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Move Over, Rubber Ducky, It’s the Mouse’s Turn

Like anything that sits on your desk for a long time, your Mac or PC will eventually get a little grimy. And that grime can affect the performance and longevity of the machine.

For starters, you may notice that the mouse cursor doesn’t seem to move as smoothly as it once did across the screen. The mouse is sensitive, and even the smallest piece of hair or the tiniest bit of lint can make it impossible to use.

If you have never cleaned your mouse before, you will be amazed at the amount of gunk that gets stuck to the little bars that the ball rolls against.

To clean your mouse, pick it up and turn it over with the mouse belly facing up. There’s a plastic circle with a hole in the middle of it. The mouse ball pokes through this hole. Next, press with both thumbs lightly and rotate the plastic circle to loosen the plastic circle.

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Remove the collar and take out the ball and wash it with lukewarm water. Caution: Don’t use any cleaners because the chemicals might damage the mouse. Let the ball air dry. While this is happening, look in the cavity where the ball usually sits. You’ll see three tiny wheels called rollers. You should clean them now too--in other words, scrape off the gunk using a wooden toothpick. Don’t use an eraser, pen or pencil, because they can leave debris inside the mouse.

After you finish cleaning all three rollers, drop the dry ball back into the mouse and turn the collar the opposite way from before until it stops. That’s it: Your mouse is clean again. Special kits are available for cleaning the mouse, but most people are content doing it the old-fashioned way as described above.

The standard Microsoft-style mouse seems to be the worst offender at sucking up dirt from the mouse pad. But the Honeywell-style mouse never needs cleaning because it has wheels that roll along a surface, and the interior of the mouse is totally sealed from contamination. Mouse pads help prevent dirt from getting inside the mouse. Choose one with a smooth laminated top. Mouse pads with a fabric top tend to trap the dust and the grime.

Keyboards get dirty real quick too. If your keyboard looks like a mechanic has been using it, unplug it from your PC and give it a cleaning. Use glass cleaner or warm water with a soft cloth. Wet the cloth so it’s damp, not soggy, then clean the dirty areas. Try not to get any liquid directly on the keyboard or underneath the keys. Let the keyboard completely dry before plugging it back into your PC.

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If the keys stick, repeat characters or don’t depress properly, unplug the keyboard and give it a good shake. Often, the offending object will fall out from underneath the keys. Otherwise, get a can of compressed air and blow out the junk. You can gently pry the keys off and remove any items located inside the key sockets.

Fingerprints and scratches can make your CD-ROMs inoperable. Computer supply and stereo stores sell CD cleaning kits for about $15. The kits include petroleum-based products that clean and repair scratches on audio CDs and often restore unreadable files on CD-ROMs.

Make sure the disc is completely dry before putting it back in the CD-ROM drive.

If you have an ink-jet printer and notice lines or dots missing from printed text or graphics, this is a sure sign that it’s time to clean the print cartridges. Most ink-jet printers allow you to clean the cartridges with the printer setup software. Don’t clean the printer cartridges unnecessarily though, as this wastes ink and shortens the cartridge life.

Look at the back of your PC and find the power supply. (It’s the part that looks like a fan.) If your power supply is extremely dusty, unplug your PC and remove the computer’s case. Using a can of compressed air, make several short blasts to blow the dust out.

Don’t use the can like a blowtorch. As you clean off the power supply, some dust will invariably get on the components. Using short bursts of air, dust off the insides. Most cans of compressed air come with a plastic straw you can insert into the spray nozzle. Put this straw on the nozzle to get into the nooks and crannies.

Your computer needs good ventilation and should be located in as dust-free an environment as possible. If it’s on the floor, put it on a table. Keeping pets away helps, and remember not to eat or drink over the computer.

Kim Komando is a Fox TV host, syndicated talk radio host and founder of the Komputer Klinic on America Online (keyword KOMANDO). She can be reached via e-mail at komando@komando.com

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