Dear Unplggd, I've recently switched over from years using a desktop computer at work to now being given a laptop to use inbetween the home and office. As a fairly new laptop user, and not necessarily being the most tech savvy person, I've run into some issues since adopting my laptop. The unit sometimes sounds like there's something obstructing the fan inside and conversely, the fan is coming on more and more. I think I can see some dust residing inside the case. Any ideas of how to keep my laptop clean? Sincerely, Laptop Larry.
Well first off, welcome to the laptop converts club! We made the same switch not that long ago and haven't looked back. Keeping a laptop in good working order is almost exactly the same as keeping a desktop in tip-top condition. Keep it clean, keep it cool and occasionally give it a wipe over using a soft fabric made for computer screens and surfaces. Dust and heat are the main culprits for mechanical issues, alongside dirty keyboards (crumbs, oil, hair getting inbetween can definitely add up over time); we give our laptop keys a quick wipe over using a soft cloth and some iKlear spray, but we don't go as thorough as Flickr user, Bah Humbug, did with his laptop up above.
In regards to the sound you're hearing from within your machine, it appears an accumulation of dust has gathered and affected your fan's ability to operate fully. This is not a good sign and requires immediate action.
There's an easy to follow and informative Instructables recently posted by contributor trebuchet03 addressing how to clean the interior space of a laptop; the instructions are general enough to apply to most any laptop and the best thing is all you'll need are screwdrivers to access the guts of your computer and a few Q-tips to clean off accumulated dust from your laptop's heatsink and fans. We also like to use a gentle blast of compressed air to remove particles from inbetween keys as we hold our laptop (carefully) upside down; just remember to remove the battery while cleaning any part of our computer and hold it above a surface that will cushion any fall.
Follow a regular habit of keeping dust and particles out and off your laptop and your fan issue will likely become a non-issue. If you work in a small space, using a HEPA air-purifier also decreases the dust getting into your machine, because preventing the dust from getting into your laptop in the first place is the best preventative tactic.
(Image: Flickr member Bah Humbug licensed for use under Creative Commons)