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technicianxp
20-05-2006, 11:45 AM
Hey there everyone.

I've got a project at work in which I'm setting up a Compaq Proliant ML330e server for fileserving. Everything is pretty much ready but there is one problem which could even result in data loss (eventually), dust.

The inside of the server is so heavily covered in dust that it's hard to see anything but the CPU cooler (okay I'm exaggerating a bit but it is bad). The reason for this is because while it was our main server for a few years it sat in a room on a carpet, collecting as much dust as possible with it's high-speed cooling fans.

Now I want to clean out this server completely before I set it up again and to do that I need some kind of vacuum. I was considering a small handheld, (rechargeable) battery-powered vacuum to do the job. However I'm not too sure as to if it's safe to use one of those around internal computer components.

Can anyone clarify if it's safe or not and if not then what should I consider getting instead?

Speedy Gonzales
20-05-2006, 11:49 AM
Just pull everything out, vacuum the inside of the case, and the mobo (out of the case), and put it back together again.

Or get some compressed air.

EX-WESTY
20-05-2006, 11:50 AM
I use compressed air to blow it all out.
You can buy cans of the stuff or take it to someone whose got a compressor and blow all the crap out.

technicianxp
20-05-2006, 11:57 AM
Just one thing there are some parts of the server where the dust is stuck in such wierd places that even compressed air would have a hard time (mainly the front fan intake (no fan there but it's still the most clogged up part)).

I'm not too keen on taking that server apart, mainly because the case design is wierd and it would take at least two hours just assembling and reassembling plus we need this thing running very soon. I will take off as many parts as I can though.

So would a handheld vac be any good though? I'll get compressed air too as I know that will be useful.

bob_doe_nz
20-05-2006, 12:12 PM
Just go for what you can with the vacumn and then use a can of compressed air to clean the harder to reach places with a longer straw.

Just avoid using the vacumn on exposed electronic components. e.g static electricity

bk T
20-05-2006, 12:16 PM
What are the main differences between these 2 - compressed air vs vacuum cleaner?

One blows and the other sucks. Do they cause any different effects on the computer components inside the case?

FoxyMX
20-05-2006, 12:19 PM
You will need way more than a can of compressed air if it is that dirty. I agree with EX-WESTY with regards to taking to someone who has a compressor. That should deal with the fan at the front of the case a lot better than anything else too.

Just remember to hold the fans still with a pencil or something whilst blasting them so they don't spin out of control. You will find that the PSU and CPU fans will need quite a good going over to get the dust out - do them first.

Oh, and remember to do the job outside if you can.

bob_doe_nz
20-05-2006, 12:24 PM
Didn't Andrwe93 recommend a leaf blower? :lol:

technicianxp
20-05-2006, 12:27 PM
Well I've got one of those little 12v tyre pumps but that probably isn't the right thing for the job (or maybe it is... Let me know if it is).

Other than that I'm not too sure where I'd find a person with a compressor in about 4 days.

BTW the server won't be running when we clean it (just in case anyone thought otherwise).

So compressed air is on the list, would the vacuum be safe if used on the server's insides while it's switched off? (The server is switched off that is). The low power rating of the vacuum would probably mean it's not too suspectible to being static-charged is it (plus the fact that it's made of plastic)?

EX-WESTY
20-05-2006, 12:32 PM
Take it down to the local garage if they still have free air for pumping up the tyres. Put a small valve attachment in the end and away you go. I use compressed air at work so I have a cylinder outside in the van so I don't have to travel that far. You will get a cloud of dust out of the machine.

CaptinMoor
20-05-2006, 12:44 PM
Be very very very careful in what your about to do. Using a vacuum cleaner will cause a build up static in the hose. If you get a short to the board well you know the rest. Also using a compressor can be fatal as well. Air out of a normal compressor contains around 10-20% moisture. Something that doesnít go well with a motherboard or any computer part. The idea of the compressed air can is the best idea. These cans are filled from a compressor that has an air-dried attachment and contains only around 1-3% moisture. The best way of cleaning these items in my point of view is by either using a can of compressed air or using a compressor with a water trap and air-dries. Most engineering workshops will have these attachments, if there any good and care about there work.

:thumbs:

somebody
20-05-2006, 12:57 PM
For things like heatsinks, fans, and other non-electrical parts, I use a combination of a vacuum to suck the dust away, and a soft, CLEAN paintbrush to loosen the dust as quite often it is stuck quite tightly due to moisture etc.

I wouldn't advise using this method for the circuit boards though.

technicianxp
20-05-2006, 02:15 PM
Be very very very careful in what your about to do. Using a vacuum cleaner will cause a build up static in the hose.

A handheld vac wouldn't have a hose though. Do you reckon it would be okay? I'll be using it to suck up the dust not blow it out. I'll get compressed air for that.

FrankS
20-05-2006, 02:52 PM
If you wish to be both amused and educated look at

http://www.pcworld.com/howto/article/0,aid,104652,00.asp

Once had a mouse lodging in the insulation in the back of a refrigerator, found a piece of small plastic tube taped to the vacuum nosey parker was the most effective way to remove his calling cards. Presume similar could be used taking due antistatic precautions.

Graham L
20-05-2006, 04:26 PM
Use an ordinary vacuum cleaner. You will damage components in a computer if you go poking around with a bare wire connected to the mains phase. A vacuum cleaner nozzle isn't going to do any damage (except mechanically by a clumsy operator ;) ).

The components are all at the same level when they are plugged into the computer. They are pretty well protected from external voltages. You're not going to get lighnting strike levels of static charge on the hose. It's low velocity air. People who repeat this mantra that "vacuum cleaners cause damaging static" happily recommend expensive "canned air" or an air compressor which both give quite a high velocity gas stream. (Compressed air in an installed system is very often "compressed water", because of condensation in the pipes.)

pctek
20-05-2006, 04:59 PM
I don't use either.
I take it apart or as much as I can if out at someones home, and use myself as the blowing part and a small clean paintbrush. Never had anything beat that combination.....not even my sons which is usually as fluffy as a persian cat.

Thomas01
20-05-2006, 05:40 PM
There's no real problem here if you have the same sort of equipment I have. First a vacume is ideal BUT NOT SUCKING. Unfortunately not all vacumes have a means to use the device as a blower unlike 50 years ago when EVERY vacume had the facility. For some weird reason my own has been designed so that only part of the exhaust wind can be used - strange escape routes have been provided for the rest. But it's enough to do a good clean job of blowing off the dust (which then needs to be vacumed up again!!). Clean the inlet with a stiff brush and use the vacume in its normal mode.
Needless to say the computer should be unplugged.
I still wonder why today's vacume makers refuse to accept the fact that books for instance can only be kept clean by blowing NOT sucking.

I chuckled when I read the suggestion about locking the fan vanes. As a kid I loved using the vacume - blowing of course - to see how fast I could spin the blades of any device handy. I must have failed to grow up because I still do it with my computer. And I have never yet had anything go wrong _ I don't believe its possible to spin the blades fast enough to harm them. But don't quote me on that!
I also wonder why computer manufacturers insist on blowing air out through the back of computer and thus dragging loads of filth and dust over the internals. Here in Christchurch some chappies have reversed the fan rotation so they suck air into the computer at the back and have then attached a car air filter over the inlet to keep the air clean. Obvious really.
Tom

Sick Puppy
20-05-2006, 06:31 PM
I also wonder why computer manufacturers insist on blowing air out through the back of computer and thus dragging loads of filth and dust over the internals. Here in Christchurch some chappies have reversed the fan rotation so they suck air into the computer at the back and have then attached a car air filter over the inlet to keep the air clean. Obvious really.
Tom
Sounds cool, but (and I'm a newbie, so don't laugh at me too hard) aren't computer cases designed to optimise the flow of air in one direction? Or is it just a case of there is a designated passage in the case for air to travel through in either direction? Or am I just randomly making stuff up?! :)

I also wonder about the filters- counds good, but car filters usually have air travelling at the speed of the car it's in- would having a filter slow the passage of air and therefore not be as efficient as a computer without one? Then you trade it off against the accumulation of dust etc and it eventually crapping out... excuse me, my head hurts- been thinking too much again!

somebody
20-05-2006, 06:49 PM
I chuckled when I read the suggestion about locking the fan vanes. As a kid I loved using the vacume - blowing of course - to see how fast I could spin the blades of any device handy. I must have failed to grow up because I still do it with my computer. And I have never yet had anything go wrong _ I don't believe its possible to spin the blades fast enough to harm them. But don't quote me on that!
The real concern is with fan blades spinning fast, the fan essentially operates like a dynamo and produces electricity. While it probably is low voltage enough to not do any harm, it's better safe than sorry.



I also wonder why computer manufacturers insist on blowing air out through the back of computer and thus dragging loads of filth and dust over the internals. Here in Christchurch some chappies have reversed the fan rotation so they suck air into the computer at the back and have then attached a car air filter over the inlet to keep the air clean. Obvious really.
Tom
Heat rises, as I'm sure you are aware. Hence why the best way is for the heat to rise to the top of the case, and be sucked out by the PSU fan, so colder air can come in the bottom of the front of the case. That way you get maximal (cooler) airflow. In any case, given how dusty and ignored the areas at the back of a PC are, it would make more sense to draw cleaner air from the front, where you would generally be able to vacuum around (ie the floor).

Vallis
21-05-2006, 10:12 AM
DSE supply a set of tools for a standard vacuum cleaner hose with dinky little brushes and small attachments for getting into hard to reach areas.
Works a treat, but if you're not brave enough to remove your CPU fan you still need the air to clean your heat sink.

Thomas01
21-05-2006, 11:13 AM
SICK PUPPY
Iíll try to answer the various questions that have been raised by my comments. An engineering designer for 50 years (3 continents) I have not myself ever modified my computer cases to have filtered air - my study is clean, and if it ainít broke donít fix it, is one of my sayings.
No - computer cases donít appear to have been designed for air flow in only one direction. The amount of air we are talking about is in any case pretty small.
But if you use your computer in a factory making explosives
(where I first heard of the modification) the last thing you want is to have the factory dust deposited all over your motherboard etc. I see computers in woodworking shops where the keyboards have been covered by those plastic things so that the keys remain clean. But the inside of the computers can often be hidden by a pile of dust. I remember once pointing out to a boss of mine the dangerous situation we had with an accumulation of sawdust. When we had the explosion and it blew out an end wall he believed me.
Car filters do not use air travelling at the speed of the car. The air surrounding the filters is almost stationary- just like that in the car body. Of course the thing is more efficient without the filter but we are not concerned with that type of efficiency. It is of no consequence.

SOMEBODY
Yes a fan should operate as a dynamo - but 50 odd years ago I made numerous experiments with various fans spinning them with the vacume blower in an attempt to raise a voltage. I only had a cheap voltmeter in those days but I never managed to raise anything. However I apprciate the danger - I have never done any harm by my silly habit of spinning the darn things - but yes I suppose its possible. Try it at your own risk.
But again ďDonít quote meĒ
Your comment about heat rising is - well pretty pathetic (sorry about that) but the incredibly small amount of air movement caused by this is very tiny compared to the whacking great quantity of air moved around by the cheapest and smallest fans.
Otherwise we would have convection cooled computers and fans would never have appeared. (what a wonderful thought).
Tom

memphis
21-05-2006, 11:56 AM
For crying out loud,stop making this into a mission impossible movie. :D

Use a clean small brush on the fans and anywhere there is heaps of fluff/dust/crap.

Use 1/2 cans of compressed air in the case to get rid of the rest.

Use a pencil to stop the fan blades spining so you can give them a good clean out.(if you want you can take the fans out and give them a wipe with a damp cloth and then let dry before puting them back).

This should only take 5 min.,10 min. tops.

Mission Impossible over!!! :D

Battleneter
21-05-2006, 01:10 PM
I take my PC's out to the garage once in a while and remove a side and lay it down. Then pick up my Garden vac set to reverse and blast it clean, they come out spotless.

Also has the advantage of feeling like Arnold Schwarzenegger, there is a certain satisfaction in using a device looks like a big midi gun and pointing it at your PC.

PS. vacuums (and garden vacs) in theory do build up a bit of static, compressed air is better although never had a problem.

somebody
21-05-2006, 01:39 PM
Your comment about heat rising is - well pretty pathetic (sorry about that) but the incredibly small amount of air movement caused by this is very tiny compared to the whacking great quantity of air moved around by the cheapest and smallest fans.
Otherwise we would have convection cooled computers and fans would never have appeared. (what a wonderful thought).
Tom I will quote you because otherwise discussions get very confusing to figure out who said what in response to who, what, where, when why how etc. etc.

While the volume of air movement is quite small, regardless of how much of an impact it has, why would you intentionally try to go against natural convection currents? The design of cases currently is to aid airflow, and heat dissipation by allowing the thermodynamic fact that heat rises, to help the fans by getting rid of heat via the fan in PSU. By forcing air to go in the opposite direction - ie. trying to push hot air down and then out, is wasting energy and effort. Furthermore, it does nothing to address the issue of less dust buildup, as the rear of PCs are usually very rarely vacuumed, and hence accumulate a lot of dust on the carpet/wall etc.

zqwerty
21-05-2006, 02:13 PM
If you spin the fans up to high revs with a blast of air you will damage the bearings. FACT.

Thomas01
21-05-2006, 02:59 PM
While the volume of air movement is quite small, regardless of how much of an impact it has, why would you intentionally try to go against natural convection currents? The design of cases currently is to aid airflow, and heat dissipation by allowing the thermodynamic fact that heat rises, to help the fans by getting rid of heat via the fan in PSU. By forcing air to go in the opposite direction - ie. trying to push hot air down and then out, is wasting energy and effort. Furthermore, it does nothing to address the issue of less dust buildup, as the rear of PCs are usually very rarely vacuumed, and hence accumulate a lot of dust on the carpet/wall etc.
Ah I think you have missed the point here.
You might as well say why bother fitting a motor to a cycle calling it a motorcycle then having to carry all that extra weight around. And our very popular fan heaters - nobody ever has them turned up to the ceiling so that the natural air currents assist circulation. One of the first things I learned as an engineer is that there are umpteen ways of measuring efficiency and one must learn to differentiate between those that are important and those that do not matter.
The real reason for having the fan drag in air at the back is for the sheer convenience of being able to fit the filter there - it would be a bit stupid putting it on the front. But again we do have to consider the fact that only the odd person has need of the air being cleaned. I don't need it - my computers internals are generally pretty dustfree free for several years (about time I checked that statement!), and I am a bit concerned by the remark that the backs of computers can be dusty. Not in my house or office mate.
And on that point I do think people should check air outlets - I have found the occasional computer with the holes being almost blocked by dust. Not good.
Tom

technicianxp
21-05-2006, 03:00 PM
Just to add to this the server which is the subject of my big clean-up sat has a very high-speed case fan plus a PSU fan at the back both blowing air out. It sat on a carpet for 1 or 2 years and the result was that the front intake which didn't have a fan in it eventually filled up with so much dust that there was no air getting through it (well so I presume). I guess the fact that there's only one HD in there (at present) explains why it's still running but I will have to get rid of the dust before I throw to more drives in.

Thomas01
21-05-2006, 03:09 PM
If you spin the fans up to high revs with a blast of air you will damage the bearings. FACT.
Naw! Never. I have done this so many times and been involved in test in engineering where high speeds were indulged in so as to find the limits of bearings and really its very hard to cause damage to bearing on things like fans. I have used sharp point "needle" bearings at times on low load appliances and many years ago used a formula to calculate the life of one of mine. I cannot remember the formula now - it wasn't my work but was accepted and in my case the bearing would certainly last for several hundred years. The best practical example I met with was in an electrical suppliers where the switch to the ceiling fan in the mens toilet had failed. Being electricians they just twisted the wires together - intending to do a proper job later. Ten years later the fan after running 24 hours/day continuously was still running as sweetly as the first day. But hey don't try this on bearing with reciprocating loads.
Tom

zqwerty
21-05-2006, 03:37 PM
When cleaning fans, especially the smaller fans within a portable computer or laptop it's suggested that you either hold the fan or place something in-between the fan blades to prevent it from spinning. Spraying compressed air into a fan or cleaning a fan with a vacuum may cause damage to some fans.

http://www.computerhope.com/cleaning.htm

Air duster is quite useful for cleaning more robust items, but can also be usefully employed in computer destruction, where it is more than capable of blowing chips out of sockets, spinning fans to prodigious speeds and destroying their tiny brushless motor assemblies

http://www.dansdata.com/sbs3.htm

Also I have repaired many of these fans, even rewound them with various degrees of success, and replaced the transistors in them. The bearings are fragile and mounted in plastic housings they dry out, overheat, slow the revs down and burn out the motor. You must have come across some of them running at half speed?