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10 More from the Cleaning Crew

Talking about screen maintenance created enough discussion that I wanted to put out a few more things I’ve found. Here’s the cleaning process when one of my family drops off one of their dead or spyware encrusted machines:

  1. Get the dust out. I never used forced air cans anymore, always a vacuum cleaner. They both do a decent job but the forced air just moves the grime to some other (hopefully not worse) place, the vac solves the problem. The key here is put the screws and parts somewhere far away from where you are vacuuming.
  2. While you have the box open check to see how much these upgrades would be: more memory, bigger hard drive if necessary, solid state drive if cost effective. These three updates can give huge performance boosts.
  3. When working on a machine, especially laptops, if you Google hard enough you’ll find PDFs that the manufacturer’s have for their tech people that show you, step by step, in detail how to do most common tasks like replace drives, memory and laptop screens. Sometimes you will find similar stuff on YouTube (usually from people selling the parts you’ll need).
  4. Remove keyboard grime with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I used to just suck it up and buy a new keyboard every 3 years or so, they are cheap enough and tend to get gross. Mr. Clean has changed that, I have been using a Microsoft Natural Keyboard for almost 10 years now. You can pop off the keys and wash them in a bucket of cleaner with a brush, vacuum the case out and wipe out the wrist rest grunge with the eraser.
  5. I also discourage Bluetooth or wireless mice and keyboards. I’ve never had a cabled set fail on me, but have had plenty of situations where people forget they need to change the batteries in them and are wondering why they are getting weird behavior. I’m also comforted by this as it proves that even though I like to clean stuff I am not compulsive (like people that buy wireless components because they can’t stand to have a cord on their desk).
  6. Drill – Just like the pit crew, having a drill with a phillips head tip makes it a lot faster and easier to get cases open and shut. Two things here – spend the money for one with a clutch so you can set the torque instead of stripping screws, and you can usually get a spring extension so if you bend it around a corner – very useful in tight situations.
  7. External Hard Drive Enclosure – Two reasons for this – if you are upgrading a hard drive you will use this to clone the new drive so you don’t have to install everything from scratch, or if you are virus busting you can pull the drive from an infected machine and plug it in on some other spare machine to pull the data and not have to deal with whatever stupid reason windows is not booting up (please, not YOUR primary machine for the love of all that is holy, I’ve never seen a cross infection, but that’s nothing to play with). For $30 this one does both the big drives in tower machines, and the smaller laptop 2.5 inch form factor.
  8. Rescue thumbdrive  РI have a 16GB stick with a bunch of common tools that I may need to try first before ripping a machine apart.
  9. Backups – since it’s family and most of the time I’m upgrading a hard drive, I keep the old drive as backup (or when virus hunting, I usually pull their data to an external drive and then do a clean install, I’ve never found repairing an infected machine to be worth the time it takes). Odds are, even though you tell them every time they have a disaster, they are not doing it. While you are doing that throw in all the PDFs you found in #3.
  10. Set minimum thresholds for your IT organization. I used to keep all kinds of spare parts and spend time working on machines over 6 or 7 years old, now I tell people to bite the bullet when I’m going to have to order special parts and can’t guarantee that something else won’t crap out in the next 6 months. Don’t have eSATA hard drives? Time to replace it. I’m also reaching a point that if one of my nieces or nephews doesn’t step up I may say I only support Mac. I’m just not up for spyware battles anymore.

Any tricks/tips you’re using?

One reply on “10 More from the Cleaning Crew”

Hi John,

Great post! Just happened to stumble upon it while browsing your website after so long…

What are some of the common tools you have on your 16 GB thumb drive?

I actually spent the night last year getting something a bootable disk that would crack a password. The guy who used to use the laptop I received had his user profile as the default one. Searched on About.com and found some useful info on how to get it done. But it scared me to think what that meant about password cracking software…

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