The rate at which your computer gathers dust is very dependent on the location of your computer and the environment. A computer sitting on the floor will gather dust much more rapidly than a computer sitting on a desk. If you have a pet, pet hair seems to act like a magnet, honing in on the insides of your computer.
Sometimes you can tell if dust is starting to hurt your computer. You might hear fans whirring more often or in extreme cases all the time as the computer reacts to rising internal temperature by running its fans more often. You might also begin to see the computer shutting down suddenly without warning. But, there is no guarantee that you will have or notice these symptoms, until one day your computer does not power on at all.
One might be tempted to take a vacuum cleaner to the computer to suck up all that unwanted dust. This is a big mistake for several reasons. Household vacuum suction is too strong for the delicate electronics, the big hose end might bump into components on the motherboard, and the static electricity built up by the vacuum might fry the electronics.
When it comes to removing the dust inside a computer, one needs to think in terms of “blowing the dust out” instead of “sucking the dust out”. Air from a standard air compressor should not be used, again because of the force of the air and because of the static electricity created. Canned compressed air works, but is not ideal. The force of the air quickly diminishes, the can gets cold and can be hard to hold, and liquid can spit out onto the computer internals. If you do use compressed air, when blowing the dust off the internal fans, it is important that the fans not be allowed to spin rapidly because this too can cause damage. If you do decide to blow out your own computer, make sure the power is disconnected and I recommend you take the computer outside because of the volume of dust you will likely blow into the air.
There are special blowers made specifically for electronics and provide a consistent blast of static free air. I just purchased such a device and have begun using it when servicing computers. I recommend that at a minimum the dust should be blown out of the inside of computers at least every 6 months.