In the Forums...
Posted: September 8, 2003
Written By: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy
Cleaning Your Notebook
A greasy LCD screen, touchpad, or notebook keyboard can be a nuisance. Grease on a screen can create smudges that make an otherwise sharp image quite blurry, while a gunked up touchpad can effect its performance. Buy an anti-static cleaner (such as "StatClean") so you can be sure not to damage any components during cleaning. While these steps are obvious to most users, I just want to be sure nobody's going to ruin a $1000+ notebook because they used Windex or something on the screen. :)
LCD cleaning: Cleaning the screen involves the same process as any other LCD. I recommend leaving the notebook off while cleaning. I highly recommend picking up some "Notebook LCD Cleaner" cloths at your local office supply store. Office Depot charges about $5 for these, and they can actually be used for the keyboard and touchpad as well. These wipes are anti-static, and don't contain alcohol or ammonia.
If you're on a budget, I use the anti-static cleaner with tissues (soft!) for the screen, but even a very soft cotton lint-free cloth will do fine. Don't use water, window cleaners (like Windex), or alcohol on an LCD. Never spray a cleaner directly on the screen: always spray it on the cloth lightly instead before application.
Touchpad & Keyboard: Fortunately, the keyboard and touchpad are not as sensitive as the screen. First, I recommend using compressed air to blow out under the keyboard and around the touchpad. Once you've removed this excess dust and debris, use the same anti-static cleaner. Again, spray it on the cloth instead of the notebook itself and wipe the touchpad and keyboard gently until they are clean.
Case: To clean the outer case, use the same method as cleaning the keyboard and touchpad. Do not use alcohol, Windex, 409, etc. These household cleaners are often abbrasive and can damage the notebook, especially if they seep into crevices or devices.
Innards: To clean the inside of the case, including the speaker grilles and fan exhaust ports, you should also use compressed air. I recommend blowing out every open port and grille that you can find. Then finally wipe the outer part of the grilles off with the cleaner and towel.
Burning Crotches and Why They're Bad
Burning crotches aren't funny. Well, maybe on Looney Tunes, but not in real life. Nothing's worse than getting up after a long notebook session to find an extremely uncomfortable feeling on your lap and upper legs.
So, what can you do? Well, ideally, we could just eliminate the heat. But most notebooks have a tendency to become a lot hotter while unplugged from their power source because they don't run the fans as often. And even if they are running the fans, the underside seems to be the hottest side. Great...
There are a few options. The cheapest and easiest is what I usually pursue, and I'm sure everyone's thought of this before... cover yourself up! I usually put a small pillow or thick shirt, towel, or something between myself and the notebook. This prevents those surface burns you can get while wearing shorts and makes things a lot more comfortable. In a pinch I've even used a piece of cardboard (hey this worked pretty well, actually!).
The other option is a bit more costly, and I have no idea of its effectiveness (though they would appear to work pretty well). A quick search on eBay finds many cooling pads available for notebooks. These are USB powered, and I don't know how bad they drain the batteries. They are somewhat slim, lightweight, and affordable ($10-$20). If anyone has any feedback on these devices, let me know. I would like to know how well they work before I recommend them. They are also available in stores like CompUSA and Office Depot, but they are a bit more expensive.