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There are a lot of how-to guides on opening a laptop to clean its fan/motherboard/etc of dust. For example, this or this, and a Google search yields a ton of results. So a lot of people believe it does.

Is there any statistical evidence to back this up? i.e. the average lifespan of laptops that are regularly being cleaned vs those that aren't.

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    You only mention two options, where I see at least four: open and cleaned by user, open and cleaned by professional service, cleaned using compressed air without opening, not cleaned at all. – vartec Aug 31 '12 at 11:33
  • I'm specifically asking about opening it. As for the other (professional service vs do it yourself), let's just ignore any risk of damage (i.e. we assume it never gets damaged by the cleaning). – sashoalm Aug 31 '12 at 12:00
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    "let's just ignore any risk of damage" - that's the whole issue, in real life you cannot ignore that. BTW, in a laptop, you won't see significant amount of dust anywhere except for the CPU/system fan and radiator itself. – vartec Aug 31 '12 at 12:13
  • @vartec Depends on where you live. Not everyone lives in nice, clean suburbia. The theory behind cleaning your laptop is to lower to average temperature of the internal components, which can destroy it over time (dust = insulation). – Christopher Aug 31 '12 at 15:57
  • You have guides on how to clean it but I do not see any claim that says your lap top will live longer. In fact your manufacturer says it will not mostly because you are more likely to break something during the opening/cleaning/closing process. But I think you need a claim to be skeptical of here. – Chad Aug 31 '12 at 18:45
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I don't think statistics on this specific subject exist. But the answer is Yes, cleaning any computer will make it last longer.

The problem is usually not the dust itself but the heat that is insulated into the device by the dust.

"Your computer could fry if you don't keep it clean," says Jonathon Millman, CTO for Hooplah Interactive

Computers run hot, that's why they have a myriad of fans. When the fans get dust in them they are less effective. Combined with dust that blocks the ventilation you're computer's temperature will directly correlate with the amount of dust in it.

According to Microsoft's websites, cleaning your computer will make it "last longer"

Another issue associated with dust is shorting out components, it's not so common, but it can happen.

This website has some stats on why computers die, the top 3:

26% PSU and power issues
23% Bad gear and user negligence
13% Heatsink related

...can all be dust related, dust shorting out the power, neglecting to clean your computer and heat dissipation related.


Edit:

I haven't taken into account the chance that you may destroy your laptop by opening it. I would say the chance of destroying it by opening it is much greater than the chance that dust would damage it but this depends on the technical skill of the cleaner. I have a certificate in computer repair and maintenance and I wouldn't do it...

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  • this assumes that "computer" and "laptop" are equivalent term. Last link talks about PCs, and does not mention laptops at all. – vartec Sep 6 '12 at 10:22
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    @vartec Computers (laptop or desktop) are functionally interchangeable in this regard. The only considerable difference is the case but both have ventilation holes that allow dust in, so even then it's irrelevant. Laptops may allow less dust, but the question isn't "Are laptops more susceptible to dust than desktops", it's "Are laptops adversely affected by dust". And the answer is YES. Maybe less than desktops, but that's irrelevant to the question. – Coomie Sep 7 '12 at 4:16
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    "(laptop or desktop) are functionally interchangeable in this regard", sorry, but I totally disagree. Unless you have PC with some fancy water cooling system, PC components are cooled by air taken directly from the intake. In laptop components are cooled via heat duct going to radiator. – vartec Sep 7 '12 at 10:13
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    So does that mean that a laptop's ventilation is equivalent to a water-cooling system for a PC? – sashoalm Dec 30 '13 at 13:07
  • @sashoalm For most laptops, at least, the process is the same. Heatsink attached to processor with air circulated by a fan; the shapes may be different and the intakes/exhausts in different locations, but the process is the same. However, most smartphones/tablets and very light notebooks do use passive cooling, which doesn't involve any fans circulating air. – JAB Sep 30 '16 at 20:00

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