back to article Dirty, dirty PCs: The X-rated picture guide

Our shock picture last Friday of a Quatermass-style lifeform lurking inside a PC prompted a flurry of snaps forwarded by readers who had similarly confronted unspeakable horrors. We gather that many of our correspondents are responding well to therapy, and could be back working in PC maintenance in five years or so. Others, …


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  1. James O'Shea Silver badge

    I don't believe the last two

    Those two are fakes. Gotta be.

  2. Andy Tunnah
    Thumb Up

    that has helped my diet immensely

    looking at those before my dinner break has ensured i won't be having one

    thanks reg!

  3. Anonymous John

    Who needs a Dyson?

    When you have a PC quietly hovering up the dust 24/7.

  4. Adrian Jones

    Clearly none of them was running Linux

    Or there would've been a Dust Puppy in there.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Great stuff, keep 'em coming

    and anyone queuing up in the comments with server-room tales of derring-do amid dust bunnies bigger than a Winchester disk, be warned: pics or it didn't happen

  6. SirTainleyBarking


    I think I'll skip lunch today

  7. Les Matthew

    Anybody got the link

    so I can download the eight legged anti-malware tool? I'm sure it hosed a few bugs in that pc. ;')

    The keyboard on page four is just gross.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    In my last job, doing Point-of-Sale equipment support, I had to replace a motherboard that died after being peed on by mice... for a long time. It didn't quit the first time around, but only when the acidity of the urine corroded through traces on the board causing the serial ports to drop dead. The PC was full of hundreds of mouse turds and had a smell that was really indescribable. NCR builds some tough equipment, but I don't think they envisioned this.

    So actually there's another good reason besides cooling for keeping those empty card slots filled with blank plates. It keeps out the vermin.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    How Clean is your PC!?

    Kim and Aggie would be shocked, but how clean are the Americans'? Cos their houses are a lot filthier than ours!!!!

  10. D@v3


    Im not so sure.

    I saw something similar to the one from the school once, strangely enough, in a school i worked at. The little scroates made a habit of removing the blanking plates on the front (and back) of the machines, and just pushing stuff in.

    One (hopefully) future Darwin Award winner even saw fit to remove some RAM, from a powered up machine, through the spare 5.1/4 drive.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Who needs a Dyson?

    > When you have a PC quietly hovering up the dust 24/7.

    Quietly? That would be nice.

  12. Paul 8

    Pays not to clean old servers....

    Best not to get rid of the structural dust.

  13. Chimpofdoom!

    @ Who needs a Dyson?

    I do, my former PC hoovered my carpet, yet the dyson still fills up in one run!

    My new PC.. hoover failure.. it's an imac...

  14. Keith Oborn

    Half a mouse

    Many years ago I was called to service a machine - the owner had discovered the back half of a mouse sticking out of one of the fans. I was delighted to find that the front half had been comprehensively minced.

  15. Roger Kynaston

    once had a support call

    The user couldn't insert a floppy disk into the drive. Turned out they had never removed any disks and there were about 20 jammed in there!

  16. Knoydart


    <husky voice>

    dirty dirty pc

    </husky voice>

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Vacuum cleaning - death to PCs

    Don't know why it is (static?) but I've lost a PC by cleaning it with a VC.

    Although working OK, as a bit of preventative maintenance, I cleaned the fluff from inside. Wouldn't switch back on.

    So what's the option, leave the fluff until it chokes the machine or clean and risk it. Perhaps it needs to be done like a archaeologist with a tiny paint brush.

  18. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    "Worked until we cleaned it."

    Well cleaning a PC is almost as dangerous to it's value as refinishing an antique.

    I have killed two, the first by using windex on the board. D'oh!

    Less obvious: vacuumming. The airflow spun the fan and generated enough EMF to pop something.

  19. mike2R
    Thumb Down

    Heard at work.

    A colleague of mine was working on a customer's laptop. What I heard was "Urgh! I think I've just discovered where this guy scrapes off his earwax..."

  20. Andus McCoatover

    Aint just PC's...

    10 years ago, I was at Nokia's basestation manufacturing facility in Oulu, Finland. Although the breed of machine I was working on was extremely reliable, we did have the odd failure, as can be expected. Usual was lightning killing the transmisson - but that was 'cos the customer had used bell wire for the A-bis (BSC-BTS connection), which isn't good at screening.

    But, back on track - I heard a scream from one of the operators who'd opened a machine for repair from Indonesia. Poor lass had to go for a lie-down. When I saw the problem, I felt like one too (she was pretty, but...)

    They've got these nasty red ants in Indonesia, and thousands of them had climbed the power cable and snuck inside, presumably to keep warm. Unfortunately, for some 220 volt reason that escapes me, they'd died*, and their decomposing and swelling bodies had pushed the PSU - motherboard connector apart.

    Sheesh, happily I've a good constitution, but more sense, therefore I ordered a young work-experience PFY student to clear the fuc*kers out. (BOFH - thanks for the tip!)

    *Not all were dead. S'pose we should've quarantined the surviving hundred or so for 6 months and adopted them as pets for my managers desk, but - think of the paperwork! Nah. Vacuum cleaner did the trick. And a match on the bag.

  21. Bob Gulien

    The last...

    are obviously a setup. The mice look too good.

  22. Eddie Edwards

    Sobering thought

    If it wasn't for my persistent smoker's cough the inside of my lungs would probably look like that!

    Clearly we need to create PCs that can cough. Currently mine only wheezes.

  23. Richard 39

    The keyboard one

    just reminded me I need to pop out and buy a new mouse and keyboard. Thanks el reg

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Those rm machines had flimsy blanking plates.

      One quick push and they just fell out, I think my school replaced the blanks with cut bits of wood in the end.

  24. regadpellagru
    Thumb Up

    Last 2 ones ?

    Are they genuine, I wonder ...

    The paper one, probably, I've seen once a tape library jammed with paper, so this one is not too far.

    But the second, I hardly believe the mice would nest here ...

    Anyway, very good pictures !

  25. Chloe Cresswell

    Seen some

    Like that before.

    Dust, check, ground coffee an inch thick? check.

    Never had a mouse, although we had a machine in once that was listed as "mouse problem", and we found the mouse in question had used the main board as a loo..

  26. Georgees

    I remember at school....

    'Some' students *cough* used to cram rubbish into the open drive lots of computers until they were full....

    Got to do something between drawing penises in paint and learning how to do a typewriter left swipe in powerpoint.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    These remind me of my time with an at-the-time well known value-added reseller. Once we had to ship a load of Intel PCs (back in the days that they made PCs, built like brick outhouses they were) to the middle east, and they couldn't go in Intel's packaging since it mentioned Israel. So we had to make our own packaging for the batch, which involved sourcing just-the-wrong-size cardboard boxes and having to mould own own foam inserts. The best way to accurately mould a foam insert? To put a PC in the box and flood in the evil liquid gunk round it. Utterly trashed, obviously, and no idea why they didn't strip out the PC's innards first. I don't think we sold that one on after a scrub up, but the fact it went through QA/returns some time later certainly suggested it had a chance, and we certainly sold on worse under the guise of "new"...

  28. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

    A new type of case modding?

    "No, that's not dirt, it's a case mod!"

    Maybe we could start a new trend here.

    I used to fix computers for schools and yes like the one picture first job would be to open the case and pull all the sweet wrappers out.

    I remember a very nasty one where an infant school had sent us a printer. One of the little horrors had dumped a large amount of sand into it.

    I think it took me something like two days separating out every last component and cog and cleaning them by hand.

    Send more pictures everyone FTW!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This is my extreme pornography!

  30. Helldesk Dogsbody

    @James O'Shea

    I'm unconvinced by the last picture but the school one I can believe. I'd imagine that the actual case was no oil painting either!

  31. Winkypop Silver badge

    PC clean this weekend


  32. Andus McCoatover

    @ Familiar - sodding hell.

    "The best way to accurately mould a foam insert? To put a PC in the box and flood in the evil liquid gunk round it."

    Er, wrap the fuc*king PC etc. in a polythene bag first?

    FFS, ain't exactly hard. Did the same trick about 25 years ago - no complaints or returns.

    (Yep, I had to get a new passport because of the Ben Gurian arrival stamp in it.)

  33. Jason Togneri

    @ Keith Oborn and @ vacuuming

    Keith: what the heck sort of fans were you using? I've stuck my fingers into numerous sizes and speeds of fans over the years and while they're pretty painful, the most violent of them could probably only snap a mouse's neck, at worst. Anything that could mince up a rodent could probably do likewise to fingers and therefore wouldn't be allowed in a computer in the first place, so I don't believe you.

    As for vacuuming, there are two ways to damage a computer. The predominant method is with static, as most vacuum nozzles are plastic, and generate static very easily. The other is, as also mentioned, by trying to clean spinning fans, but you're more likely just to damage the fan than to cause any greater damage.

  34. Newt_Othis
    Dead Vulture

    Grey dust

    Reminds me of the time, years ago, when repairing a PC from the local crematorium.

    The entire inside of the box was a uniform light grey. Thought it best to take it outside before using the air-duster.


    Just reminded myself of the last PC I air-dusted. Would have loved to see the expression of the spider that was evicted at an arachnid equivalent of warp speed!

  35. Secretgeek

    The horror!

    Where are people keeping their pc's? Some of them look like they've just been lifted out of a swamp!

    Truly truly hideous.

    I both hate you El Reg for inflicting those images onto my poor distressed retina and admire your courage for having to wade through them in the first place.


  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Warm and comfy

    Once found a mouse's nest along with it's stash of m&ms in an ibm pc.

  37. William Towle


    D@v3> "

    I saw something similar to the one from the school once, strangely enough, in a school i worked at. The little scroates made a habit of removing the blanking plates on the front (and back) of the machines, and just pushing stuff in.


    Methinks that's at least two folks who were lucky the perps did it to get stuff *in*!

  38. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    @Adrian Jones

    Just hope that Lord Crud and Hastur are not hiding anywhere!

  39. Simon 79

    Oh the memories!!

    I used to manage an independant PC Repair/Sales shop and we had a "Wall of Fame" for things like this. I wish I had taken digital copies of the photos now. The worst one I had would rival and probably beat all of these. A bloke brought his PC in, he was raspy and had trouble breathing, I found out to smoking problems. When I opened up the pc the smell was pure horrible, old tobacco and dog. Apparently his couple of dogs liked lying next to the PC whilst cos it was warm.... honestly inch thick hair congealed and fused with sticky tobacco smoke... I almost threw up - should have done it in the case, made it look prettier.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    cheapskate manufacturers don't help

    Spiders. Bane of my life. For some reason, they like my PC's and I don't like regularly degunking them. Least I know when the fan stutters, it's caught another big one. Worst is a Dell (for many reasons) one being the large mesh grill on the front with no air filter, but fitting one of those would add at least 50p to the cost.

    Worst thing I've seen is going to check why PSU's kept failing on a big router in the main data center of a country that shall remain nameless's telecomms ministry. The thick layer of pigeon poop on the outside really didn't help airflow.

  41. David Adams


    We've had the same problem with mice in printers, on customer sites.

    Their main problem is that as they are permanently incontinent, they pee on the power supply and electrocute themselves!!

  42. Andrew Culpeck

    Anti Smoking posters...

    ...could do with showing the inside of a smokesrs PC with a strap line of something like this is what it has done to the PC and it don't even smoke

  43. Stoneshop Silver badge

    @Jason Togneri

    Let me introduce you to the fans fitted in the venerable VAX 11/780.

    They're dual squirrelcage units (although it would be a very unwise squirrel who would use them as their cage), 20cm diameter, 40cm long, driven by a three-phase motor, half a kW or so.

    They were deeply recessed in the bottom rear of the machine, but given the grid openings in the fan guards a curious mouse could well have gotten inside and into the fans. In which case the wall behind it would have been sprayed with minced mouse.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Absolutely disdusting.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    <pedant> speed doesn't scale </pedant>

  46. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Tried to get sand and dust out of a PC... dumping a few liters of demineralised water onto (and not sparing the power supply either). How did the sand get in? The building's front had been sanded down during a the preceding week and the stuff had seeped in through cracks in the window frames.

    The PC still worked afterwards.

  47. Peter Simpson 1

    Mouse killer

    @ James O'Shea: The mice are probably real (though I wouldn't like to see it after a few eeks).

    Those heatsinks are usually at line voltage and best not to touch them!

    // mmmm! Toasted meeses!

  48. Ian 49

    Best one I've ever met

    was back in the early 90s when the company I was working for had supplied PCs to a local foundry (yes, we still had one back then - a whole real factory too!) for admin purposes. We'd built them a network in the offices, plugged all the machines in and agreed to attend when one failed a few weeks later.

    They'd picked it up and moved it out (with a BNC network extension) into the foundry area itself. In less than two weeks the entire PC was choked with residue to the point at which you could no longer see the motherboard components and the RAM sticks looked like those wooden constructions they use to stop sand eroding away from coastlines. The PC was totally dead, wouldn't even spin up the power supply after being cleaned out (and this was an AT supply, well before soft switching).

    We sold them a new PC. They agreed to keep it in the office area.

  49. BlueGreen

    cautiously into the vomitorium

    I worked with a guy (who as it happens wrote a reg article, so double the no-names pack drill) whose keyboard totally put to shame the pics here. The thick encrustations of food meant no-one but him would touch it. The plan, you see it now. Thick, greasy, moulded into fingertip-indents on some of the upper row.... <bleauurgh>.

    Thick grey dust is impressive but it's the organic crap that really hits the revulsion button.


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