Every now and then a family member or a friend asks me to either build them a new PC or upgrade their current one. The question I dread the most, though, is whether instead I could service their PC, remove dust from the interior, reinstall Windows, clean up their hard-drive and remove all of those p0rn popups and links that seem to have ended up on their hard-drive by "accident". I am sure we can all agree that all of that p0rn did not end up on that hard-drive by accident, but I normally just nod without even lifting an eyebrow. Anyway, this is not the topic I wanted to touch upon in this column, as p0rn usually does not kill your PC quickly, so I will leave it at that.
Building someone a PC, or upgrading one, is not something I dislike doing as I usually make every effort to get them the most bang for the buck and build them a machine that is both quiet and fast. Because proper airflow inside a case helps to reduce the temperature inside and lengthens component lifetime I take extra care when routing cables and tie them down so they obstruct the airflow the least. I also make sure to give the computer's future owner a few instructions on how to properly maintain their PC, usually by making sure they check regularly whether all of the fans are still spinning and dust is not clogging them up, with guidance on how to clean the dust off if necessary.
Fig 1. A prime example of a PC that suffered an untimely death due to dust buildup.
Sometimes I get to repair one of my earlier builds and am horrified to see that the owner has not taken any effort in making sure the PC is kept in perfect working condition. Only a few months ago I built a high-end gaming PC, equipped with some of the fastest components available at that time. Obviously this meant that a large number of low-rpm fans were used to keep the PC running both cool and quiet. According to its owner the PC had stopped working with a loud bang and some fireworks, hence I suspected that the power supply had given-in. Well, upon opening the case I was horrified to see that the CPU heatsink as well as both power supply fans had completely clogged up with dust and died in spectacular fashion by simple overheating, taking with them most components in the entire PC. As this is not the first time I saw this happen dust is still the number one cause for PCs failing in my book.
Dust buildup on critical components will kill your PC, quickly, period.