Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/26/ventblockers_2/

Filthy PCs: The X-rated circus of horrors

Grotesque dust creatures and mummified frogs

By Lester Haines

Posted in Hardware, 26th November 2010 12:54 GMT

Ventblockers II 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 quite terrifying.

Of course, we're going to break you in gently, so let's warm up with a few dusty moments. Picoshark admits he "didn't have the nerve" to open this box in the warehouse where he works, so he just wrote a message for his boss, suggesting they should probably get some new kit:

BAD written in thick dust on PC case

Cornz, though, did have the cojones to open this machine from a builder's yard. He says it was "caked in really fine brick dust", and accordingly suffering somewhat from overheating:

Builders' PC coated in dust

Roger Greenwood reports that he was "called to our welding and grinding shop" to investigate a clapped-out machine. Magnetic metal dust and computers don't mix, although five minutes with a compressed air gun were enough to get this PC up and running:

Another dust-coated PC interior

Peter Witherow offered us a couple of snaps of a slightly grubby Dell...

Dusty Dell interior

Another view of dusty Dell interior

...while Kreepykrawly sent in snaps of an Oz machine covered in "at least 4mm of bulldust" (fine red outback dust). It was running a bit slow, the owner noted:

Interior of PC coated with dust

This is unpleasant - an ailing PC treated by John Tuohy for a nasty case of human skin flakes:

PC motherboard coated in dust

At least John has some idea of what the offending substance was. Bill Hazeltine didn't offer an explanation of this Compaq interior...

Compaq interior coated in strange dust

...although he may simply be too shaken to share the truth.

Here's another Compaq hosting a "furry civilization", and found by Brad Barfoot in a remote corner of a hospital:

PC interior coated with mystery fur

A close-up of the mystery fur coating

Hospitals appear to be fertile breeding grounds for computer lifeforms, as Adam discovered in a "healthcare facility" in the States:

Inch-thick layer of fluff on PC case

Ruler showing depth of fluff at one inch

While we're hanging around hospitals, it's time for a public health announcement: Smoking is bad for you and your machine. One "RD" says of his Macbook: "I smoke around it. A lot."

Tar-encrusted Macbook motherboard

Tar-covered underside of Macbook keyboard

We should explain that the first snap shows the motherboard, where "the worst areas are above the RAM and in between the DVD and fan". The second "shows the underside of the keyboard - the sticky yellow stuff is tar".

Nice. Lawrence Sculpher also wanted to issue a smoking round computers warning...

Rather nasty tar-covered PC interior

...as did Jonathan Frost:

Smoker's heatsink covered in brown fur

As we all know, fans are a favourite haunt of incipient lifeforms. Luke Rodgers offered this example...

Very dusty CPU fan

...while JV sent in two further fine images of fan filth:

Fan clogged with alien material

Another fan blocked with unidentified material

Adam Pike's brother-in-law couldn't understand why his AlienWare PC wasn't working. The CPU heatsink may have had something to do with it:

Dust-clogged heatsink

More fan madness, from Norman, who took this photo after he'd unsuccessfully tried to get the crud off:

Fan encrusted with dust

Mike Timbers wanted readers to know that water-cooling units need love too...

Water-cooling unit radiator clogged with dust

...and here's another from Rob Brown, halfway through the clean-up operation:

Water cooling unit halfway through a much-needed dust-off

In case you're thinking it'd just be easier to bin the infected component, Erik Pearson offers hope. Here's an Intel Core 2 cooler, with the fan removed, before and after a vigorous scrub:

Intel Core 2 cooler before and after removal of dust

Now, here's what happens if you don't move in and eliminate PC lifeforms at the fan stage - they break out and threaten civilisation, as Mark Cooney can attest:

Back of PC case featuring major dust puppy

Stateside Adam's back, with another example...

Another PC case exterior caked in dust

...and a shaken anonymous correspondent shows an amorphous dust creature isolated from a workstation in a West Midlands hospital:

Large dust puppy removed from workstation

I personally would have nailed that to the desk before whipping out the camera. It looks like it's waiting to clamp itself to someone's face.

Anthony Hegedus also risked life and limb to bring us images of a customer's PC - "about the worst we've seen", he notes:

PC case and cover with much, much dust

Those of you with nerves of steel are invited to turn the page for further horror from Anthony. It's less a PC interior...

...and more the set of Alien:

The PC's interior, caked in dust

Dust busting through case ventilation slots

More clogged vents inside PC

Huge blob of dust and filth

Quite remarkable.

Mercifully, some PC invaders are purely terrestrial in origin, although that doesn't make them any less destructive. Ben Wilshaw whipped open a monitor case to find this...

Ants inside monitor case

...which on closer inspection turned out to be roasted ants:

Close-up of ants inside monitor

Another close-up of ants inside monitor

There are no ants inside Jim McNelis's machine, because the cockroaches ate them:

Cockroaches inside PC case

Another view of roaches inside PC

If any of you are feeling a bit queasy, stick with it, because we're entering the final straight with the obligatory eight-legged exposé.

Barry Redwood of Ontario says this kind of thing is a common sight in his repair shop. We'll do the joke for you - yes, this machine was used for web surfing:

PC packed with cobwebs

Eddie Abbott brings us two more arachnid habitats...

Cobwebs inside PC

More cobwebs inside PC case

...as Simon Avery reveals what he found inside a PC he'd had running in his loft for a few months in early November. He notes: "Being the only warm thing in the loft, the flies looking for somewhere to hibernate crawled in through the missing backplate..."

Dead flies and spider inside PC

That evidently turned out to be a bad move. The spider looks well-fed, though.

Finally, we draw the curtain on our circus of horrors with this sensational find, fished out of a PC by David McCauley:

Mummified frog found inside PC

David reckons the poor thing must have been in there since the computer was manufactured, since it was "completely solid". It's certainly a novel take on the concept of "computer hardware". ®

Bootnote

Stateside Adam is hoping to get "bonus points" for what he and his work colleagues refer to as "The Great Knot". It's impressive, and has all the makings of a terrifying CAT-5 creature:

Big, big knot of Cat 5 cables