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Laptop Dust Removal

Ed Grochowski

Posted 9-13-2008


This article presents an easy method to remove dust from the heatsinks of the Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop computer. This technique should work for other laptop models as well.

Why is Dust a Problem?

Over time, dust and lint will accumulate on the internal heatsinks of laptop computers. The dust and lint reduce the airflow, rendering the cooling system ineffective. This results in the following symptoms:

  • The fan runs continuously even while the computer is idle.
  • The fan switches to high speed even though the computer is only moderately busy.
  • Under high load, and after the fan has already switched to its highest speed, the processor reduces its frequency (throttles) to prevent overheating.

Dust can easily be removed from the exterior vents with a vacuum cleaner. Cleaning the interior is not as straightforward. Two well-known methods for removing dust from the interior are to disassemble the computer for cleaning, or to blow compressed air into the vents. Here is a very simple method that does not require disassembly.

Dust Removal

The service manual for the Dell Inspiron E1505 shows two heatsinks for the processor and graphics card, respectively. The heatsinks are visible from the exhaust vent. They extend into the computer case for about an inch. The air blockage is caused by dust and lint that have accumulated on the far side of the heatsinks, adjacent to the fan and opposite from the exhaust vent.

The dust and lint can be dislodged as follows.

  • Turn the computer off.
  • Cut a 1/8 inch wide strip of an index card.
  • Insert and remove the strip into the exhaust vent between each fin of the heatsink.
  • It is necessary to insert the strip 1.5 to 2 inches to reach the opposite end of the heatsink.

While doing this, I noticed that the pitch of the fins on the two heatsinks is different.


Cleaning the Heatsinks with an Index Card

A lot of dust came out when I cleaned my 2.5 year old laptop. Afterwards, the computer ran cooler and the fan turned on much less frequently. I consider the ten minutes required to clean the heatsinks as time well-spent.