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How To Clean A Motherboard? [Definitive Guide]

You will need cotton swabs, paper towels, compressed air, and more to clean it.

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It is important to clean your motherboard every 6 to 7 months to remove the settled dust. Not performing this maintenance routine can adversely impact the overall PC performance and lead to bad consequences, like overheating and short circuits, thus reducing the lifespan of the motherboard and connected components.

Key Takeaways
  • Giving your motherboard a routine cleanup is important because if any of its connections get impaired by dust or grime, your entire computer can stop functioning.
  • While cleaning the motherboard, hold the fans in place. Unnecessary spinning can damage the fan bearings.
  • Remember to use safety equipment, like gloves and protective glasses.

Precaution: Remove all the plugs and turn off the PC. Additionally, ground yourself before removing the motherboard. 

Things Required

To clean your motherboard, have the following tools nearby:

  • Compressed Air Can.
  • Microfiber Cloth.
  • Soft-Bristled Brush.
Cleaning With Compressed Air
Cleaning With Compressed Air (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Tip: Place your PC case in an area that is easy to clean afterwards.

Step 1

Open The Case  

Follow these steps to open the PC case and get started with the cleaning process:

  1. Remove Components: Open the PC case > Carefully remove the installed components > Unplug all the cables.
    A Gaming Rig Being Showcased
    An Opened PC Case (Image By Tech4Gamers)
  2. Detach Motherboard: Unscrew the motherboard > Remove it from the case.

Step 2

Remove Components

There might be more than one heatsink in some cases, and in others, there might be none, so proceed accordingly:

  1. Remove CPU and RAM: Pull the CPU and RAM gently from the motherboard. Cover the CPU socket with a protective cover to avoid damaging the slot while cleaning.
  2. Release Heatsink: Flip over the motherboard and find the screws holding it together > Unscrew them. Besides, if it is held in place with latches, unlock them.
  3. Take It Out: Again, flip the motherboard and take out the heatsinks.  

    Motherboard With CPU, Heatsink, And RAM Removed
    Motherboard With CPU, Heatsink, And RAM Removed (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 3

Clean Heatsinks 

With the heatsinks separated from the motherboard, it’s time to clean them. I used the compressed air to remove all the dust accumulated on the heatsink and its spaces.

A Clean Heatsink
A Clean Heatsink (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 4

Clean The Motherboard

When using a can of compressed air to eliminate dust from your motherboard, it’s essential to adopt a strategic approach. Most motherboards are oriented vertically, so dust accumulates on surfaces such as PCIe slots, DIMM slots, and rear IO ports. So, I started blowing the air from the top and worked my way down for an effective cleaning.

Cleaning Motherboard
Cleaning Motherboard (Image By Youtube – Greg Salazar)

Next, I addressed any residual dust that might have accumulated inside the rear IO ports, which can interfere with proper connectivity. Additionally, for larger surfaces, I used a microfiber cloth. Once everything is cleaned, use a soft-bristled brush to remove any remaining dust.

Tools Needed For Cleaning Thermal Paste
Tools Needed For Cleaning Thermal Paste (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Tip: While your motherboard is out of the case, it is a good idea to replace the CPU thermal paste if you haven’t done it in a long time, as its lifespan may have already ended

Step 5


Reassembling the whole thing together is straightforward with these steps:

  1. Insert Heatsink: Reattach the heatsinks by screwing them on the motherboard.
  2. Place Components: Insert the CPU and RAM modules in their sockets.
    Motherboard With CPU, Heatsink, And RAM Installed
    Motherboard With CPU, Heatsink, And RAM Installed (Image By Tech4Gamers)
  3. Reinsert Motherboard In PC Case: Screw the motherboard back onto the case > Connect the graphics card.
    Motherboard Installed In The PC Case (Image By Tech4Gamers)
  4. Close PC Case: Finally, plug in the PSU cables and close the side panel.
Comparing Motherboard Before And After Cleaning
Comparing Motherboard Before And After Cleaning (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Tip: Check if the PC boots up fine without putting the motherboard back into the PC case, so if there’s a problem, it’ll be easier to look into it.  

Can You Damage A Motherboard While Cleaning It?

The risk of damage is always present when dealing with motherboard; hence, take the necessary precautions as stated below:

Final Words

In my experience, cleaning the motherboard was somewhat challenging, especially when I had to detach the components, although the method stated above helped me carry out the process smoothly. On the other hand, if you are a beginner with little knowledge about handling PCs, I suggest you get help from an expert to avoid damaging the motherboard or its components. But if you choose to do it yourself, proceed with the necessary precautions.

Besides, a user on MSI Forums experienced the DRAM light issue on the motherboard after cleaning. We have a detailed guide you can check out for solutions in case you face the same problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Any Cloth For Motherboard Cleaning?

Use a good-quality microfiber cloth that will not leave behind residues. Normal towels or tissues are not recommended.

Can I Use Water To Clean Motherboard?

Water can seep into the motherboard slots and damage it. Instead, use 99.9% isopropyl alcohol.

How Often Should I Clean My Motherboard?

It is crucial to clean the motherboard when there is visible dust build-up or the PC seems to slow down. I prefer cleaning every 6 to 7 months, but it depends on your usage.

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