Can you put a computer on carpet? Yes, with caveats

Can you put a computer on carpet? Yes you can, with caveats. But the biggest issue with putting your computer on carpet probably isn’t what you think.

Putting a computer on carpet is one of those weird questions I get, like putting a computer on its side. It’s one of those things that might have been a bad idea at one time, but doesn’t make much difference today.

The biggest problem with putting a computer on carpet

can you put a computer on carpet
Don’t use your computer like a vacuum cleaner, one of former coworkers once said. But the bigger danger is just bumping the computer with the vacuum cleaner and accidentally powering it off.

The biggest problem I found with putting a computer on carpet when is doing desktop support in corporate environments wasn’t what you would expect. The biggest problem was with people accidentally bumping the power button and accidentally turning the computer off. Of course, that problem doesn’t have anything to do with it being on carpet, but rather the floor. Same problem happens on any type of floor.

On most modern computers, the power button is in a place that makes it harder to bump than they were in the ’90s. I’m sure I’m not the only one people complained to.

Theoretical problems with putting a computer on carpet

Of course, there were plenty of people eager to tell me why putting a computer on carpet was a bad idea. Put a computer on the carpet, and it’s just sitting there like a vacuum cleaner, picking up dirt, dust, carpet fibers, and who knows what else, they said.

But the thing is, the ventilation system in the computer isn’t designed to make it a good vacuum cleaner. It is designed for airflow, not suction.

I do find dust and pet fur in my computers, and in theory, I find more when the computer is on or near the floor than if it is sitting on the surface of a desk, but it hasn’t been a big issue for me. I have a bigger problem with laptops overheating than I do with computers sitting on or near carpet, and of course the laptop is sitting on a desk.

For that matter, the dirtiest computer in the house is my folding at home rig. It sits on a desk, and it’s in the basement, where the dog never goes. There is an area rug on the floor, but the computer is on a desk. That computer gets dusty because it’s running full throttle all the time, and there’s a lot of airflow.

Airflow makes a bigger difference than where the computer is sitting, whether it’s on a desk or on the floor, and what type of floor it is.

What about static electricity?

The other theory I heard all the time was that pulling in carpet fibers and computer subjects to static discharges.

It’s a nice theory, but the computer case is grounded. And look at where most of the dust lands. It tends to accumulate on the case, near the entry or exit points, or on the fan. Not so much on any of the printed circuit boards.

In 30 years of owning and using computers with fans in them, I’ve never had a problem that I could attribute to static electricity coming in via dust or carpet fibers. By far the most common problem I’ve had is a power supply failing. The second most common problem I’ve had is network cards failing to connect at full speed, and in rare cases, deciding to stop working entirely. The third most common problem I’ve had are hard drive issues, which isn’t a problem for me anymore since I switched to using SSDs.

I haven’t had any problems I can attribute to static electricity. What usually happens is I use the computer until it can’t run modern software anymore, then I put it in storage until it counts as retro, then I get it back out, clean it up, and turn it into a retro system.

Can you put a computer on carpet: in conclusion

If you need to put a computer on carpet, I don’t see a problem with it. You may need to occasionally shut it down, take the side and front off, and blow the dust out. How frequently and depends on how hot the computer runs. If it has a discrete GPU and you play games on it, it may run hot enough to need to be cleaned out once a year. But if all you use your computer for is social media and email, once every two or three years is probably sufficient.

If you have a lot of dogs who shed a lot, and you smoke around your computers, then you probably do need to clean your computer out once a year. But in those cases, the carpet isn’t making much difference.

I once knew someone who had a lot of dogs and who smoked around his computers, and he blamed the carpet and the type of heating in his house for why his computers were always dirty. But I had the same type of heating he had, and didn’t smoke around my computers, and didn’t have the same problem he did. The problem was the nicotine.

So if you want to have a throwback shag carpet reminiscent of the ’70s and put your computer on it, go ahead. It’s not going to be the biggest factor in the health of your computer. I’m not sure it would even make the top 10.

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