back to article Is this the world's dirtiest PC?

We're obliged to reader Danny Lee for forwarding evidence of what appears to be a Quatermass-style lifeform, which has attached itself to a PC and pretty well explains why the thing had ceased to function: The world's dirtiest PC, with vents completely blocked by dust Chilling stuff indeed. Anyone out there who has …


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  1. JS Greenwood
    Paris Hilton

    You ain't seen nuthin yet

    Back in my college days, I used to work for a small IT company that had a sideline business in recycling and reconditioning old PCs. This was back in the day when smoking in the office was positively encouraged. Some of the horrors you'd find when you opened the case - it was as though one of the staff had removed a lung and inserted it between the IDE and VGA (ok, Hercules) cards. The fans had continually sucked the stuff into a pile for so long you could remove it as a solid block of exhaled cancer.

    I'm sure somebody else from "back in the day" will be along with pictures.

    Paris, because she can suck stuff into a pile for so long that.... Um... Never mind...

  2. Nik Peltekakis

    Not bad...

    But I have seen worse, ive had a dead mouse in there, the case so full up with dust it needed sucking out with a hoover, and 20 marlboro light...(that last one was either a joke or someone left them in there after smoking on the job.

    I say a sticky for worlds dirtiest PC....readers send them in!!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brace yourself...

    ...for the "That's nothing, I once saw a PC that..." style replies. Although to be fair I've seen worse.

  4. Paul_Murphy

    Let me guess.

    Home of a smoker and computer kept on floor?

    No pets though by the looks of things.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, and...

    ...surely this has to be a contender for the world's dirtiest PC:

  6. Steven Raith
    Thumb Up


    Reminds me of a machine brought in for overheating by a lovely indian chap, who I can only assume used it as a back office machine in the kitchen of a curry house - the dust bunnnies weren't as large, but after clearing it out and turning it on, it did fill our work area with a fantastic, spicy aroma.

    Top stuff.

    Steven R

  7. Stephen Melrose
    Black Helicopters


    That has to be fake! The motherboard would be dirty too!

    Holy hell if not though...

  8. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Dust 'n fluff.

    I recall once going out to do some work on an IBM S/36 5363 (the "underdesk box" one). While I was there, I took the opportunity to down it, open the case and hoover out the accumulated dirt as it was in a rather dusty environment. At one point, I opened the card cage cover and what was revealed induced some pithy comments in anglo-saxon.

    Where there should have been a set of cards containing the CPU, disk controller et. al. with air passing through to cool 'em was a solid block of crud with the card edges peeping out of the side.

    Unlike the machine in the article, it still worked.

  9. Glyn 2


    I dont' have a pic of the amstrad that someone had had under their desk for 3 years and when I took the lid off, it was full from front to back with dust and sandwich bits. I lifted it out pretty much intact and threw it out the window where it exploded in the wind and bits of it scattered and landed on the MD's car. So not a total waste

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    seems very familiar

    That is about the same as all the 5 year old computers we have in our office

  11. hexx

    nope it's not :)

    my friend's was worse, there was so much dust that it formed into some sort of MDF board :)

  12. Greg J Preece

    I feel very nerdy right now

    I recognised that was a Dell without even seeing the monitor in the background, by the "lift here" arrows and the PSU cage.

    I think I need a holiday...

  13. Marvin the Martian
    Thumb Up

    The race is on --- this doesn't look that extreme.

    You mean we have to now scare up some '286 or similar, and get it as dusty as possible and send a snap, right?

    I think some reasonable criteria should be added, like proof-of-functioning --- otherwise you slather some tar on you box and claim it died just now. [As one might, in Ottery St. Mary, with yesterday's incidents, ]

    Please add a sensible reward to this competition.

  14. Tony 32

    What no.....

    Hot Choc, cigarette ash or other food substances? My brothers PC was something from Gordon Ramseys Kitchen nightmares.

    Also while working in a Manufacturing Location have opened up old dells to find an inch of filth covering the Motherboard.

  15. adnim


    of the PC that were used to program the Messer cutters and Heckler Koch CNC machines on the workshop floor of the place of my last employ were much worse than that... Until I cleaned them all up that was.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Oh my...

    Looks like a hand is starting to form on the air intake fan or....a large can't be, can it? Dust puppy?!

  17. Anton Ivanov
    Thumb Down

    This is nothing...

    Damn, I wish I had pictures from 10 years back. In those days the CPU did not require fans so the gunk inside could build up indefinitely. Nowdays it builds up until the CPU fan dies, just like in this picture.

  18. Georgees

    Sometimes they can be harder to spot..

    My friends laptop would constantly overheat. He had taken off all the panels that came off easily (Memory plate, etc) and had it standing on its side with a large fan blowing air onto it.

    For a few weeks he wouldn't let me touch it because it was borrowed but eventually when he was out the room I just opened it up. It looked very, very clean.

    I was puzzled.

    Then I spotted it.

    The Ventblocker was a 3mm thick perfectly uniform layer of black dust on the back of the heatsink. So compact that I just peeled it off.

    Everything else was spotless.

  19. Efros
    Paris Hilton

    Seen similar

    Worst environments are dry heated buildings which are carpeted, especially bedrooms. Think of where all that dead skin goes! Another disgusting place is a kitchen I have received a non working PC for repair which literally had a 2mm coating of grease on every surface, inside and out. repair consisted of a can of lighter fluid and a match.

    Paris cos she knows all about dirt

  20. Winkypop Silver badge

    In a galaxy far far away...

    ...this may be how life first formed!

    * warmth

    * undisturbed environment

    * humidity

    * electrical charge

  21. cirby

    I've seen worse.

    I saw an old IBM PC XT that was used at a livestock auction barn. The entire inside (not just the fan on the power supply) was completely caked with dried cow excrement powder.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Spot the smoker's PC

    Mmmmmm yummy, yummy tar

  23. VeNT


    seen worse.

    but then it's a dell. they are always bad.

    maybe start an email address to send them into. I'm sure I can get about 20 in a week.

  24. Bilgepipe

    Seen it

    Looks like cat hair to me, a common form of vent-blockage in my experience. Haven't seen quite that much before, though...

  25. RichyS
    Paris Hilton


    Reading the title of this piece, I was hoping for something completely different...

    Paris, for obvious reasons (sorry Sarah).

  26. BillboBaggins


    I think you have got Danny's good side in that pic!

  27. mmiied

    I will dig out the photo when I get home

    but I say one where there was so much dust on the mother board that you couls not see the chips it looked like a flat plane of dust

  28. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Man that is nasty.

    And will increase over heating in marginal temperature conditions, likely to make a very good home for all sorts of bacterial stuff etc.

  29. Paul Smith

    Not even close

    The PC pictured is quite dirty but you can see plenty of shiny metal and you can tell what colour the the motherboard is. I once insisted that the boss of a client company use the vacumn cleaner until the screws on the case were visible before I would think about trying to repair it. I think that helped get the message across.

  30. TRT Silver badge

    Missed it...

    Just got back from collecting the HDD of a virus laden machine. Shame I'd cleaned it up before I read this article - it was pretty similar to that one. Oh, and a Dell, twin Pentium III. Dells really are the worst.

  31. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    Have'nt lived until you see what a mess graphite powder makes of any computer

    The robot was supposed to have a forced air supply from outside the building pressurising the electrical box, but some dork switched it off without telling anyone

    8 days later fizzle fizzle spark spark there goes a 5000 quid Fanuc main board and it took the spindle drive with it.

    Epic fail there

  32. Natty

    back in the day...

    ...of no cpu fans I found a dead cockroach on a cpu. Lovely.

    More recently. The machine that makes bBsto stopped working a couple of years back and when we opened it up we found a very very dusty DOS 4 machine which once cleaned of dust started working perfectly again.

    Happy days


  33. dannylee

    photo doesn't do it justice

    Its a shame the camera wasn't high res! To those who suspect its fake, I can confirm its 100% real! And unfortunately it was a HP Compaq machine, no dell's in that state that i've dealt with lol!

    @BillboBaggins - Trust you to make a comment!!

  34. Paul Young
    Paris Hilton

    I had one once

    PC was in the cutting room at a diamond producer

    I've never seen so much junk in it, no diamonds, just congelled, oily gunk

    Pasir, Well thinking of dirty, eerm, sush!!

  35. Sartori


    If this had only been a few weeks earlier. We had several Dell PC's returned to us from a warehouse in France and they were absolutely caked in dust, inside and out. Warehouse environment + PC on floor + Dell PC = incredible amounts of dust. I'll have to keep a look out for any more we get now.

  36. Mark Allen

    A Title

    Seen many worse.... with my top two being:

    The PC I found in a concrete manufacturing works (building kerbs stones, etc). When that was opened up, every horizontal surface (graphics card, NIC, Sound, HDD, etc) was covered in an inch thick layer of fine concrete dust. I would hate to think what that was doing to the hard disk breathe holes!!

    And then there was the PC in a client's home. A flat with shiny wood floors and an overly fluffy cat. When I opened that Dell up, the front plastics were hiding a solid mat of cat fur. It was like an inch thick blanket there was so much of it. Jammed in all possible corners - including up the sides of the machine. After I cleaned that one out the client says "oh - it sounds a lot quieter now" Duh!!

    One thing this job has taught me is the PC is a brilliant vacuum cleaner.

  37. Raumkraut


    It looks to be forming a hand. Perhaps Jobe is attempting to escape from cyberspace?

  38. Robert Sneddon

    Smoke gets in your device

    I had a contract job to clean up a bunch of second-hand rack-mount server boxes that were being recommissioned into a Shiny! new datacentre. They were generally filthy inside which puzzled me; rack-mounted kit doesn't usually suffer from dirty environments. It turned out they had previously been installed in an Irish company's datacentre where the engineers smoked.

    I had an intermittently-functioning keyboard in for repair a while back. The usual trick of turning the keyboard upside down and giving it a good shake didn't help much so I opened it up to be met by the smell of fragrant "herbs". I vacuumed out the crumbs and refrained from suggesting to the customer that he didn't roll-up at his desk.

  39. lee harvey osmond

    That's a smoker's computer

    I've done case cleanouts before, including laptops. Usually the material is fibrous, fine, and grey. It is derived from house dust, ie squames, ie tiny flakes of redundant human skin. I have once seen material that was pale blue ... that computer lived in a spare bedroom which was also used for doing laundry (the room, not the computer). The material had apparently been contaminated with cotton lint from freshly washed underpants.

    What we see here is brown clumps. That's house dust with a tar/nicotine binder, as I once saw in someone's Toshiba Satellite Pro P30, courtesy of her ex-husband. Unlike house dust or cotton lint, the tar/nicotine stuff is harder to remove, and also mildly corrosive.

  40. dannylee
    Thumb Up

    I look forward.....

    To seeing the competition on this one, send them in everyone, that was the reason for this :-)

    @Christopher P. Martin - lol, yes i was expecting it, it'll be a good competition....let it continue!

  41. pedrodude

    I know it's Friday and all that...

    ... but how is this news?

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  43. eJ2095

    Does teh psu still work

    Need one fora del here!

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Not as bad as..

    Not as bad as getting a laptop in from a user with what appear to be "protein stains" on it. I kid you not.

    Paris because.. well, you work it out.

  45. Number6


    I am owned by four cats, three of whom are of the long-hair variety. They like my computers, presumably due to the warmth. I have to clean the computers regularly, due to the amount of stuff that ends up inside. It's been done recently, otherwise I'd be able to produce a photo at least as good as the one you've posted.

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  47. Trygve Henriksen

    I know of one worse...

    It was at the local fire brigade...

    I didn't get to see the inside of it, or rather, inside the sorry remains...

    It had filled up enough that it caught on fire.

    (I believe it was a 386 or something. It's been a few years since then)

    And yes, the PC was in use at the station when it burned(monitoring an alarmsystem), not a 'souvenir' from somewhere else.

  48. Peter Kay

    Yes, have seen much worse

    A server for a now defunct discount retailer was black with dust and other fluff in the intakes and various parts of the interior. Several other servers I've had to recover have had black crud all over the interface cards.

    Haven't seen any problem with dual processor PIII Dells, but that's probably because even though they've got stupidly high and noisy airflow, the room most of them I know of occupy is essentially dust free.

    Servers in carpeted rooms with windows - just say no.

  49. Anonymous John

    The computer that died from smoking..

  50. Dave Murray

    Seen worse

    No photos unfortunately but 10 years ago I replaced old 486 DOS boxes in kiosks in Job Centres and Libraries with new PCs. Most of them looked far, far worse than this. The dust monsters covered most surfaces inside the kiosk and everywhere were inside the PC, printer and monitor.

  51. Michael C

    I've seen MUCH worse....

    A PC left in a barn area that became infested by a small bee hive (and was STILL WORKING!). The farmer brought it in to our shop for service to have us clean out the "mess" inside the case as part of his free "annual cleaning" as covered under his waranty. He neglected to tell my staff it was bee infested before one of them got stung when he went to pick it up and move it to our back counter after doing an initial systems test. Poor kid picked the tower up as one normally would, one hand on front, one hand across power supply vent in back, but the fan vent was the bees way in and out of the case... He dropped it instantly, causing the side cover to come off and causing some significant damage to the case, a few more bees came out. Fortunately, most of them seemed to have evacuated the case on the way to our shop in the back of the pickup the guy drove.

    We had to wrap in in serveral layers of garbage bags, and we used a pack of printable stickers to make some bio-hazard signs. Naturally we refused the cleaning service, and marked his waranty as void citing "unsatisfactory environmental conditions for PC placement and use" He was none too thrilled and threatened to sue the store. This was quickly abated when we threatned to countersue for failure to warn our employees of an eminent danger. 2 of my other staff were so allergic to bees and fire ants that they carry eppy pens 24x7, and if one of them picked up that case instead of the poor kid who did, it would have been a rush to the emergency room not a sore thumb.

    We suggested the farmer buy a toughbook to use in his barn instead of a desktop PC, but of course, someone who buys a $400 e-machine desktop package is not the kind of guy to buy a $1800 professional notebook. He left. The PC, after being dropped, never worked again. We never saw or heard from him again.

    Even beyond this fantastic story, the PC in the image above, I'd call that about on par normal for some of the crap we had to clean. Sure, most computers just had the sheen of grey/brown dust and caked up fans, but a lot of them, especially those in smokers homes and people with dogs, and for some reason trailer homes just make PCs incredibly dirty. We've actually had to stae in writing to some folks that the attempt to clean the PC might render it useless, and had them sign waivers to protect the store from liability.

    I stopped being a manager at that shop in 2002 and moved back to more professional IT work as a network integrator and DR specialist, but the 18 months I spent running a tech bench for a retail shop was eye opening. I can't tell you how many "cup holders" we repaired, how many floppy drives were stuffed full of things by 3 year olds, and how many god awful nasty 4+ year old PCs people wanted to pay os to clean and upgrade (in many cases where an upgrade cost 70% or more of a new PCs cost and still left the old machine FAR below a new machine's specs...)

  52. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    You can tell a lot about a person from their PC...

    I used to service customer PCs when they were brought in. The one I remember most reeked of chip fat...

    ... just like the owner.

  53. Stu

    another 'thats nothing' -

    I once left a computer keyboard on the floor for aroundabouts 3 years under a desk where I never vacuumed.

    Suffice it to say, the caked in food and drink spillages covered in thick thick dust, meant it barely resembled a keyboard in the end. Just imagine what it was like when I foolishly attempted to press a few keys.

    I'm still having nightmares about the thick layer of crumbs and god knows what sticky stuff collected underneath the keys, that crunch when pressed! The horrible dirty mess now encouraged to slide down through the gaps between the keys, Then lifting my finger, which of course adhered my skin to the keys, peeling them off with the worst sensation imaginable.


    *scrubbing self in the shower with ajax and a wire brush*







  54. phoenix

    @By Greg J Preece

    No with those security star bolts it's a HP / Compaq / EDS, whatever they have become now.

    Our old Sco boxes (many moons ago) used to live in coal depots and they almost looked like they ran on coal when you opened then up (no pictures though). I guess the added carbon actually lubricated the moving part s though.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Seen worse... much worse. I think one of the worst - if not the worst - cases involved PCs that lived in the factory at a paper mill somewhere in Sittingbourne. The half life of those machines was measured in months not years.

    Luckily, I was on-site for software issues not hardware, so I didn't have to get my hands dirty on those PCs as I spent most of my time in the clean server suite.

    Oh, and the PCs at the Nestlé factory in Tutbury, Derbyshire where Nescafé is/was manufactured were filthy little buggers too..... that was a bit of an eye opener too!

  56. LC


    I was once given a keyboard at work whose previous owner must have been shaving his head over. It took half an hour for me to get enough hair out of it to actually be able to press the keys. Then I discovered the layer of crumbs underneath.

    The keyboards at home are periodically used by sticky children. I think it's time to bake them in the oven again.

    (No, my house isn't made of gingerbread.)

  57. Fluffykins

    You know

    I wish my girlfriend was that dirty

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  59. Matt Newton

    Is this the world's dirtiest PC?

    No, mine at home is just as bad, if not worse.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    Not even close

    In the distant past, I repaired a desktop PC from a brick works, it had a thick layer of brick dust completely covering the motherboard!

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    seen worse

    I've seen much worse whilst working for a now deceases dispatch company. It had apparently been left running uninterrupted under a desk in a garage environment near a heater for three years in an area where where pretty much the whole workforce smoked.

    Filthy beyond recognition of being a PC. In addition to truly epic dust bunnies, it had at some point collected multiple cups of coffee and a coating of motor grease, ensuring that those dust bunnies were well and truly baked on. Awful.

    Not as disgusting as the monitor received from a southern english university though..... Accompanying documentation says it has ceased to work, opening the packaging reveals biohazard tape and a strong smell of burnt components and yellow discolouration. Testing discloses the presence of urine. I'm sorry chaps, but your warranty doesn't cover failure after a student p1ssed in the back of your monitor.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone actually seen worse than this?

    a while ago whilst in temporary university accommodation, i had the girlfriend staying over.

    said accommodation also had a massive infestation of red ants. EVERYWHERE.

    stupidly, my girlfriend left her laptop on the floor overnight.

    returning to it a couple of days later, she noticed strange black dots moving around behind the screen. after some poking, swarms of red ants scurried from the closing latch on the lid!

    after a quick dismantle, i was a bit amazed to discover that there was a whole established colony inside the damn thing with eggs and even a queen.

    cleaned it out with cotton buds with sticky tape on the end. very satisfying.

  63. Marty McFly Bronze badge

    Cleaned that up before...

    In a previous life I used to work int he PC-based point-of-sale industry...for restaurants. You should have seen the old 286 machines running next to a chips fryer in the kitchen. I replaced them with shiny new 486 machines and the business owner had the stupidity to ask why the 5 year-old-never-cleaned hardware was failing. There were no motherboards inside, just sticky gray felt mats which smelled like rancid oil.

  64. Hungry Sean

    air quality measure

    several years ago, I owned a Dell P3 while going to school in Pittsburgh. About four years into its life, the graphics card started to act funky, so I opened the bastard up, thinking maybe things were getting hot inside and it needed a good cleaning. It wasn't unusually dirty all things considered, but what really got me was that the dirt itself was pitch black. I guess after all these years since the mills shut down there's still a ton of coal particulates in beautiful Pittsburgh and they adhered to my poor machine. Made me wonder what was happening to my lungs.

  65. The old man from scene 24

    I found...

    ...a dead cockroach inside a ZX Spectrum once.

    Mine's the one with rampack wobble.

  66. J. Cook Silver badge

    Ah, that brings back memories...

    I used to do field service. I've seen PCs covered in mouse droppings (hosed out the back of my truck after bringing that one in!), and the horrors of a PC used on the intake side of an industrial laundry company that had to be on a wooden block off the flor because the cases would rust to the floor otherwise...

    Fortuantely, the only thing I have to worry about anymore is the small handful of servers that inexplicably get cigarette smoke and whatnot in from whatever manages to sneak in to the data center from the front of house area.

  67. Anonymous Coward

    That's nothing

    Thin layer of tear gas residue. Mildly corrosive, fairly uncomfortable to work around (still stings a bit once it gets airborne again). Result of the SWAT team's entry into a barricaded house where an unfortunately unbalanced individual had recently (but unbeknownst to them) committed suicide.

    Boffin icon, cause he has protective goggles, and maybe even a gas mask.

    Your move.

  68. gaz 7

    Seen much worse

    I work in IT support in a Hospital. Thankfully now supporting servers in nice clean server rooms.

    But the amount of dust and hair etc caking the innards of the PCs we have on the ward areas are enough to put you off your lunch for a week. We usually have at least a couple a year where the fire alarms get triggered when the stuff gets so hot it starts smouldering.

    A very long time ago we had a expensive keyboard returned from our Pathology Lab, as the keys were sticking, and although we had been assured nothing had been spilt, when my mate started cleaning it his hands and arms turned purple up past the elbow. Someone had spilt amino acid identifier all over it - not really dirty, but my mate thought his arms were gonna drop off.

  69. David Neil

    You want gross?

    I once worked on a contract at a factory which processed cowhides into sausage skins.

    Opening a case was akin to something out of aliens, due to the amount of gelatin in the air.

    And you got followed by dogs on the way home.

  70. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    RE: Natty Posted Friday 6th November 2009 12:10 GMT

    "back in the day...

    ...of no cpu fans I found a dead cockroach on a cpu. Lovely."

    I wondered what happened to Uncle Vladimir

  71. Paul RND*1000

    General grossness

    I wish I had photos of the old DEC 3100 workstation I got my hands on after my old university replaced them all. After nearly a decade of running non-stop in a dusty ancient building full of students, there was a blanket of dust a couple of inches thick covering *everything* on the mainboard. It looked like you could have lifted it up in one piece (I didn't try).

    Despite this the workstation still ran perfectly well, though this did go some way to explaining why the old classic Macs in the same computer suite kept catching fire!

    Then there was the computer I had the pleasure of replacing with a newfangled Pentium machine back when I was doing IT support work. The computer itself was OK, but the keyboard looked like stuff could start growing out of it at any moment. He'd only had that computer for maybe a year. We junked that keyboard and probably should have burned it just to be safe. I hope they never gave that guy a laptop.

  72. Wize

    The motherboard isn't too bad.

    Fluffy PCs usually look like mice are sleeping between the PCI/ISA slots.

    Hoovered out many a dusty box. But the worst I've come across was from a fish works. Only two things smell of fish... and this PC was the other one. The smell almost leaches into the machine itself. Left one over the weekend in the test area and the whole place stank Monday morning. It just never faded.

    I have had a whisky soaked PC. From a whisky bottling plant. A seal burst and filled the PC from the vent on the front of the old Dec machine. The operator was trying to stand in the way of the jet while clicking on the button to stop the flow. Then he turned it off and poured whisky out the front of it. We took it back, let it dry over the weekend and it started with a minor complaint when we got back, but then most people stinking of booze on a Monday morning complain when you wake them. Still, it was a better smell in the test area that day.

  73. DrJaymansLoveCookie

    That's nothing, my friend's..

    computer was emitting a foul smell. Seems the hard drive was full of shit.

    So I removed Vista...

  74. jake Silver badge

    That's not all that bad.

    In 1999, for some reason I was the "go-to" guy for many of the Veterinarians on The Peninsula. They were all running late 1980s, early 1990s IBM PCs (486 "ValuePoint" machines, for the most part, if I recall correctly), with SCO Xenix 5.x ... The Vet Practice Management software was provided by IDEXX, but was built by PSI ... Needless to say, IBM, SCO, PSI and IDEXX all claimed the other three were responsible for any Y2K issues that may (or may not) crop up.

    Long story short, I replaced most of the Xenix+dumb terminal systems with networked Win98SE machines. None of the old Xenix boxen had ever been cleaned ... All of them were much worse than the pictured box. After a good cleaning, the boxen were recycled into teaching environments, most running Slackware.

    Hell, the boxes in the barn office are worse than that, and I clean 'em out every quarter or thereabouts!

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    What Dell?

    That's an HP Compaq DC7600 SFF if I'm not mistaken (now that's sad).

    I hope you disposed of the dirt in a suitably massive box.

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  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Childhood memories

    I used to get hand-me-down PCs from my father's company. My mother used to insist the years-old dust which could not be removed from the insides was proof my bedroom was too dirty.

  78. Aaron 10

    Metal shavings

    I did some computer repair work at an aluminum shop. Needless to say, PCs don't like having aluminum shavings thrust inside them.

    By the way, how many syllables does "aluminum" have? Four? Five?

  79. Z80

    I haven't seen worse

    Man that must have been satisfying to blast with an air-duster! Outside and upwind hopefully.

  80. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


    Err.. no, the question you should ask is how many i's are in Alumin_i_um...

    Yank! :P

  81. ZenCoder

    Dead bird

    A friend of mine had a horrible nest of wires behind his PC .. He lives alone and has no pets and yet somehow in the middle of all the tangled wires and three years worth of dust was a small half decomposed bird.

  82. Anonymous Coward

    Pet Store!

    The worse I ever saw was at a pet store.

    It was a mom and pop shop, not the big chains. Anyway, I went in there for something I forget now, but but as I was paying, I usually check out the POS (point of sale) setups, just out of curiosity. To my horror, the POS was just packed with fur! So you know, I'm standing around with one hand up on the counter and begin to scan the room, and I notice by the windows.... In the glare of the light coming in the windows, I walk over to break the light glare beam, and lo.... Two more desktops, stripped and unplugged next to the wall, Both were like twice as bad as the live POS I was waiting by! I couldn't believe the volume of fur, it's like a small dog was stuck to the side!

  83. Richard Sloan


    My best one was when I was working for the power company. A HP Compaq D500 was reported as making strange noises. I get the tube there and show up with a replacement PSU (the PSU fans die a lot on those machines) and discover it is sat next to a leaking laserjet 4500 that noone had bothered to mention. The inside of the machine was totally black with toner and it was thick and baked on. The toner had got into the PSU fan and eaten the bearings. I took the psu and all the drives out, picked up the unit and stuck it under the hand dryer in the toilet to get rid of anything that wasn't baked on, then replaced the PSU with the spare.

    The machine was still working fine when I left. I think i took pictures but I can't find them.

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The keyboards or the children?

  85. Anonymous Coward


    Got in a Dell Poweredge, it was DOA. Opened it up, and it was full of roaches. I put it in a trash bag, stuffed in a bug bomb, and dumped the bag into a garbage tote, shutting the lid.

    I told him, he'd be better off getting a new machine.

    No, his boss wanted that one fixed, no matter the cost.

    Next day, I pull the hard drive, give it a alcohol bath, hook it to a usb adapter into my laptop, saved his info, and sent him home with a identical Poweredge I had sitting around.

    My bill listed a $200 filth fee. Surprisingly, his company never questioned the bill.

    I so wish I had taken pictures. Nobody believes it could be that bad.

    The grenade, because this guy's house must need it.

  86. El Zed

    Sorry, but this is pretty tame

    Unfortunately no pictures (pre digital camera and cameraphone, didn't normally carry my SLR to work), but back in the day if I'd opened up an Alpha (or any other DEC box) or an Indy and found it in this state I'd have regarded it as a pretty clean example.

    The DEC boxes were notoriously filthy buggers..eventually got into the habit of popping on a disposable paper mask before opening their cases.

    Funniest one I've ever had to deal with though, was a machine that someone had stupidly used in a chemical prep lab. Machine was failing, opened it up, inside was covered completely with various sorts and colours of crystalline 'fur' as various acid/chemical vapours had reacted with all/any exposed internal metal (fume cupboards you say?, aye they'd heard of such beasties..).

    Only case I've been involved in of a PC (Pentium Pro, ISTR, which sort of dates this story) that had to eventually be disposed of by chemical waste specialists, and the only one I wish I had pictures of (some of the crystal growths were quite interesting, probably deadly, but interesting), I'll ask around and see if anyone else involved with that one took any, if only they'd forked out the money initially for that extra long serial cable in the first instance..

    On a slight tangent away from PCs, how about a 'faulty' Xbox where the insides and outsides were completely covered in a the dried remains of a large number of what turned out to be brambles/blackberries - it had been stored in a shed where, apparently, the owner's father usually makes bramble wine..he must have bloody steeped the Xbox in the 'must' then...

  87. Rob Daglish
    Thumb Down


    Not strictly on topic, but I once had to install a photocopier in a fish processing factory. Not at all pleasant....

  88. Ed 4

    Seen far worse

    My brother's in landscaping. About a decade ago, he called me about some problems they've been having with one of their computers - it sounded like an overheat problem, but he said the computer didn't feel hot, and the air coming from the back didn't feel especially warm.

    So I went to his office and took a look at it. There was *no* air coming from the back, but a visual inspection (well, glance) showed there's so much dirt coming out of the fans that's not surprising - they were to the point they couldn't turn. So I turned it off, and opened it up. Dirt came pouring out. Without performing a thorough cleaning job, just picking up the box and shaking it a little, I got a pile of dirt which looked to be about half the volume of a mini-tower case. Considering this was a mini-tower case, and there were components inside, I found that to be incredibly impressive.

    He said, "Well, I had been cleaning it out about once a month, but kind of let that slide, since it never seemed to have any problems. It's been about three months since I cleaned it last." I recommended cleaning it once a week.

    Note that this computer basically sat on the floor by the main door. The only other door was only there for emergencies. It was a fairly busy office, with people coming in and going out all day - mostly the landscaping workers who were either just back from a job site, just back from the greenhouse (about 20 feet away, upwind), or just back from some other location where they'd have gotten dirt on their work boots.

  89. Ryan Brooks

    Actual World's Dirtiest Computer

    Can be seen here on "I can has Dev Job":

  90. Badbob

    I've seen one of these beings before....

    When I was "re-allocated" by my employer into a new post last August, it involved moving offices. I went from my lovely air-conditioned office in the centre of Bristol overlooking Temple Quay, to a Portacabin(tm) affair in a dodgy suburb (while we awaited the promised construction of our new offices).

    I decided that I was taking my desktop with me (as I had waited months for a DVD-RW drive to be installed and was not waiting for months for another). The local IT chappie said OK, and I duly trekked across the city with my Dell.

    When I got to my new desk, it already had an old Compaq desktop plugged in and ready to go. I promptly unplugged it and was horrified when I crawled behind the desk to remove the monitor leads and such. A growth such as cannot be described had formed between the air vents and the sides of the desk.

    Dust, hair, cobwebs and crumbs from the many lunches of the previous occupant of the desk. The mass was at least 2 inches thick. Apparently, the previous occupant of the desk had had a hair loss issue as well as psoriasis, most of which had went straight into this machine.

    On receipt of that news, I also disposed of the chair, keyboard, mouse and for good measure, the telephone.

  91. Clint Sharp


    Just remembered the one that came in from a shop with 'water'damage. the roof of said shop had sprung a leak, only after some careufl questioning di9d we find out that the flat roof was used by the landlord as an exercise yard for his dogs and he never cleaned it so the 'water' that had poured into the PC and monitor was actually liquified dog turd. Explains the smell anyway.

  92. Anthony Hulse


    I started my career doing PC and server support for a construction company's site offices. Virtually everything we worked with looked like that. Come to think of it, by the end of most days so did I :-)

  93. Dana W

    The worst power supply.

    I have found a lot of grotesque things in computers from rock hard dessicated tater tots, to a Zeos where a mouse had met his end so long ago there was just a skeleton and a puff of fur on the motherboard, but this is the power supply that was the worst. I'm only sorry I didn't get the whole machine, I was so stunned by the PS that I didn't go further. The rest of the machine still worked. "Forgive the fuzzy pics, had the horrid Casio QV 10 back then". its hard to believe there is a power supply under all this.

  94. Earl Kubaskie

    I've seen-em too

    A friend with 3 dogs and the PC on the floor asked me to do some upgrades - the dust-bunny was half dog-hair and completely filled the open space in the case. I have no idea how it kept running.

    And way back, in the Apple /// days, I worked on one and really did find a dead mouse. Little turds and pee-stains all over the place, but I guess one day he hiked a leg over the wrong component and ZAP - he died along with the 'puter.

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Yeah! I got one as well.

    And it was still working. I took out two dead mice complete with nest; rat droppings, oh my God, so much; and a great ball of paper which seemed to have come from the shredder. Did I mention the dead dog, oh yeah and cat. And when I finished would it work? Hell no; not a glimmer. I reckon to was a mistake to remove the ants.


    Ponder Stibbons

    Inadvisably Applied Magic


    Ankh Morpork

  96. Anonymous Coward

    Many years ago...

    I was opening PCs owned by a large telecomms company to upgrade the memory as part of their Y2K/PC refresh project.

    On one site, we could lift the dust off the motherboards in a single sheet.

  97. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    reminds me...

    That does look like a Dell

    I work on a large site which is exclusively Dell, I remember the time the training team plastered the site with posters reminding users (oh sorry boss, customers) to clean the exterior vents of their pc's. Cue dozens of support calls coming in all along the lines of 'we don't know how to clean pc vents'

    The training team weren't best pleased when we forwarded all such calls through to them in a combined this is a training issue/you started this.. kinda way

  98. transientcylon
    Thumb Up

    Industrial Terminals

    I used to work for a company that serviced DEC terminals. I pulled one apart in an auto shop and it looked like it hadn't been opened for years (this was about 1998 and most of these units were well over 10 years old and developed a lovely yellow hue as a result). The entire PCB was covered in a thick layer of what looked like soot. That one still stands out in my mind, it was the dirtiest machine I ever had to service. You literally could not see a single inch of the green PCB exposed, it was completely covered top to bottom. The kicker was the company still expected us to dress in shirt and tie which was unavoidably covered with this muck at the end of every day. Never made sense to me...

  99. Tim Jenkins

    Quattro Formaggio

    486-era desktop after a decade controlling the labelling system on a frozen pizza production line.

    Nuff said...

  100. chris street

    Proper dust bunnies

    Back when the motor industry was a four letter word in Essex (work it out) I recieved a Tecra with an acrid smell and a note saying "leaky battery?"

    Duly parcelled off to the PFY it made a sparky noise on startup and smelt acrid, so back to Toshiba it went. They sent it back to us saying it wasnt leaky batteries and we had spilled something on it.

    While the lean green keen PFY against the advise of the rest of the office stripped it to find a find a milky substance inside, I phoned the listed owner in the ticket to find that it was a bunny issue - his daughters house rabbit was fond of sitting on it, and presumably widdling in it.

    Cue the real meaning of dust bunnies, and a PFY who developed an OCD handwashing disorder for the next few weeks.

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