Yeah there's a fine line between saving dust build up and trying not to increase the temperature too much!
I've covered every unimportant hole in the case with a piece of cardboard, and also changed the standard wire dust filters for a carbon one, typically used in exhaust hoods in kitchens. That helped a lot, but it also increased the temperatures slightly.
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I usually give a quick clean of the filters about once every two weeks, and then usually every couple of months give it right good clean. I usually strip the whole rig down and get into the nook and crannies with small make-up brushes to loosen up any stubborn dust, clean off any fan blades and heat sinks and then give the whole thing a hose down with an air duster. On that subject I've just got myself a proper electric air-duster ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/ITdusters-com-EGP-COM-011-CompuCleaner-Electric-Duster/dp/B00S7CH6FK/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1490400094&sr=8-6&keywords=air+duster ), and I plan to give it a good dust out this weekend, since finally, it's suppose to be nice weather so I can take this thing outside and give the clean it needs.
As for keeping the side panels off, that is unbelievably inefficient, as most cases are designed with optimal airflow in mind.
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