How to clean Macbook Pro Fans?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by dab3, Apr 13, 2008.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Sep 22, 2007
    Hello! I've been advised to clean my MBP fan's out with compressed air, since I've owned it for 6 months now. So my question is, where would I actually spray the compressed air without opening the chassis? I'm scared to use it on the keyboard because I've heard keys popping off that way, and wondering if I spray into the vent below the screen, I would just blow the dust deeper into the computer....

    I've googled and searched this up with no relating topics....

    Anyone got any advice?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. macrumors 68040


    Nov 6, 2007
    Britain, Avatar Created By Bartelby
    There's no way of doing this unless you take of the casing
  3. macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2008
    Eugene, OR
    I got this from
    Step 1: Keep your cool
    Computer components--processors, graphics cards, and the like--get hot when they run. To mitigate this, laptop makers put in elaborate heat sinks that absorb the heat generated by the processor. In addition, all but the tiniest models have at least a single fan; some bigger systems have two or even three. When the temperature rises above a certain level, the fans automatically come on to keep the laptop out of the red zone. Unfortunately, like all fans, the ones in your laptop will eventually end up covered in dust and dirt, and that could spell trouble.
    An occasional cleaning will keep your laptop fans spinning effectively for years. But before you can clean them, you'll have to find them. Fortunately, in most cases, they're near the vents that are located around the edges of your case; these slats let cool air in and hot air out. Don't worry if they're covered in dust and lint, we'll get to that. Now you'll need to open up the laptop case.
    Look for a few sets of screws, underneath the laptop near the vents. Remove the panel and look for the fans--they're circular and plastic, usually about the size of a quarter, with a small propeller inside. Again, it may be covered with dust and lint.
    Step 2: Dust bunny patrol
    Now that you're inside the laptop, use a flashlight to look around for built-up dust and dirt. Using the eraser-end of a pencil or tweezers, pick off any nasty deposits you come across.
    Start at the fan, then work your way to the ducts and vents. Look under the ribbon cables, around the hard drive, and near the tiny circuit boards. Grime can hide in the oddest places, like the processor's copper-colored heat sink, so make sure you explore all the laptop's nooks and crannies.
    Step 3: Air it all out
    You've done the detail work, and now it's time to go big. Put on a dust mask, if you have one. Grab the can of compressed air and spray down the inside of your laptop. Go nuts. Blow out all the dust you can find. It won't be pretty, and you might want to have a vacuum cleaner running nearby to grab all the junk it as it comes out. Don't be surprised if a lot comes out of that little laptop.
    Step 4: Shake, rattle, and roll
    Now that you've made your first pass at cleaning out the inside, give your laptop a little shake to dislodge any particularly resilient dust and grime. Keep cleaning and shaking until nothing more comes out.
    Step 5: Key to the crumb highway
    Now that the inside of your laptop is as clean as a whistle, it's time to tidy up that nasty keyboard. Don't be embarrassed by what you find: Most keyboards have enough crumbs to feed a flock of pigeons for weeks. Use the can of compressed air to blow it clean, but be careful not to break any keys off.
    Step 6: Tighten up
    While you've still got the laptop open, give each of the major components a quick look to see if any are loose. A loose motherboard or hard drive can cause damage in the long run, so make sure all of the screws are tight and all of the cables are well connected. When tightening the screws, be careful not to overdo it--gently tighten until you feel some resistance. When you're done, reconnect the access panels on the underside of your laptop.
    Step 7: Clean your screen
    All laptop screens are susceptible to nicks and scratches, and the latest glossy, high-contrast displays show off fingerprints that even Columbo couldn't miss. We like to give our screens a quick rubdown about once a week. You can use any brand of window cleaner so long as it doesn't contain ammonia or any harsh detergents. We're partial to Sprayway, because it gets all foamy and doesn't leave annoying streaks; unfortunately, Sprayway can be hard to find in some places, and you may have to make a special trip to a glass or mirror store to find it.
    When wiping down the screen, stay away from tissue that leave lint behind or rough fabrics that may scratch the display. We recommend Kimwipes lint-free cleaning cloths, a soft cotton chamois or a microfiber cloth.
  4. macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2003
    Please do not use compressed air in your computer. I don't know why this is so often recommended to unconfident users (excuse the term).

    If you're uncertain of what is what, and how it is made, you can do a lot of harm. For example - blowing grease out of its rightful places (like fan ball bearings unless they are sealed), blowing dirt further into wrong places, mis-aligning things etc etc.

    Dust on the fans will not hamper cooling very much at all, you really need to check for a layer of dust on the heatsinks, which will (because it will insulate them).

    edit: CNETs intentions were good I think, but I wouldn't recommend that either for three reasons. Using window cleaners on screens is a BIG no no. Most contain alcohol. Alcohol dries out the plastic coating on LCD screens and which can cause matting (a white, chalky appearance) or fine cracking. Also - shaking your laptop whilst it's open, and then later checking for anything loose? I wouldn't do it in that order, if at all! You'll probably get away with blasting the keyboard but remember that the bigger keys are on hinges which contain...grease.

  5. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 22, 2007
    Thanks AppleMatt for the great suggestions there! I will look into cleaning the machine out within a couple years, as I never keep it on for longer than a 5 hour period + never overnight, so I think I won't get too much dust clogged in the thing. Also thanks for the help about compressed air... really useful!

    Thanks to the rest for the comments as well!
  6. macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2008
    Cleaning fans by removing MBP 17" Core Duo lower case

    I replaced my 2 1/2 year old MBP's lower case today, with the help of ifixit's instructions. It takes getting all the way down to step 33 of 41 in the disassembly process to get to the fans to clean them out.

    When I got to reinstalling all the parts, I accidentally flipped up a fan and was surprised to find the grills behind the fans and saw they were almost totally blocked by dust bunnies. I cleaned them out, successfully reinstalled all the pieces and was relieved that the MBP started up without problems. (ifixit's instructions rate the process "Difficult" and I have to agree!)

    Before the cleanout, my MBP quickly got fairly hot and the MBP made a noticeable noise. (I thought the noise was due to the new 7200 rpm hard drive I had installed. Since the MBP is now quiet, I conclude, it was the fans, hard at work.) When it got really hot, I'd have to raise the back to stand almost vertically to help the heat rise out the rear slot. Now, with the MBP in use for several hours, I have yet to hear the fans and the sensors read the temperature at 86°.

    I don't see how the fan vents could be cleaned effectively without going through the disassembly process -- a significant design flaw. Even with ifixit's instructions, this isn't a job for the faint hearted. And even though I've done it, I wouldn't want to do so again unless really needed!
  7. macrumors regular

    Feb 21, 2008
    I cleaned out a lot of dust from my MacBook pro fans and heatsink after about two years of owning it and having travelled in india with it. The results speak for themselves. The fans now did not jump up to 6000 rpm as often.
  8. macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2009
    Actually, using window cleaners on macbook pro (glossy) display is actually really good. Since the display is all glass/aluminium you are on the safe side (unless you have the matte display).
  9. macrumors 68020


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    There are some instances where if I didn't use compressed air to blow out the gunk built up in the fans, I would never have gotten it out. Compressed air works for me.
  10. macrumors 6502a


    Sep 10, 2010
    Would a vaccuum work?

    Hold a vaccuum near the rear vents to suck out dust...?

    Works ok on the rear and sides of a PS3..
  11. macrumors 6502

    Aug 14, 2010
    Compressed air is fine. It's designed to blow dust out of computer components. If it's seriously "harmful" for your computer you'd expect there to be a class-action lawsuit on that thing, but obviously there isn't, so using compressed air should be fine.

    Also, I don't know how you've been using your MBP. I've used my old Macbook for 2 years before i decided to tear it apart, when I opened it there wasn't much dust on it like on my old Thinkpad (which literally had dust flowing out of the side fan ports). I think it should be okay to not warranty a "full cleaning" by taking apart the computer.
  12. macrumors 6502a


    Sep 17, 2009
    Use water, and lots of it
  13. macrumors 68040


    May 20, 2010
    Boulder, CO
    No. It can damage the components. I recommend disassembling the MBP to see if it is really necessary to clean the fan. It is only necessary if the fan is literally caked in dust.

    Even if you think that is funny, it is not. If an unknowing mac user reads this thread, they may think you are serious. Don't joke about washing a computer with water. (unless you are talking about cleaning a computer that had coke or something spilled on it... Then, deionized water is fine for washing the logic board.)
  14. macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2011
    Serious as using "water, lots of it" in electronics can get.
  15. macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    Are you kidding me? What happens when someone reads that and actually does it and 1) ruins their MBP and/or 2) electrocutes themselves?
  16. macrumors 6502a


    Sep 10, 2010
    Just wanted to chip in my $0.02 worth on compressed can work wonders, BUT use with common sense, don't just go around spraying everything with the nozzle right on top of components. As others have said, you can blow things like grease and thermal paste off of components, which you don't want to do. Spray at a distance if you're not sure, up close if you can clearly see or know there is no paste/grease around. A common household vaccuum with the dust attachment (hose attachment with the hair for dusting) can also work wonders for a quick once over - again, use a little distance where needed, you just want to pick up dust, not a chip. Don't use a strong shop vac either, and try not to let the fans spin during any of this, as they may build up a voltage and damage sensitive electronics. Think of it like when washing a car's engine - you can spray water on the engine (car, not MBP), but you never want to spray directly on the fuse box ;)

    Also, the best defense is not using your computer in dusty/dirty environments as much as possible. This will minimize dust build up over time. I've always opened up my pcs for a good dusting every ~2-3 years or so and this works fine for me - figure out your dust "schedule" and remember, whenever opening up your computer, always ground yourself first, before you touch anything in there, by touching the case with your bare skin (hand). And before you start cleaning/dusting, make sure there are no loose parts laying around. Cheers.
  17. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 5, 2010
    hopefully they will then sign themselves up for a sterilization procedure, because we don't need anymore people that stupid in the world.
  18. macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    I'm going to hope you are joking instead of implying that people who have a lower intelligence somehow have a lesser right to life.
  19. macrumors regular


    Sep 9, 2010
    Manchester, UK
    i work with laptops and what not daily so always have something in a million bits all over the place :D is a top website - and will show you what is required to get to your fans...

    i clean my fans every few months - no harm done

    i even reapplied thermal paste last week..

    it all depends on how brave you are with a screw driver :D
  20. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 5, 2010
    This section (MBP forum) really confuses me. Everywhere else on the forum people make jokes like "herp derp, put water on your iPhone to clean it up LOL" and people roll with it and troll accordingly, but it seems like this section is where humour comes to die.

    If someone says something with the slightest bit of sarcasm or humour in their post, 11 people will fly in out of nowhere spouting "YOU TAKE YOUR GOOD TIMES AND LAUGHTER SOMEWHERE ELSE, THE MACBOOK PRO FORUM IS NO PLACE FOR JOKES."

    Also, for what it's worth, if someone throws the MBP in their washing machine/bathtub in order to clean it out then yes, I would consider them unfit to breed unless they can prove otherwise. :rolleyes:.
  21. macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    Sarcastic comments and comments which are phrased in a serious manner that advocate people to do something in which personal injury is likely are a completely different thing and why I said something to the other guy's post. Furthermore, on most forums, moderators and users alike have a greater tolerance for established members and the reaction to posts, not only depends on what you say, but also on WHO says it but I am not saying that is or is not the case here. Despite who says it, encouraging something that can result in physical injury has no humor to it.

    There was another time in history in which we determined who was fit and unfit to breed; the Holocaust.
  22. Sankersizzle, Jan 5, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011

    macrumors 6502a


    Jun 5, 2010

    that was a bit of a stretch, don't you think...?
  23. macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    Perhaps, but you get my point. And I actually look pretty similar to the picture.

    I doubt anyone would actually clean the inside of their computer with water, but there are cases in which people have wiped the MBP down with a rag which was too wet and damaged it. I assume it is because of the open-key design.

    I found out the hard way how canned air worked out. Never realized it came out with such force or that it causes frostbite.
  24. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 5, 2010
    Now we are in agreement! Apologies for busting your balls.

    This reminds me of a story I recently heard on the news where a kid was going down a backyard hill on a toboggan with his parents and hit a tree and broke some bones -now the parents are suing the homeowner for a poorly placed tree and all children have to wear helmets while tobogganing. When I was tobogganing and hit a tree my father would just make fun of me then call me a dunce and send me back up the hill... I feel like we hold hands a little too much in this day and age.

    I totally feel you on the canned air though, when I was younger I didn't know that if you shook the can, it would shoot out in liquid form. I ended up shooting it inside my computer, and well, you can imagine how that worked out.
  25. macrumors 68000

    Aug 26, 2010
    Pennsylvania, USA
    Yes, that would be another point to list. Because the cans are compressed CO2, they get cold and blow cold out. Getting some components too cold can destroy them along with getting grease too cold will ruin it. If you are insistent on cleaning it, take the 10 screws off the bottom and pop the case off. Its very easy and you can see if it really needs done.

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