I dubbed this pile of cables and dust bunnies the 'Spaghetti Monster' for obvious reasons. Not only did it look terrible, it also posed a fire hazard and ran the risk of component failure at any time. Performance was notably slower than usual and the temperature was notably higher. I had the pleasure of untangling this mess earlier this week, planning a new layout for the tower and detailing the rig inside and out. Ultimately, it ended up looking like something out of a stock photo while improving overall performance.
I noticed none of the cables had been run behind the firewall (the 'back wall' of the computer), likely due to a rush assembly job, so I routed the cables back through one of several access channels located throughout the case. Moving these cables out of the way helped me gain a better understanding of the layout of the PC, and I noticed that some devices were improperly attached or weren't receiving power. One tip for anyone considering working on their own PC is to take photos at every step of the process. I personally take photos of all cable connections and empty ports, as both can be easily overlooked during reassembly.
My most valuable tool for cleaning static-sensitive electronics, like laptops and computers, is the anti-static vacuum, made entirely of materials designed to resist electrostatic discharge (ESD). Although expensive, the speed of cleaning with a vacuum and the money savings on canned air make it well worth the price. Normal vacuums pose great risk to electronics, since their plastic construction interacts with fast-moving dust particles to create static electricity right where you don't want it. One touch to a hard drive, RAM stick, computer fan or PCIe card is all it takes to discharge a deadly dose of static electricity, so always wear an anti-static band even when you think it isn't necessary. All it takes is one fried motherboard to learn that lesson the hard way.
This gaming computer was particularly bulky; in fact, it was almost double the weight of the 'spilled milk' project I took on earlier this week. The hard drives were bolted onto the frame in a metal cage that itself was part of a larger metal cage, which seemed to be rather much but allowed for up to 8 hard drives to be hot-swapped into the tower. Several extraneous parts were removed at my suggestion, including an archaic hard drive reader, a USB 3.0 expansion card and an MMC card reader that hadn't ever found use. Removing these cards reduced overall power usage, allowed me to remove some cables from the rig altogether, and contributed to improved airflow - all good things for the customer.
Detailing the case inside and out can sometimes be challenging. In the case of the Spaghetti Monster, there were actual creatures living out their entire lives in this silicon landscape. Luckily, spiders aren't the worst thing I could have imagined living inside a computer the size of a pantry. Like many other things in this world, I always seem to do the first 90% of the cleaning in 10% of the time, while the last 10% of cleaning takes the other 90% of my time. Getting into corners, around fragile electronic parts and everywhere else imaginable is more of an art than a science. The combination of Q-tips, cotton balls, a microfiber cloth, rubbing alcohol and ten fingers are typically all you need to get the job done - it's how you combine them that makes you an expert.
Once everything was clean, I replaced all of the components we decided would be part of the system going forward. This time, applying a bit of planning allowed me to assemble the PC with almost no cables running inside the case. As stated before, this improves airflow and reduces processor temperatures, speeding up the computer and extending the lifetime of your components. Perhaps even more importantly, careful cable planning gives you control over the aesthetics of your machine. Anyone willing to spend used car prices for a computer should take pride in appearances - regular maintenance and detailing should not be neglected and will save you money over the lifetime of your computer.
Total Time Spent: 4 hours