things. One of the worst things you can do is place a component in packing mind as well throw it off a cliff.

Step 3: How to Prevent ESD

So how do you prevent ESD? You can take a number of preventative measures:

These first few pertain to your environment:
- The hazard of ESD is most prevalent in cool, dry areas: good example, the winter. You must be most cautious during that time of year.
- DO NOT place your computer on carpet, fabric, or any other fibrous surface.
- DO place it on a clean, dry table or maybe a hard wood floor (though, not the best option)
- DO NOT stand on carpet, especially if you are wearing socks. If you have no other option, try not to move around a lot. Moving around (especially with socks on) will build up static
- Keep your furry little friends away. This mostly pertains to cats, they like to climb in, on, and around things. Don't feel too bad about it, after all, your local garbage company doesn't like you in, on, or around dumpsters.

The next section includes some products:  

Purchase an ESD ESD strap is a "bracelet" that you put around your wrist. It has a cord attached to it (an insulated wire) with an alligator clip at the end that attaches to part of the computer you are working on. That is the most important part! You MUST have the clip attached to a metal part of the computer: the case, a mounting inside of the computer, but not on any components.

Another product you can buy is an ESD mat. This is something you can stand on or place your computer on as an alternative to an ESD strap.

What if you don't have an ESD mat or strap? Do not fear. One alternative is to periodically touch the metal case of your computer to discharge static build up. Also do this once before you start working. My teacher has gotten into the habit of keeping his elbow on the case, which serves the same purpose of an ESD strap. It is a good idea to get into the habit of periodically touching the case of the computer you are working on, that way you will never forget to do it.

Individual components:
Once you take out a component, place it inside an ESD bag. ESD bags are made out of a special material that protects components from ESD. There is no safer place to put your components when outside of your computer.

Step 4: Before You Start Poking Around

Once you have taken the cover off the case, you should clean out all of the dust from your computer first. Computers act like vacuums when ever they are on; they suck air in, and then push it out the other end. But, not before they carry in all the dust and hair (from pets, and humans) into your computer. Cleaning out the dust first will make it easier to see and makes it so you don't have to touch dead skin cells (dust). It is also good to clean out your computer regularly, dust makes your computer run hotter; heat can decrease the efficiency of your computer and even damages the components.

No, you will not be using a rag or cloth. You will be using a compressed air can. You know, those cans that blow out pressurized air and get super cold when you do so? This will blow all the dust away, just make sure to do it where you don't mind dust and dirt getting all over. Make sure you get all the nooks and crannies to make it look nice. Do not blow on the fan blades to make them spin, this will damage the motor. Another great thing to use would be an air compressor; they are quite powerful and will clean out your computer quickly. We use one to clean the computers in our lab at school.

Now, one last time before you dive in, make sure you are wearing an ESD strap, standing on an ESD mat, or touching the computer case.

Step 5: Taking Out Components

Ok, this is another hazard to computers.

Inappropriate handling of components

How to handle your components:
- Hold the edge of the components, do not grab them. A bad thing to do would be to touch the golden/copper contacts. 
- Once you take out a component, put it inside an ESD bag as soon as you can. Otherwise, set it carefully on your clean, dry, non-   conductive surface until you can. 
- If you every attempt to remove the CPU (very discouraged) DO NOT touch the gold contacts! I can not stress that enough! If you do, the oil from your hands will boil on them when you use your computer again, resulting in a very dead processor and motherboard!!!

***Please DO NOT remove any components from your computer without prior experience or somebody experienced supervising!***

I hope this Instructable has helped you learn more about how to safely work on your computer. Please be careful when doing so!

Check out my group that has other helpful Instructables: GEEK-TO-YOU




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    5 Discussions


    2 years ago

    thx this is going to kill it in my report


    3 years ago

    my usb ports 2.0 not the one 3.0 are one way when I installed 10 for the 2 time Toshiba lap top I got all drive up to date ive uninstalled reinstalled turn them off rebooted now software says it had a problem in stalling I'm stuck help satellite 755-55320 windows 10 64/32 bit step up from windows 7 my last resort is go back to 7 and then back to 10 see if that helps any idea


    You never would, unless you were to replace it. I only said that just in case somebody had the wild idea of taking it out. Thank's for the question! I hope this helps.