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Keep your computer clean

As we watch out for the H1N1 virus, germ-catching spaces are at the center of attention. Computer keyboards have long been suspected of carrying more than their fair share of germs. And honestly, how often do we stop and wipe down a keyboard or mouse?

Keyboards attached to desktop computers can be cleaned by blowing out or carefully vacuuming dust and debris. They can be lightly sprayed and wiped with a disinfectant. Grimy old desktop keyboards can be easily replaced. Just purchase a fresh one for $10 to $15, plug it in where the old one was and you have a new germ-free keyboard. Old computer equipment can be recycled on second Saturdays at the Manatee County Lena Road Landfill. See My for further details.

The mouse can be cleaned as well with a damp cloth. A ball mouse often gets clogged with dust, which can affect its performance.

To clean the ball mechanism, turn the mouse over, unscrew the circular piece around the ball and gently clean out the dust inside.

An old mouse also can be replaced easily and inexpensively.

Older model computers should be shut down before changing out the keyboard or mouse.

On a laptop computer, cleaning the keyboard can be a bit more delicate.

Avoid spraying the surface. Instead, while the computer is off, blow off the keyboard with canned air or another blower.

Use a damp cloth to wipe off the keys and other surfaces.

Take care that sprays do not come in contact with the laptop screen.

A clean cloth dampened with water will usually clean the screen well.

When there is a film or a difficult smear, I have used a gentle dish soap, but not without great care.

In our computer repair shop, we have seen laptops come in with screens permanently damaged by sprays.

Other areas of the computer that will bene- fit from regular cleaning are fans and vents.

Blowers are preferred over vacuums due to static electricity.

Computers will overheat if fans are clogged with dust, and damage to circuit boards can occur.

When blowing out dust, use caution around the mechanism of CD and DVD drives. The optical reader is a sensitive component.

Other daily care of laptop computers includes unplugging cards, USB devices and cords when storing.

Damage to jacks and ports are common complaints and often expensive fixes.

Perhaps the most common repair to laptop computers is replacement of the power jack.

The part itself is inex- pensive, but in order to de-solder the old part and re-solder a new one, the laptop must be completely disassembled, then reassembled.

If you are someone who likes to remove stickers from your computer, be sure to leave one sticker in tact.

The Windows license key, or certificate of authenticity, is an expensive sticker to replace.

It shows the 25-digit license key of your computer’s operating system, and is needed for reloads or hard drive replacements.

‘Replacement of this license costs $130 or more.

Patty Harshbarger, the owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at