back to article Filthy PCs: The X-rated circus of horrors

Well, you lovely people, it's time to pour yourselves a stiff brandy before entering the circus of horrors that is Ventblockers II. Good work by all those readers who sent in evidence demonstrating that it really is a good idea to keep your computer spick and span. The consequences of poor PC hygiene can, as we shall see, be …


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  1. Z 1


    I fear taking the lids of peoples machines for fear of what you might find. Dessicated spiders, assorted dust monsters and other Lovecraftian horrors are always waiting to drive you to the limits of sanity!

    I always make a point to give my machine regular cleans, either tackling the lifeform buildup with the hoover or with my handy airbrush, blasting air through the hard to reach places. Last thing I want is for the Lizard Alliance to use my machine as the start of some terrifying dustmonster/machine cyborg killer. Though, how they'd work together with cyber-dysons makes me wonder!

  2. John Tserkezis

    Holy crap.

    I started out thinking "I've seen worse than that", and finished with "holy crap".

  3. CD001

    I really...

    I really, really must stop smoking around my PC O_o

    Still, on the plus-side, having a perspex window in the case means I can keep an eye on the dust levels before having to resort to taking the side off the case and giving it a bit of a clean out.

    1. Brian 20

      Excuse me kind sir

      But you might want to quit smoking completely? If you're disgusted by how the Macbook looks, imagine how your lungs look. It's the same smoke buddy!


      Dr. Phil

  4. John G Imrie

    Anthill Inside?

    And I thought Pratchett made this stuff up!!!

  5. Aaron Em

    Not the first computer with a need for dried frogs

    What? Somebody had to. And mine's the one with the canned air in the pocket.

  6. Aaron Em

    Hospitals? My God!

    I'd quit on the spot, if I had to, before I so much as laid hands on a machine that came from a hospital. I mean I don't know how they do in hospitals over there, but here in the US the places are crawling with MRSA, which is like regular staph only a lot nastier -- if it can survive on bare metal surfaces exposed to fluorescent light, then surely it can live happily amidst a pile of fluffy dust inside a warm dark PC case, and considering that it necrotizes flesh I don't even want to *imagine* what it'd do to you to inhale the stuff.

    1. Craig Chambers

      That bad huh?

      In the absence of antibiotics MRSA is reproductively out-competed by regular staph aureus, like any organism with a superfluous more costly biology. Of course, the key point there is 'in the absence of' but I can only hope that antibiotics are not freely floating in the dust of our hospitals.

      While MRSA is a menace in hospitals, if doctors could just stop over-prescribing antibiotics (i.e. for non bacterial illnesses) we'd have a much smaller problem.

  7. Anton Ivanov

    Well, the "furry creatures" should have been on the same page with the tar

    The furry creature ones should have been on the same page with the tar.

    Here, you see and they say that smoking is bad. How about finally realising on how bad it is to have a carpet in your house.

    Me coat... The one at the end of the laminated flooring hallway...

    1. JC 2

      @ Well the "furry creatures"

      Actually, most dust is comprised of skin flakes, animal fur, or animal webs and insects themselves.

      Having carpet can actually decrease the dust circulating around in the air because the carpet traps it in place till a vac can suck it up while dust on a bare floor gets stirred about every time you walk through the room or a breeze blows it around.

      Of course either way you still have to clean every now and again. I can understand a 12+ year old PC looking like that if it'd never been cleaned out but the newer ones that came from homes rather than industrial settings must come from very, very filthy homes.

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Some people have no choice

      Building regs require no hard wood, laminate or tiled floors *at all* in modern apartments, because the impact sound of someone walking on it even barefoot is almost impossible to insulate against, which means your choice is either the horrible greasy fibre free carpets they put in the hallways, a regular carpet, or lino. I'd love laminate floors but the downstairs neighbours would have a fit and the landlord would lose his top rate certificate thingy.

  8. Aaron Em

    And I don't bother cleaning my machines much

    Because they rarely need it, because I'm not such a damn fool that I run them on a dusty carpet under a desk where nobody's bothered to vacuum since 1979. It's amazing how clean a PC will stay when you have it up on a table where it can get a breath of fresh air!

    1. JC 2

      @ Aaron Em

      That idea about under the desk on carpet is largely a myth. Mine are located under desk on carpet and don't get very dusty - but you have to vac AROUND the desk and the adjacent areas of the room, not so much under it as the dust never piles up at a fast rate if it isn't in the rest of the room in excessive amounts.

      The best strategy is think about the user not the PC. Make the entire environment fit for the user to breathe well, as the PC is going to be replaced either way in a few years.

    2. N2
      Thumb Up


      You are quite correct.

      Whilst the users will shove them anywhere out of sight underneath a desk, a little elevation reduces the dust intake dramatically.

      Or does Newtons laws not apply in computing?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never show these pictures to this guy.

  10. lglethal Silver badge

    Right thats it....

    ... im off to clean my computer, stat!

  11. Rich 30

    letters and/or digits.

    Is it wrong that i would like to be cleaning up some of those PCs? No dead animals though please.Imagine how much better they would be running after a really good hoover!

  12. Woodgie

    I love these...

    Having seen a good many of them myself.

    The CAT-5 monster looks like it might just (if we're very, VERY lucky) evolve into a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    The Great Knot

    or a hoamge to his holiness the great FSM?

    all hail his noodley appendages etc..

    1. Paul RND*1000

      It's just a wee baby one

      I had the fun of dealing with combined CAT-5/telephony cabinets in the office where I did a work placement year as a sysadmin.

      Each cabinet was large enough for a full-grown man to stand up in, if you removed the networking gear, and served a floor of 70 or 80 people each with a phone and a networked PC. We had 5 floors, each with one of these cabinets.

      Later in the evening, when the office was quiet, I swear you could hear the muffled screams of former network engineers who were trapped in there after attempting to troubleshoot a cabling problem.

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    These machines have postapocalyptic soviet soul... can't understand.

    1. blackworx

      In Soviet Russia... dust hoover YOU up

  15. Bardlee
    Thumb Up

    hmmmm filth.

    I used to work in a coal burning power plant as a system tech.

    I should have taken some pictures. Sometimes the coal dust was an inch or two thick. We had to change the lifecycle program just for this location because no matter how much we cleaned the machines, they die premature due to overheating or some other filth related cause.

  16. JDX Gold badge


    Don't be daft, the FSM didn't EVOLVE.

  17. Adam Trickett

    Riverside, CA

    I use to live in Riverside, CA, which was officially the dustiest place in the USA. We had filters on all the kit at work and at home and even with a clean every 6-months, kit with fans in got utterly disgustingly coated with fine desert dust.

    You could build a sand castle out of what came out of the big filters from the A/C units in the lab!

  18. The Unexpected Bill
    Thumb Up

    Love the Filthy PCs Series...

    ...and hope to see more installments as time goes on! (That "mice in the power supply" picture from the first set has yet to be topped, though.)

    In my freelance computer consulting adventures, I came to know a guy who was, shall we say, a "bit" of a smoker. Everything in his apartment had that yellow tinge. It was so bad that there were outlines left around pictures and other things and everything in there had some degree of yellow/brown color to it.

    After fixing his computer one day, he told me there was another, broken PC in the closet and asked if I'd take a look at it. Like everything else, it was that filthy yellow color. I took it home in the back of my truck because it stunk so horribly. And then I tore it apart in the driveway, working in a haphazard fashion. As much residue as there was in the thing, I didn't expect it could possibly function. It was certainly filthier than anything I'd ever dealt with before, so much so that I could not even see the components--only their outlines. I really thought I'd just bin it.

    It lived, though. I threw the whole darn disassembled thing in the dishwasher and ran it through two whole heavy washing cycles. The water that came out of the machine was a filmy brown color. Even though the pieces still had a very faint aroma of cigarette smoke, they were at least the right color again. I set them in the sun for a few days, put the whole lot back together and it powered right up after installing a new clock battery. Turned out all it really needed was a fresh installation of Windows.

    I worry more about what the owners of the apartment will do if/when he moves out.

    1. Fatman

      RE: I worry more about what the owners of the apartment will do if/when he moves out.

      If you ever are in the market for a house, stay away from buying one currently (or just recently) owned by a chain smoker.

      Many years ago, my brother bought a house owned by a chain smoker. That guy just sat in the living room and smoked all day long.

      The normally silver colored air conditioning vents were a bronze in color, and there was this yellow film plastered over the walls.

      We had to industrial strength `Janitor In A Drum` straight out of the bottle (no diluting) to cut through the tar on the walls. The vent grilles had to soak in the same solution over the weekend before we attempted to clean them.

      NASTY stuff that nicotine tar.

      NOW, you know why I will NEVER date a smoker!!!!!

    2. skeptical i

      Going for that "sepia tone" look?

      I helped a friend collect some belongings from the home of a longtime chain- smoking relative, and I don't think there was any surface in that building that was not some shade of yellow/ brown/ tan/ bronze. I felt bad for the dog, who had no choice in the matter.

  19. Newt_Othis

    All I wanted was a nice clean desk job...

    Many years ago I had to go and check a malfunctioning PC at the local crematorium.

    I retuned it to the office and cracked open the case.

    The entire interior was covered in a uniform gritty grey dust...

  20. LesC

    Feature Creep

    Methinks the arachnid antimalware tool is suffering from a bad case of bloat!

    OK, I'm going...

  21. Paul RND*1000

    Basement computer

    I'm wondering now what hell I might find in my basement-dwelling server. The one last opened several years ago, that's been running right next to the cat boxes non-stop since 2006 and is covered in a fine layer of clay dust on the outside.

    It's also been down there through 3 or 4 major ladybug infestations, this year's stink bug population explosion, and has definite potential for housing black widow spiders, or at least spiders of some sort.

  22. John_C

    Mmmmm sweet aroma

    They're pretty bad, but I can beat them......

    For reasons too boring to explain sometimes we get PC's returned to the office which need extremely sensitve financial data extracting from them as we're the only department in the company with the necessary knowledge to get past all the security and decrypt the data.

    Anyway, we got one of these returned to the office a few years back as it wouldn't boot. No-one thought to warn us that the reason it wouldn't boot was that it had been submerged in flood water heavily contaminated with sewage. The rest I shall leave to your imagination.

    The smell was....... smelly.

  23. Jacqui

    air lines and fans

    makje sure you stick a pencil/cottonbud in the fans before hitting them with the air line.

    The back EMF can eb nasty.

    Just cleaned my desktop out - we havetwo white GSD's and the machine is on the floor - YUCK.

    In the den(office) the machines are roughly at elbow height and can run for years between clean outs. In the rest of teh house boxes last a year at best...


    1. Martin 71 Silver badge

      Good tip

      Re: the cotton bud (yeah I expect everyone else knew that already!)

      Beer, because the day has a Y in it.

  24. Johnny Canuck

    Did anyone notice...

    the majority of the offending PCs appear to be Dells?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Page 8 takes the prize

    I've got rugs with less of a pile to them

  26. heyrick Silver badge

    Page 8

    What more can anyone say?

  27. Chrome


    We had a PC in that was reported as non-functioning so we cracked it open. The insides were covered in a kind of green fungus and parts of the board had corroded quite heavily. Words can't describe the aroma emanating from this thing

    Turns out the family dog had decided it was his territory and was routinely 'marking' it...

  28. Anonymous Coward

    But the worse thing is ...

    ... when some ****** decides to use the air duster can on such a machine ... in the office.

    Many years ago I was in business with a chap that had run an Apple dealership for some years - back in the Apple II days. One of his customers was the local cellophane factory and he got called to a machine on the shop floor that had stopped working. The hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere had attacked the metal pins of the chips and some of the pins had eventually corroded through - stopping the machine !

  29. Lars Silver badge

    Rotten design

    Don't you think there is something rotten and cheap in how computers are built and designed.

  30. IT specialist

    The Keyboard is actually the Dirtiest thing you can touch

    There have been numerous studies that show that the computer keyboard is one of the filthiest things you can ever touch.

    Even when they look clean, they have a layer of microbes multiplying happily on the surface.

    In fact, a computer keyboard harbors more dangerous microbes than a toilet seat.

    1. Jared Hunt

      I've heard that story before...

      ...and while it's probably true, that says a lot more about how clean toilet seats are than how dirty the keyboard is. I don't about you, but I don't bleach my keyboard on a regular basis.

      Mine's the one with the toilet brush in the pocket.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Most people pee and poo in the middle... rather than on the seat ;)

  31. Stuart Halliday

    Smutty web surfing on page 10

    Has Eddie Abbott PC being surfing the dirty side of the World Wide Web?

    All those webs and spiders must have came from him doing something naughty right?

  32. rototype

    Imagine My job...

    I replace peoples compuers all the time, if i took a picture of all the mucky ones I'd be there all day. The worst one I think we ever had wasn't dust related, it was 'drink' related.

    Several (at least) cups of some form of brown beverage had been spilled on the desk and not cleaned up properly, we nearly had to get a crowbar to prise the PC from the desk.

    Pint icon because after thinking about that PC I think I need one.

  33. Alan Firminger

    Currys ...

    ... sell computers and Dysons from the same shed but they don't sell the bit that joins the two.

    Why no all conductive brush attachment complete with earth clip ?

  34. Anonymous Coward


    ...that dust is full of all sorts of horrible bacteria in an ordinary home i genuinely fear for the lives of those working on hospital PCs, inhabited by dust creatures.

    those smoked out PCs might explain why my laptop failed due to none stop over-heating after spending best part of two years in a permanent thick cloud of pot smoke with me.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Earthing required...

    ...while cleaning heavily dusted PCs. If I remember correctly, any current buildup should be drained by the earth(ed) pin. On the other hand:

    2 gallons of isopropyl alcohol.

    1 large basin

    1 gas mask. (Alcohol fumes, y'know, or get a really ventilated place to do it)

    1 pair of rubber gloves

    1 set of soft and hard brushes

    Assorted screwdrivers to pry everything of case and back together.

    Yeah, these should do. Dip all the components in alcohol and start scrubbing. Gently for the tricky parts, faster for fans and thicker fan grills. A notebook repair shop did that, they showed me how they did it. 48 hours drying, at least

    Don't use tire calibration compressors, the compressed air in those is not dry. One of the customers of the said repair shop did that. Not pretty, all the resulting rust.

  36. phuzz Silver badge


    I've started to take machines outside to air dust them at work, it wasn't worth the massive clouds of dust, which were invariably sucked stright into the nearest working PC :(

    I also helped clean out my flatmate's PC. It had spent about two years, near continuously running WoW, whilst he blew fag smoke straight into the intake fan.

    The CPU cooler was salvageable after a wash in the sink, unfortunately the crappy fan on the motherboard chipset was almost welded solid with tar. I assume the same must have happened to the GPU fan, we just found it dangling by the wire, with no other attachment to the heatsink, oh, and brown, it was all very brown :(

  37. Random Noise

    What I've learned

    It seems that ants are negatively charged - they're all stuck to the positive pin on that capacitor.

  38. Number6


    Great lunchtime viewing there. Now off to show it to some of my colleagues as they eat theirs.

  39. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    Page 10

    These PCs have access to the web built in.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I didn't think people kept PCs long enough anymore for this kind of literal cruft to build up. I thought that was just me.

  41. Jim in Phoenix

    Where's the plow?

    Most of those machines have enough dirt in them for something to take root and grow. That one with the frog in it even had its own fertiliser.

  42. gimbal

    Crowd-sourcing at its finest

    Cheers, and all that whiskey

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only upside of smoking

    Is that it seems to kill off the creepy crawlies before they can colonise the interior of the computer.

    Unless of course that layer of tar is a ghastly lure to wildlife like La Brea:

  44. A. Lewis
    Thumb Up


    That last picture gives me the fear. *shivers*

    It's a shame I never think to take photos. I could've contributed such highlights as "the macbook full of white dog hair" and the very "dusty" PC I removed from the crematorium...

  45. David 18

    Cat5 Monster

    I do have to wonder why they appear to be using a men's urinal as a cable run :-/

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Never buy a PC without filtered air intakes, period.

    In my PC repair days I saw a brick dust covered PC, from a building site, in addition to plenty of dust bunny PCs, luckily not many smoker tarred PCs.

    If your PC does not have air intake filters, I strongly suggest you retrofit proper fan filters or a speaker cover material, or at least fine mesh ASAP, otherwise you will be sorry!

    Heatsinks and fans can be a real pig to clean, and if the airflow gets too low it can kill PC components or even cause a fire! I saw one clogged PSU die in smoke, now that was scary, fortunately, the other components were unharmed!

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Dirty authors!!!

    I recently visited a very good friend of mine to do some PC repairs/ maintenance...

    HOW SHOCKED was I to remove a layer of cack from the CPU fan thicker then my Gran's custard!!!

    AND, this person writes for this site frequently...

    Where can I upload the pictures???

    Paris, because her fans have never been this dirty *snigger*

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Knot & Toilets...

    The last knot of cat5 looks like its below some males toilets...

  49. martin 62

    leap frog

    was that pc in the last photoa leap frog byany chance?

  50. Tidosho

    It's my job to clean computers, and this doesn't shock me!

    This is what I actually love about my job. People bring me their computers in, saying they're crashing and freezing, beeping, etc, and all I have to do is spend 1 - 2 hours dismantling everything (completely), cleaning it, renewing thermal grease, (and sometimes the fans if they're burnt out because of the dust) put everything back together, and that's £22 - £44 (£22ph) worth of food on my table, and the customer's machine is spotless. I keep the pile of dust, and cam pics for them, to shock them!

    I do this about 7 - 8 times a day, and just the computer cleaning side of my company repair skills earns me a lot on really good weeks, before the actual repairs come in! I've seen spiders, dead hedgehogs, ants, bluebottles, centipedes, woodlice, you name it. It is well worth it, I love my job as a self employed repairer, and despite not liking spiders, wouldn't swap it for the world. I'm a big softie too, and like animals, so seeing dead creatures like hedgehogs (how they got there is another story) inside PC's saddens me, but that's life.

    Luckily it's only ever dust, and the occasional insect inside consoles and laptops I do. FAT PS3's get the biggest insects in, having a lot more vents than 360's. Ants seem to think PS3's are fairgrounds, and like having rides on the blades of fans, so much it kills the little blighters, good riddance! It's quite hilarious imagining their little faces as they whizz round and round, their bug eyes popping out!!

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why have the manufacturers

    done anything about it?

  52. Herbys

    That's nothing.

    I once installed a server for a group at an office. They wanted to have it near the developers, so we mounted it alone in a 21 inch rack. The server worked for a year, and one day I got a call to "fix it". I went there and found that the floor had been remodeled, they were still fixing and sanding some dry panels in place near the server. I thought it might have been that someone plugged some power tool into the rack's outlet and the power flukes had blown a power supply. So we went to the server (a Compaq Proliant 2000) and opened it's lid. I saw no motherboard. Surprised, my first thought was "someone stole this server's motherboard!". Then I noticed two circular holes in the "bottom". I dragged my finger at the shiny grey surface I thought was the bottom of the server's case. It wasn't. It was a thick (about two inches deep) layer of dust from the driwalls that was sucked in by the server as the walls were being sanded!

    The poor server had worked for weeks with its motherboard under a layer of dust several inches thick, but at one point it decided to give up. After a good session with the vacuum cleaner, the server resumed normal work. Very noble server.

  53. The main man


    This is what the cats eat hence the term "furball"

  54. Anonymous Coward

    The Devil in the Dark

    Picture 3 on page 7 is clearly the Horta from the aforementioned Star Trek episode. Just don't clean out the case - it's only protecting its young...

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