Hardware Thread, Hardware Failure - Caused by Dust? in Technical; Our older - by which I mean 5-6 years - PCs (RM F-Series) have a higher failure rate than I ...
22nd April 2010, 11:28 AM #1
Hardware Failure - Caused by Dust?
Our older - by which I mean 5-6 years - PCs (RM F-Series) have a higher failure rate than I would expect - I've had to replace mainboards and sometimes PSUs in around 5% of them this year alone. I've just had the case off one such PC and found it to be fairly dusty inside. Is this just coincidence, or could such a build-up of dust account for the hardware failure?
Obviously, PCs get dusty inside, however this was more dusty than I've come to expect from the PCs, so I'm wondering if the room hasn't been getting cleaned as thoroughly and whether this would have a knock-on impact.
Last edited by enjay; 22nd April 2010 at 11:31 AM.
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22nd April 2010, 11:31 AM #2
Dust can act as insulation so would let components overheat.
I remember opening up an RM machine years ago, there wasn't much in there. A small drive, an AA battery but 2" of dust. They had never gone wrong so no reason to open them.
22nd April 2010, 11:32 AM #3
Definitely. Dust insulates components, so heat loss is restricted and they run warmer than they ordinarily would. Over time, this will shorten the life of components. I have serviced PC's in the past where the CPU heatsink has been completely clogged with dust causing the machine to 'stutter', crash or just behave erratically. Once the heatsink was cleared of dust, and the cooling fan was again able to draw air onto or away from the heatsink, the machine behaved perfectly.
22nd April 2010, 11:35 AM #4
My home laptop would not play videos in fullscreen without stuttering, I noticed it was getting rather hot so used a can of compressed air to blow the dust out of it and now everything is fine.
22nd April 2010, 11:36 AM #5
2"?! Okay, I'm not talking that dusty! This was just a light coating of that grey/black dust, but more so than in other PCs of similar age. I have noticed that the cleaning staff used to damp-wipe all the desks and now don't, and wondering if this could be causing the failure.
I could set some time aside to go round all the PCs with cans of airdusters, but without assistance from the cleaners, this dust will just sit on the desks and go straight back in to the PCs - it would at least serve as a stop-gap, though, I suppose.
22nd April 2010, 11:42 AM #6
What, if any, cleaning regimes do you guys have? I can (possibly!) get the cleaners to damp-wipe the desks, however it wouldn't be the first time I've seen the damp-wiping the computers too, which would cause way more problems than the dust ever could! Also, this wouldn't do much about the mounds of dust accumulating in the mass of wires behind the PCs, which I wouldn't want the cleaners going near.
Would an annual jaunt round the school with a canned air-duster suffice/make any difference?
22nd April 2010, 11:49 AM #7
Trying to keep the rooms clean obviously helps, but in my experience school cleaners often don't perform a particularly good job. Damp wiping and some of ours would be a danger to themselves never mind the electrical equipment. (Although we have an outstanding Portuguese lady doing our main building and she does clean thoroughly and safely!)
Originally Posted by enjay
I go round with the air-can in every holiday to do the projectors and the NAS which for some reason seems to be a real dust magnet!
Servers and PCs get done when/if I can, but probably not often enough. If I have any reason to shut down a server, I always have a quick clean while I'm doing it!
22nd April 2010, 12:06 PM #8
Dust affects performance. I would comment my own experiences but I think there's been enough posted here already. The machines run hotter, which reduces their lifespan, and in extreme cases causes system crashes. If you have the time to do so then yes, it would make a difference.
Originally Posted by enjay
We have over 400 PC's here. Taking the cases off of each one and cleaning them is not feasible. Our cleaners do a satisfactory job of ensuring the desks and associated cable areas are clean. The only time I clean a computer internally is when there are reports that the machine fans are very noisy, which is a tell tale sign of overheating, or irratic crashes or behaviour that have no logical explanation relating to software or hardware. Whip the case off and blast it with compressed air, which we keep copious amounts of.
Servers... I haven't personally cleaned them since I joined here. However we did have to repair one of our CCTV servers, which had been housed in the same server room for a couple of years, and it was spotless, to our bemusement. Never before had the case been removed and there wasn't a speck of dust inside. We assume the other servers are the same, as it's also not feasible to remove them to clean at present.
All our projectors, that have filters (we recently purchased a batch of filterless projectors to counter this), automatically throw up a warning for the filter and fans to be cleaned after 100 hours of usage, which we frequently receive calls for. The message continues to show unless the timer is reset in the projector's advanced menu. They also throw up a "Check Air Flow" message if the projector is particularly clogged, which cannot be removed unless the air flow to the projector is improved, by cleaning of course. So most of our projectors are cleaned regularly, as the message sits slap-bang in the middle of the projected image, which immediately disrupts teaching. We respond directly to a projector-cleaning call. If we complete all tasks during a half term, then I'll check the log of projectors that have been recently cleaned and make an effort to visit those that haven't been cleaned in quite some time (Some staff ignore the warnings and don't/forget to tell us).
And all this cleaning comes from a can of compressed air.
Last edited by Mako; 22nd April 2010 at 12:11 PM.
22nd April 2010, 01:00 PM #9
Pentium 4 processors with a 478 socket have a fan that blows down onto the heatsink, i've cleaned loads of the computers here and for private customers, where a layer of dust builds up on top of the fan and stops the cooling effect entirely and leads to overheating.
Some dust is also a conductor of electricity so if its covering a motherboard there is a chance that it could cause premature failure. I've certainly found it to be the cause of many a power pack death.
22nd April 2010, 01:21 PM #10
Dust is one of the biggest killers where system stability is an issue. Dust is electrically conductive all be it only slightly. On the tolerances that the the components in modern motherboards work at even small voltage leaks can cause havoc.
22nd April 2010, 03:39 PM #11
That's what this one is, actually!
Originally Posted by difinity
Okay, so you've confirmed what I already knew really, that dust is bad. How guilty should I be feeling about these failed PCs, and is there - realistically - anything which can be/should have been done? Whenever I have the case off a PC or have one in my office for any reason, I always blast it - should I start factoring something larger-scale into my non-termtime work?
22nd April 2010, 03:50 PM #12
If you have the time/staff to do it then it won't hurt. We don't here, as with two staff and 540 PCs/laptops it would be a time consuming task, though with no budget for new equipment we may now have the time to do it! Cleaning off the RAM is one of the first things we do when called to a failing PC and quite often it fixes it, as happened recently on my home PC!
Originally Posted by enjay
22nd April 2010, 03:51 PM #13
Recently in one of out IT suites i noticed the fans were louder than normal. I took the top of the case off and a thick layer of dust on top of the heatsink was noticable. It took me an hour or so to remove the dust layer from 24 machines. I used tweezers to remove the dust without removing the fan or plastics.
The computers were then much quieter and i guess will last longer.
23rd April 2010, 02:35 PM #14
Has anyone seen one of those dust blasters that uses compression of atmospheric air rather than canned air? I'm wary about static but assuming that's been thought of could save a fortune on canned air which we never seem to have when we need it anyway.
23rd April 2010, 02:53 PM #15
Are you sure it's dust and not volcanic ash?
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