Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Cleaning Dell Laptop Fan for Improved Performance

This is my Dell Studio 1735 laptop.

Lately it's been crashing - as in stopping dead with no warning - when I'm on the interwebs.  I did some fine tuning, like moving files off the desktop, taking some things out of the process tree, etc., but it still dies occasionally.

I got to reading on the interwebs about cleaning the cooling fan. Seems that they pick up a ton of dust and dirt and that affects its cooling. Then the CPU hits a temperature limit and shuts down.

So I took the laptop down to The Dungeon to take a look at it. I had armed myself with some disassembly instructions from some other blogs.

Turns out this particular machine doesn't need much disassembly to get at the fan.

First I took out the battery.

Note the two screws near the sliding lock for the battery.

There are a number of those screws on the back panel.

We take them out first.

They're pretty cool because they don't come all the way off the panel. Once you loosen them they stay in place. I show my driver here, but I actually just unscrewed them by hand.

Once all of the screws are loosened, the panel slides off.

Piece o' cake. (MMmmmmmm cake).

The fan is on the upper right - easily accessible.

Wow. I expected to take more pieces off this thing.

You can see the dust on the fan blades.  We'll get that off.  Not as bad as some pictures I've seen online.

One side note: the backup battery (a 2032 on this machine) is right near the bottom - easy to get to for replacement.  I probably should have changed it out, but I figured it's so easy to do, I'll wait until it needs to be replaced.

So, I've read these "warnings" about not using a vacuum to clean the dust off the fan, "because the vacuum might make the fan spin faster than it's designed for and it might damage it."


Clearly these folks don't know these puppies spin at several thousand RPM. No way your vacuum will spin a fan that fast.

I did use compressed air to get some of the dust out, along with a vacuum.  Turns out my vacuum didn't turn the fan much at all, nor did it remove all of the dust.  The compressed air got more off, mainly because the dust was sort of caked on.

After getting most of the dust off, I used q-tips to get the remaining dust off the fan blades.  I was also able to reach in past the ends of the blades and get the dust off the inside of the curved housing - there was a lot of dust there.

I also blasted the dust off the vents on the bottom panel.

Then I put the thing back together, and there is a major improvement. The fan is about 90% quieter.  And the machine is running much cooler overall - the top surface got very warm to the touch, and now it stays cooler as well.

When the laptop was working hard before, it would run at up to 80% usage.  Even at idle, it would be at 50%.  It's been running at about 13% while I wrote this post.  And it drops to 0% at idle.

It's probably worthwhile to open your laptop up and clean the fan - I'd guess you'll see an improvement as I did.


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