Hardware Maintainance

Cleaning Out the Vents

You will need the correct tools to do this.

  • 1 can of Dust-Off compressed air.
  • A Vacuum cleaner with a hose, lowest setting.
  • Service Manual (older models) or Owners Model (newer models). – Get this from the Dell FTP Website.
  • Any Tools required for disassembly.

The first thing you should do is power off the system and remove the AC adapter and battery.

Failure to do so can damage your fan if compressed air and a vacuum cleaner force against the fan while its running.

For laptops tip the system upside down and look at the base. e.g. this is an Inspiron 6400:


Take some time and inspect the base, where the vents are. Spray each opening with compressed air.

Note: hold the can of compressed air at approximately 30-45º. This way you will release compressed air into the vents which dislodge any trapped dust. Holding at 90º will release a froth which you don’t want as it will deplete the can faster and also can leave some liquid on your machine.


Vacuum any dust released and hold the vacuum cleaner about 5-10 cm above the vents using the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner.

Note don’t hold the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner directly above the vents but leave it about 5-10 cm depending on the strength of your vacuum cleaner. The full strength of the vaccum cleaner can damage the fan.

Reapply the compressed air on the vents and vacuum in turn until you are satisfied.

For desktops you should remove the computer cover (see the Service Manual) for better access. Follow the same procedure and warnings as mentioned when cleaning out laptops.

Note: Advanced users may partially dissemble the Desktop or Laptop further in order to get easier access to inside the unit. The Service Manual or Owners Manual will instruct them in doing this. In general further disassembly is not required and most users should avoid it.

Selecting a Laptop Cooling Pad

There a large number of laptop cooling pads on the market. You should consider using one if you feel your system overheats.

There are 2 types of cooling pad ones with fans and ones that are fanless. I prefer the ones with fans. The fanless ones are items with a high specific heat capacity and will only work for a certain about of time until they reach almost the same temperature as the laptop at this point they will then cause the laptop to heat up more.

The fan ones have essentially a large or multiple large additional fan and are powered by USB ports. You can generally get them in large supermarkets.

Before selecting a cooling pad inspect the vents at the base of your system. e.g. this is an Inspiron 6400:

When purchasing a cooling pad I advise selecting one which has a solid base and not just legs.

I like this product the Targus AWE61EU and the fans look to be in the right place for pretty much all systems vents.


Another product I like is the ThermalTake T500 and the vents match up for the Inspiron 6400 quite nicely but may not for other models:


If the vents don’t align they will simply be blocked by plastic and the unit will overheat more. The ThermalTake Massive 23LX is also a great product:


Note: Unfortunately laptop cooling pads such as the one below with legs are both cheap and common. The main disadvantage of these is that when they are put on any surface besides a table for example on your lap the fans will essentially jam and this will essentially be equivalent to having a piece of plastic under the laptop actually causing it overheat more.


Also the airflow of the fans likely won't align well with the system vents.

Optical Drive Lens Cleaning

It is often a good idea to clean your CD/DVD lens.  Dust can pile up on the lens preventing the drive from reading CD/DVDs entirely at the worst or be the cause of some minor skipping.

The easiest way is purchase a lens cleaning CD/DVD, essentially a CD with a brush; as the CD plays the brush will clean the lens, generally there is some audio instructions on the CD.



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