Dust and Moisture in your High-Powered Flight Simulator

Updated: 6th December 2016

What do you think happens when your high-end Flight Simulator PC looks like this inside?

Pic of a Dusty Motherboard
A very dusty Motherboard and Fan In the Flight Simulator PC can lead to Computer Instability.

Initially, absolutely nothing. The computer carries on working and you are none the wiser. The first inkling of trouble is likely to be a fan beginning to make a noise, or the simulator beginning to freeze or reboot for no apparent reason. If you ignore the fan noise, the noise will soon stop and you might think that it was fixed. No such luck. The CPU- or the chassis-fan will have stopped and the computer will gradually begin to overheat, resulting in instability and spurious reboots.

The effect of Dust and Moisture on a high-performance Flight Simulator Computer, and how to deal with it.

It often happens that one day the computer is working fine when you switch off. Next morning it won’t boot up. Why? As the chassis cools, the air inside the housing deposits its moisture onto the blanket of dust (like dew). The “blanket” becomes moist and can provide conductivity between wires on the printed-circuit boards on the motherboard and particularly on high-powered graphics cards which can get very hot. If it rains during the night, the effect is even more prevalent because of the high content of water in the air.
So one day the PC just refuses to start. What do you do?

  • After performing the obvious checks like whether the mains electricity plug has been accidentally dislodged, the first step is to remove the power cable from the machine – just pull it out of the “kettle plug” socket at the back of the PSU.
  • Then open up the chassis and blow out any dust.
  • Next, remove the graphics card from the motherboard, and remove the RAM modules from their sockets.
  • Then grab a hairdryer and blow hot air into the interior of the chassis for about 5 to ten minutes or so. (Be careful not to get too close to any plastic parts and accidentally melt them).
  • Re-seat the RAM modules and the Graphics Card in their slots. Make sure the graphics card is mounted vertically and not at a slight angle.
  • Connect the power  and switch on.

In 90% of all cases, the PC will boot up again quite happily. If it doesn’t, repeat the procedure. If that doesn’t help, then unfortunately it means a visit to the PC hospital and let a techie have a look at it.

What Computer Maintenance should be Done the Flight Simulator Case to Prevent this?

The conventional (but not always practical) wisdom is to keep the chassis off the floor and keep the room clean and dust free.

In reality this is not usually possible. What you should, however, do is:

  • Either: Every few months inspect the chassis insides for excessive dust and clogging. Carefully disconnect all cables going to the tower unit (carefully marking where each cable plugs in with a note on a sticky-label attached to the cable), open the case by unscrewing the securing screws, and put the tower in the car. Drive to the local petrol station and use their compressed air hose to blast out the dust. Don’t use a domestic vacuum cleaner because of the danger of static electricity damage.
  • OR: Get your computer tower away to a workshop for a thorough check-up, cleanout, tune-up, defrag (if you are not using SSDs) and (if necessary) fan replacement.