Your computer's case contains all of your computer's components, protecting them from damage and managing airflow to keep everything cool. When you open the cabinet, you can remove the excess dust and replace or install new parts. You can access many more parts of a desktop computer than a laptop, which usually only gives access to the RAM and hard drive.
Part 1 of 3: Opening a desktop
Step 1. Gather your tools
In most cases you only need one screwdriver. Some cabinets use thumbscrews, but a screwdriver can still help loosen an over-tightened screw.
- The most common screw is a 6-32, which you can use with a standard no. 2 Phillips screwdriver can delete. This is the larger of the two most common sizes.
- The second most common screw is the M3. It is slightly smaller than the 6-32, but can still be removed with a #2 Phillips screwdriver.
- If you want to clean the inside of your closet, you probably have some compressed air and a small vacuum cleaner required.
- An electrostatic wristband' can be useful for grounding yourself while working on the computer, but you can also ground yourself without a wrist strap.
Step 2. Shut down the computer
Use the shutdown feature of your operating system to turn off the computer.
Step 3. Disconnect all cables from the back of the computer
If you're worried that you won't remember where everything is going when you plug the computer back in, take a picture or draw a diagram first.
Step 4. Know where the I/O (Input/Output) of the motherboard is
This is located on the back of the computer and contains several different connections, including Ethernet, speakers, USB, display and more. If you know where this is, you'll know better how to put the computer case on the table.
Step 5. Lay the computer case on your work surface with the I/O panel closest to the work surface
This ensures that you remove the correct panel from the computer case and gain access to the components inside the computer.
Do not place the cabinet on a carpet or other soft surface when you start tinkering with the inside
Step 6. Locate the screws on the back of the computer case
You should see two or three screws along the top edge of the back of the cabinet holding the side panel in place. Removing these screws will allow you to remove the side panel.
Cabinets from hobbyists often have different mechanisms for opening computer panels (and in some cases this also applies to those from major manufacturers). Some use thumbscrews that you can loosen by hand, while others have a simple lock and no screws at all. If you don't know how to remove or open the side panel of your computer case, look up your computer or computer case model online
Step 7. Ground yourself before touching any of the parts
Electrostatic discharge can cause significant damage to your components without you even realizing it. Make sure you are properly grounded by attaching your electrostatic wristband to the bare metal of the computer case, or by touching a metal water tap.
Click here for more details about grounding yourself properly
Step 8. Clean the opened computer
Computers collect dust surprisingly quickly, which can lead to overheating, poor performance, and hardware failure. Every time you open your computer, take a moment to remove all the dust so that it doesn't become a problem.
See wikiHow for detailed instructions on cleaning your computer
Part 2 of 3: Identifying desktop components
Step 1. Identify the motherboard
This is the largest electrical circuit to which all your other components are connected. Most of it will probably be hidden by the installed components. A standard motherboard has a processor connector, PCI slots for graphics and expansion cards, RAM slots for memory, and SATA ports for hard drives and optical drives.
Click here for detailed instructions on installing or replacing a motherboard
Step 2. Identify the processor
You usually can't see the processor because it's covered by a heat sink and CPU fan. It is usually mounted quite centrally on the motherboard, closer to the top than the bottom.
- Click here for detailed instructions on installing a processor.
- See wikiHow for detailed instructions on how to apply thermal paste and install a heat sink.
Step 3. Recognize the RAM
Your computer's RAM is long and short, and the slots can usually be found quite close to the processor connector. The connections may be wholly or partially occupied by RAM.
Click here for detailed instructions on installing new RAM
Step 4. Identify the graphics card
If your computer has a graphics card, it is mounted in the PCI slot closest to the processor, also known as the PCI-E slot. The PCI slots are usually located on the bottom half of the motherboard, lined up with removable covers on the back of your computer case.
- Click here for detailed instructions on installing a new graphics card.
- See wikiHow for detailed instructions on installing PCI expansion cards.
Step 5. Recognize the supply voltage
Depending on your computer case, the power supply can be located on the top or bottom of the case, along the back. It's a big box that directs power to all of your computer's components. You can follow the power cables to make sure all your components are powered.
See wikiHow for detailed instructions on installing a new power supply
Step 6. Locate your hard drive or drives
Your hard drives are usually installed in slots attached to the front of the case. The hard drives are connected to the motherboard via SATA cables (older computers use IDE cables, which are wide and flat). They are also connected to the power supply with SATA connectors (old drives use Molex connectors for this).
Click here for detailed instructions on installing a new hard drive
Step 7. Recognize the optical drive or drives
You can often find this directly above the hard drive. They are larger than the typical hard drive, and protrude through the front of the case for access. Like hard drives, all modern optical drives use SATA connectors.
Click here for detailed instructions on how to install a DVD drive
Step 8. Identify the fans
Most computers have multiple fans installed. There may be one or more fans, as well as a fan on the processor. These fans are connected to the motherboard and may also be connected to the power supply.
Click here for detailed instructions on installing a new fan
Part 3 of 3: Opening a laptop
Step 1. Gather your material
Laptops have much smaller screws than desktop computers, and as such you need smaller Phillips screwdrivers. The most common screwdriver needed for laptops is a no. 0 Phillips screwdriver.
- If you want to clean the inside of your laptop, you have a can compressed air required.
Step 2. Shut down the laptop
Use the shutdown feature of your operating system to turn off the computer.
Step 3. Disconnect any connected cables
This also applies to your power adapter and any USB devices, headphones or other peripherals.
Step 4. Place the laptop upside down on your work surface
You will likely see one or more panels that can be removed. Laptops offer much less access to your components than desktop computers. This is because most of a laptop's hardware cannot be replaced without extensive soldering knowledge.
Step 5. Remove the battery
This will help prevent the laptop from accidentally turning on while you're working on it.
Step 6. Remove the screws from the panels you want to open
There may be one or more panels that give you access to replaceable parts. Most laptops offer access to hard drive space and RAM.
- Click here for detailed instructions on installing new RAM in your laptop.
- Click here for detailed instructions on installing a new hard drive in your laptop.