Dust Kills Computers.....

Enclosures and acoustic damping to help quiet them.

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Bluefront
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Dust Kills Computers.....

Post by Bluefront » Mon May 23, 2005 5:06 am

I just did an emergency repair for some guy who had his main computer die.....lots of important files were on that computer.

Well it was the PSU....dead, full of dust. The guy's house was totally clean, with no pets. Wouldn't think he had a dust problem at all....but he did. The front temp display had been reading high lately, he said. This person was intelligent, but not a computer geek. Nobody had ever warned him about dust.

When I removed the front bezel to check for obstructions, I found the intake holes in the case were totally clogged with dust...and that was the only intake (the bottom of the bezel was where the air came in). This is a fairly standard case layout.

Which leads me to ask the question....Why don't computer case manufacturers do something about this dust problem, which affects everyone?

It would be very easy to add a slot in the front bezel, where a filter would fit. This filter could be easily checked/cleaned/changed by simply pulling it out of the slot. Many devices have air filtration....most now-days have filters easily replaced.

Most computer owners don't know/care about the dust problem. If the filter was in an easily accessable place, perhaps the normal computer owner could/would perform this little maintenance procedure....maybe save his computer from overheating due to dust. :o
Last edited by Bluefront on Wed May 25, 2005 3:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

niels007
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Post by niels007 » Mon May 23, 2005 5:10 am

Most systems are 'over cooled' out of the box so they can take considerable dust gathering before it gets a problem. I've seen a few VERY dusty machines that still ran stable..

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Post by nick705 » Mon May 23, 2005 5:31 am

I've always found the effectiveness of dust filters is very much dependant on how easy it is to remove and clean them. A clogged filter which blocks airflow doesn't do your PC much good, but if the filter doesn't become clogged, there's no need for it in the first place...

I never use filters, as I'm lazy and I think it's less effort just to pop the side off the PC off every couple of months and blow the dust out - people get too neurotic about it IMHO, it's only household dust, not powdered plutonium. That's not to say you should let it build up to ridiculous levels of course, and I suppose it depends to a large extent on the particular environment.

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Post by StarfishChris » Mon May 23, 2005 5:36 am

The number of times I've opened computers and choked in dust.. it's a good thing I don't have any allergies! (Well, I do, but the chances of the insides being coated with yoghurt is nil.) Anyway, it tends not to be a problem since most systems are 'over cooled', and failure usually doesn't occur for several years so you can swallow the cost of buying a new PC more easily :roll:
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Bluefront
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Post by Bluefront » Mon May 23, 2005 9:27 am

Well look....computer geeks such as SPCR readers are well aware of this dust problem. We take the things apart, blow out dust, change fans, etc.

But....the normal computer user does no such thing. Probably the first time the cover is removed is when something breaks. Airflow blocked by dust may not be the problem, but it could well be.

And case makers could actually make a few more sales, if they sold airfilters for their cases......just like autos. Like...."we recommend you change the filter every four months in dusty conditions". Hell I'd be interested in such a setup.....if it worked well. :lol:

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Post by sundevil_1997 » Mon May 23, 2005 10:57 am

StarfishChris wrote:The number of times I've opened computers and choked in dust.. it's a good thing I don't have any allergies! (Well, I do, but the chances of the insides being coated with yoghurt is nil.)
:lol: :lol: :lol:

thanks. I needed that.
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As a result of finding this site, my computer isn't any quieter...but at least I'm much more aware of it.

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Post by Spod » Mon May 23, 2005 12:16 pm

TBH, dust filters area risky thing to include as standard. Your typical user won't even know it exists, and probably wouldn't notice it was clogged even if they opened the case. Better to have open intakes and let a little dust get in than to have finely filtered intakes that clog easily without frequent maintenance.

But yes, it is possible to change all this. Most people realise there are filters on vacuum cleaners, and some even change them twice a year or so. If they became a common feature on PCs, magazines would start reminding people to check filters, the same way they remind people to defrag, or scan for spyware.

I'm just going to go run a few scans, and check my dust filter...

EDIT: I had more dust than spyware! Surprising how much it had built up in the couple of months since I last checked.
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Re: Dust Kills Computers.....

Post by BrianE » Mon May 23, 2005 12:22 pm

Bluefront wrote: It would be very easy to add a slot in the front bezel, where a filter would fit. This filter could be easily checked/cleaned/changed by simply pulling it out of the slot. Many devices have air filtration....most now-days have filters easily replaced.
:idea: Wow, I think this would be a very nice idea for manufacturers to implement. They could make a slot on the side of the bezel with a recessed tab to just slide out the whole filter screen. Take it out, vacuum it, and then slide it back in. Alternatively I guess you could have a snap together filter and specify low density furnace filter material for disposable, cut to fit media.

The slot and tab on the side could even be a different colour to make sure people see it and remember to clean it.


BTW Bluefront I like how you've incorporated filters into most of your designs, and it's inspired me to try and come up with a couple filtered designs as well. I hope you don't mind if I pick your brain over some of those ideas later on. :wink:
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Post by Green Shoes » Mon May 23, 2005 12:33 pm

I have a simple 4U rackmount case that incorporates this wonderful slide-out design....unfortunately the supplied filter was made out of metal and in a word, sucked. A happy alternative was found, however, and it works beautifully. I would also like to see this implemented into tower cases.

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Post by jamesm » Mon May 23, 2005 12:41 pm

maybe they can make a reusable K&N air filter for your computer. :lol:


Also, I use a vaccuum to clean dust out of my computers. That way, I won't have to sneeze when's it's blown back in my face. :)

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Re: Dust Kills Computers.....

Post by sundevil_1997 » Mon May 23, 2005 1:57 pm

BrianE wrote: Wow, I think this would be a very nice idea for manufacturers to implement. They could make a slot on the side of the bezel with a recessed tab to just slide out the whole filter screen. Take it out, vacuum it, and then slide it back in. Alternatively I guess you could have a snap together filter and specify low density furnace filter material for disposable, cut to fit media.
I just don't see this happening in mainstream computing...at least, not anytime soon. The example of encouraging users to defrag and check for spyware...in my experience, the VAST minority of users actually do that. Changing a filter would fall into this same category. You'd be asking computer makers to add a piece of equipment to the computer that (without user intervention) will absolutely kill the PC. I think instead they'll continue their current path of overkilling on ventilation/air flow. The alternative is to design a filter that has a bypass to allow air in when the filter is clogged, as well as a warning light/alarm to change it. Sounds great for us...but I just don't see the PC industry going to the trouble.

PC filtration is even more niche than PC quieting is....and at least quieting a PC has some health value (for the user, not the PC). Even among the PC enthusiasts, you don't find many who bother with filters, despite their obvious usefulness. I only joined the filtermania because of 1) Bluefronts continual and seductive reasoning on the issue, and 2) I was building a media PC that I knew would be running 24-7, and thus would be collecting even more dust than my always-dusty PC's.

It's a nice idea, and a good dream, but I don't see it happening soon. Besides, do you REALLY want to lose that sense of amazement when you open your friend's PC to do something trivial, only to find more dust than you thought was possible...and then you get to blow it all out? Come on, you know we live for that! :P
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As a result of finding this site, my computer isn't any quieter...but at least I'm much more aware of it.

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Post by Bluefront » Mon May 23, 2005 3:01 pm

well heh.....How about this. When you buy a new computer or a new case you get a small box containing a filter. There would be instructions on how to install the thing in the access slot. Installation would be optional....along with warnings about regular inspection, replacement.

Adding a warning light that illuminated at excessive suction would be easy...and I can see a benefit for the case maker. Slightly higher price for a marketable "clean computer"....new technology for adverse conditions, etc.

Hey Antec...are you listening? :lol:

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Post by Zhentar » Mon May 23, 2005 3:19 pm

Sure bluefront. But I think they'll have to pack a user that reads (and follows) the directions in the box too.

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Post by Green Shoes » Mon May 23, 2005 6:52 pm

Zhentar wrote:Sure bluefront. But I think they'll have to pack a user that reads (and follows) the directions in the box too.
They could always put in an insert saying that if you don't install the filter you void your warranty. That would get people's attention.

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Post by limee » Mon May 23, 2005 8:00 pm

I had the exact same problem happen to a cousin of mine, Bluef. Like previous poster(s) have said, the lack of filters probably has to do with the assumption that you'll have upgraded before your hardware bogs down due to dust. Also, to make sure that air can only go through the filter, it'd probably be more price for them to design such a case and at the same time hope consumers will buy it.

Lastly, there also seems to be a general belief that dust is relatively harmless and plenty of users have decade old computers that still work with the lack of any dust filters. Any case that would have decent filters also would be targeting a niche market smaller than even quiet computing was a few years back.

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Post by Straker » Mon May 23, 2005 8:39 pm

I don't know if it's still the case, but I remember that HEPA filters on full tower and/or rackmount cases used to be grounds for bragging rights, just sort of a given in the same way that SCSI was a given in any halfway decent server.
Lots would need to change for filters to become ubiquitous, though. I was going to compare the current situation to what would happen on our roads if people were allowed to put together their own cars and drive them, but it's not like unfiltered cases pose a safety or environmental threat. Maybe if manufacturers made filtered cases a condition for receiving warranty service? Wouldn't work for OEM equipment, but manufacturer warranties usually only apply to retail anyways.

Remember "normal" computers are (were?) only on maybe 2-12 hours a day too, not doing a whole lot while they're on, not overclocked, and have onboard everything, so a CPU heatsink + PSU full of dust is no problem as far as most people are concerned. :?

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Post by andyb » Tue May 24, 2005 3:08 am

I have never personally seen it permanently kill a system, just temporarily.

Also, do'nt forget laptops, especialy if its a really badly badly designed on that draws air through the keyboard, and then blows it out of the side/back (twas a HELL laptop). It worked perfectly after being taken apart, and having large dustballs removed from it.

I regulary see PC's that are full of dust and hair (of various types..........just do'nt think about it for too long), some of them have crashed due to overheating, but a vacuum cleaner + brush usually does the trick.

End users are quite amazing, they often dont do anything about their machine crashing for months sometimes, don't mention things such as strange clicking noises, grinding noises, no noises etc.

People dont understand that these noises are usually bad, and dont get fixed by the PC faries if you leave an old worn out mouse under the mousemat for them.

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Post by nick705 » Tue May 24, 2005 4:11 am

andyb wrote: I regulary see PC's that are full of dust and hair (of various types..........just do'nt think about it for too long), some of them have crashed due to overheating, but a vacuum cleaner + brush usually does the trick.
hmmm... for some reason the phrase "too much detail" springs to mind... :)

I don't think a vacuum cleaner + brush is a very good idea when you're dealing with static-sensitive components... a vacuum in operation generates a huge static charge which could quite easily kill your RAM, CPU or whatever if it came into contact, and as for a brush... well, depends what it's made of, if you've ever used a nylon brush or comb on your hair you know what happens.

That's why it's generally recommended to blow dust out rather than suck it, as it's easier to avoid this kind of thing.

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Post by andyb » Tue May 24, 2005 4:46 am

Vacuum static, never heard of that before, does anyone have any info on that.

I should have been more specific, yes the brush is nylon, but I only use it on fans + heatsinks, not on components, never ever had a problem caused by static (not that i'm saying they dont happen).

Also, care has to be taken with using a vacuum on fans, fans generally dont like going 12,000 rpm in reverse, or forwards for that matter (although it's fun for 30 seconds). A fan motor whilts being spun by an outside force (vacuum) can generate electricity (I am told), and damage components that way not to mention damaging the fan itself.

If a heatsink fan is really bad, I often take the whole thing off of the board, remove the crappy chewing gum, and apply "proper" heatsink compound.

Andy
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Post by Ducky » Tue May 24, 2005 6:21 am

Actually, ESD training simply will tell you that it isn't about sucking or blowing -- both have a good chance of killing your boards with static electricity if the air isn't humid enough. (Only argument for canned air might be that the velocity of the air is slightly lower, so is less likely to build up a large charge...) Generally, it's suggested that the air be kept at about 30 to 40% relative humidity and 70 degrees F (About 21 C) to be "safe" -- though it's strictly to avoid a "doh!" moment when a gentle breeze charges up enough static electricty to zap things, and does not replace the general safeguards against static electricity.

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Post by nick705 » Tue May 24, 2005 7:12 am

Well, it wasn't so much the air humidity I was thinking about - it's just that if you're using a vacuum cleaner to suck dust up, it can be hard to actually shift the dust unless you get up close enough to the components to risk physically touching them, especially with lots of nooks and crannies. If you have the vacuum cleaner set to "blow" on the other hand, you could keep the nozzle a reasonable distance away and get rid of it quite easily.

If you're using a can of compressed air it's unlikely to be an issue of course.

I always used to use a vacuum cleaner to hoover out my PC too... the danger of static wasn't something I'd even thought about until it was gently pointed out to me, and then I felt like a right donut. I don't think I did any damage, but that may well have been more luck than judgement...

hmm... relative humidity and airborne static... something else to worry about. Still, at least in soggy old England we should mostly be safe enough on that score...

@andyb: I found a few links googling... here's one which also advises against it. Apparently you can also get purpose-designed PC vacuums which have grounded nozzles, although I've never seen one.

Some more info on Sun's forum... this guy recommends... err... sucking instead of blowing. Oh well... :roll:

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Post by IceWindius » Tue May 24, 2005 9:07 am

Some people deserve it to be honest.

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Post by StarfishChris » Tue May 24, 2005 9:20 am

What, their computers to choke on dust? That's just ignorance and it's not their fault if -insert manufacturer- doesn't warn their customers about it. Getting rid of dust with vacuums/brushes/whatever more often than not stems from the same ignorance. People can only 'deserve' it if they deliberately disregard instructions, and (to the best of my knowledge) such instructions don't exist, and I can think of quite a few reasons for that.
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Post by peteamer » Tue May 24, 2005 9:26 am

StarfishChris wrote:the chances of the insides being coated with yoghurt is nil.
mmm... I suspect you have been blessed with having had little experience of young children... :P


As a copier/office equipment engineer we can get vacuum cleaners that have special anti-static nozzles and hoses... and if you're really good you also have an anchor point on the vacuum case for your ESD strap.
I have seen several copiers boards/components die after a vacuuming... but not in the last ten years... and I no longer use said vacuums due to the horrendous noise and stupidly small 'dust bags'.
Most electrostatically sensitive components are covered sufficiently with a protective layer these days to protect the components... from copier engineers... :P
I regulaly vacuum my comp. with a 'Dyson' vacuum cleaner and paint brush, never had a problem that was as a result of vacuuming. (Apart from sarcastic comments like "WOW a man with a vacuum" from the missus... :roll: )

The only time I use caution is when sucking out the remenants of a developer unit at service on a copier... and that's because I'm a wuss and don't like the HUGE static build-up that bits back if you don't ground yourself to the metal roller inside during the operation.

Strangely I often seem to... 'forget' that age old advice when training a new recruit.......


Pete

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Post by StarfishChris » Tue May 24, 2005 10:16 am

Electrical components are more resilient now than before. Vacuuming/brushing isn't as dangerous(?) as it used to be, but I wouldn't put the suction of a Dyson near my computer ;)
peteamer wrote:
StarfishChris wrote:the chances of the insides being coated with yoghurt is nil.
mmm... I suspect you have been blessed with having had little experience of young children... :P
My experience is Ghostbuster toys and jam sandwiches shoved into an Amiga's disk drive. But that was my brother; I only managed a disk inserted the wrong way :oops:
peteamer wrote:I regulaly vacuum my comp. with a 'Dyson' vacuum cleaner and paint brush, never had a problem that was as a result of vacuuming.
Which colour? I used orange Humbrol paint, but heatsinks took too much time with the small brush I had to use so I stopped. :(
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Post by peteamer » Tue May 24, 2005 10:24 am

StarfishChris wrote:Which colour? I used orange Humbrol paint, but heatsinks took too much time with the small brush I had to use so I stopped. :(
It was/is a black handled and silver collared black haired brush. If that helps...


Pete

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Post by nici » Tue May 24, 2005 10:59 am

We threw away some old computers at school today, they were full of dust. like 1cm coat of it! Anyway, i did some fan looting and got a 120x38mm Nidec three-blade and a 80mm yate-looney, the looney is good but pushes less air than a 80mm nexus, the Nidec is pretty good on airflow but has terrible bearing and motor noise.. The nidec was pulled out of a socket5 compaq server and the looney was from a 200W PSU. Sorry, yah, dust is bad, dont eat it. goodnight.

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Post by StarfishChris » Tue May 24, 2005 11:28 am

Talking of fans pulled from school computers, I had the fortune to come across a 'Ponoflo'. Presumably made by Ponosonoic. The computer it came from was dust-tastic, of course ;)
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Post by Mar. » Tue May 24, 2005 8:36 pm

In addition to choking air vents, dust can potentially short out connections and fry components. It's not a common occurence but it does happen.
~mar.

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Re: Dust Kills Computers.....

Post by flarkit » Fri May 27, 2005 11:07 am

Bluefront wrote:This person was intelligent, but not a computer geek. Nobody had ever warned him about dust.
This prompted me to send my first post to SPCR.

A year ago, I was impressed by the temperature improvement from adding an intake and exhaust fan to my PC. A friend of mine is an engineer and enjoys his PC immensely for recreation. He did complain that he was having temperature problems, experiencing such regular cuttoffs that he underclocked his CPU, fearing that was the cause. So for his birthday, I offered to clear up his PC's innards and add some fans.

Upon opening his case, I was disgusted by the amount of dust in there. His HSF was seriously clogged up too. I cleaned it up well and applied some Arctic Silver and by-gum, not a single cut-off has happened since!

That did leave me with greater respect for regular dust removal though

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