Cleaning a computer: 15 steps (with pictures)

Table of contents:

Cleaning a computer: 15 steps (with pictures)
Cleaning a computer: 15 steps (with pictures)

In the following article you can read how to “clean” your hard drive and your software, but also how to clean the physical hardware (the computer and its components). Regular maintenance of your system can significantly improve performance. Cleaning the hardware is a physical job, cleaning the hard disk and software is of course software-based. Read on for a simple step-by-step explanation.


Method 1 of 2: Cleaning your hard drive

Step 1. Keep your computer up to date

Both Mac and Windows regularly release security updates, including for your specific operating system. They've built your operating system so that it knows for itself which updates it does and doesn't need and where to look. That saves you the trouble of doing all this manually. The programs that perform these tasks have logical names such as Software Update (OSX) and Windows Update (Windows), the software will automatically check which updates are available. If you have disabled this feature or want to make sure the software is working properly, follow these steps:

  • Windows: Open Windows Update by clicking the Start button. In the search box, type Update, and then click Windows Update in the list of results. In the left pane, click Change settings. Under Recommended updates, select the Include recommended updates when updates for my computer are notified, downloaded, and installed check box, and then click OK. If prompted for the Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or confirmation.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 1Bullet1
  • Mac: Open the Software Update panel in System Preferences. Here you can see if the option "Check for updates automatically" is checked. Adjust this if necessary.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 1Bullet2
  • Updates obtained through these channels are always official and can be trusted. Therefore, it is recommended to opt for automatic updates unless you have a good reason to deactivate it.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 1Bullet3
Clean Your Computer System Step 2

Step 2. Clear the Internet data

While you use a browser, your computer collects all kinds of bits of information, if this becomes too much it could lead to a reduction in the performance of the computer, especially on the older computers. The easiest way to clear internet data is from the browser you are using. If you use Internet Explorer, click on Tools and then on "Delete browsing history".

  • To delete temporary files, cookies and cache data in Firefox, click Tools (Mac Preferences) and then Privacy. Now click on "clear all history". You can also indicate here that you want Firefox to never remember history.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 2Bullet2
  • In Chrome, hold down Control and Shift and click Delete (not Backspace). Now a window opens with a simple menu. Select the data you want to delete, select a time slot and click "Clear data" when you are done.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 2Bullet3
  • You can also get here by pressing the button with the three horizontal bars and clicking Settings. Go to the privacy tab and click "Clear data".

    Clean Your Computer System Step 2Bullet4
  • In Safari, click on Safari and then on "Reset Safari…". Check what you want to remove and click "Reset". Click on safari again and click on "Clear cache files".

    Clean Your Computer System Step 2Bullet5
  • If you don't have enough time to go through all your browsers, you can use software that cleans all browsers for you.

Step 3. Check for adware and malware

Adware and malware are programs that are placed on your computer unsolicited and can cause a slower system and serious security problems. There are free programs that allow you to monitor your entire system.

  • There are unfortunately few free options for Mac, but on the other hand, a Mac is much less likely to get adware and malware. Try MacScan, you can try this program for free for 30 days.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 3Bullet1
  • The best way to avoid adware and malware is to never download anything you are not sure of its source. Never allow more than what you asked for to be installed.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 3Bullet2
Clean Your Computer System Step 4

Step 4. Check your system for viruses and other threats

You need a good antivirus program for this. There are good free programs, but also many programs where you take a paid subscription. Again, a Mac is less at risk than a Windows computer. An antivirus program is essential on Windows, but it can also be useful on a Mac, especially if you think there might be a virus present.

  • New viruses appear every day, so it is very important that you let the antivirus program update automatically. Usually you don't need to do anything for this and it happens in the background.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 4Bullet1
Clean Your Computer System Step 5

Step 5. Maintain your hard drive (Windows)

Most newer computers do this automatically, but you can always do it manually yourself. The most important is a program called "Disk Defragmenter", which allows you to organize the space on the disk in a more efficient way. Then you can use the "Disk Cleanup" program to delete unnecessary files.

  • The location of the programs varies by Windows version, so the easiest way is to click on Start and search for the programs in the search box.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 5Bullet1
  • Mac and Linux users don't normally need to do this, it's automatic. Optionally, on a Mac, you can check and repair your drive using the "Disk Utility" program. You can find this program under Applications > Utilities.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 5Bullet2
Clean Your Computer System Step 6

Step 6. Remove unnecessary software

For Windows, click the Start button, click Control Panel, click Programs, and then click Programs and Features. Select a program to view the options and remove them if necessary.

  • Mac users can simply uninstall programs by picking up a program and throwing it in the trash.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 6Bullet1

Step 7. Always backup your system

Now that you have a clean computer, it's time to make a backup so that you can always go back to a cleaned-up version should something go wrong in the future. Creating a backup varies by operating system, but it is never difficult.

  • Windows: Open "Backup and Restore" by clicking the Start button > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Backup and Restore. In the left pane, click on "Create a system image" and follow the steps of the wizard. If prompted for the administrator password or confirmation, type the password or confirmation.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 7Bullet1
  • Mac: use the "Time Machine" program. This program runs in the background and creates a history timeline with several backups. You can then always return to your system at some point in history.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 7Bullet2
  • In both cases, you need an external hard drive with enough free space.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 7Bullet3

Method 2 of 2: Physically cleaning your computer

Clean Your Computer System Step 8

Step 1. Gather the necessary items

To clean your computer in a safe and efficient way, you need a number of (cheap) items. Purchase a compressed air aerosol can from a computer store. This allows you to easily remove dust and other unwanted items. Buy cotton swabs and alcohol at the drugstore. Find out which screwdrivers are needed for your type of computer and purchase them if necessary. Keep paper towels, cotton cloths and water handy.

  • You often do not need to buy special computer screwdrivers, but regular screwdrivers will suffice.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 8Bullet1
Clean Your Computer System Step 9

Step 2. Turn off the computer

In the case of a desktop computer, first turn off the computer, then remove the plug from the socket. You do the same with a laptop, but you also remove the battery.

  • If necessary, place the computer on a soft surface to prevent scratches.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 9Bullet1
Clean Your Computer System Step 10

Step 3. Open the computer

There is a grid next to the fan, it is important to remove the collected dust from time to time. The computer must be opened for this.

  • In the case of desktop computers, you look at the side to see how you can open the computer. Sometimes it's screws, but sometimes you can just click the box open. Read the manual if you are not sure.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 10Bullet1
  • With a laptop you can often detach the grid without having to open the computer. However, this differs per computer. The same applies to this: check the manual if you do not know it.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 10Bullet2
Clean Your Computer System Step 11

Step 4. Clean the grid

Start with cotton swabs to remove the largest pieces of dirt. Then take your aerosol can of air and blow away the small pieces of dirt. Go through everything with the spray can, but make sure that the pipe does not touch the parts of your computer. Also open the optical disc and use your spray can.

  • Watch out for aiming. The goal is to remove dirt, not blow it further in.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 11Bullet1
  • Compressed air can damage computer components. Always spray short, never long in succession.
  • Never shake the computer. Delicate parts may become loose as a result.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 11Bullet3
Clean Your Computer System Step 12

Step 5. Close the computer again and carefully clean the outside as well

Take a microfiber cloth and wipe the computer. Next, take a cotton swab, dip one side in the alcohol and wipe every seam and edge of the device. After each seam, go over it again with the dry side of the cotton swab.

Take a clean cotton swab if it gets too dirty

Step 6. Clean your keyboard

Hold the keyboard upside down over some old newspapers and shake out as much dirt as possible. In the case of a laptop, you have to do this carefully; never shake hard. Then use your compressed air aerosol to spray out any dirt. Hold the keyboard upside down again. Finally, clean the keys with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean the keyboard. The vacuum cleaner can generate static electricity, which can damage computer components.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 13Bullet1
  • Touchpads and trackballs can be cleaned in the same way, with a cotton swab and alcohol. Take a clean cotton swab if the previous one gets too dirty.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 13Bullet2
Clean Your Computer System Step 14

Step 7. Clean your monitor

For an LCD monitor, use a damp microfiber cloth, gently wipe the screen until it is clean. Never spray water on the monitor.

  • Glassex and similar products often contain ammonia. Ammonia can damage the protective coating of a monitor, so be careful with that.

    Clean Your Computer System Step 14Bullet1
Clean Your Computer System Step 15

Step 8. Done

Allow the parts to dry thoroughly, reassemble and reconnect the power cord. Start the computer and check if everything is working properly. Repeat this cleaning every few months.


  • Never download anything you don't know the source of.
  • Do not open the computer if it is still under warranty. The warranty will then expire.
  • Don't delete files if you're not sure what they are. Let the software decide if it is safe.
  • If the computer is still slow after all the steps, it is advisable to call in a repair person.

Popular by topic