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Three essential 'hardware' tools every PC user needs

PCs are pretty self-sufficient. Most of the time they don't need extra accessories, and these days Windows 8.1 automatically takes care of many regular maintenance chores for you. Nevertheless, taking proper care of a PC means pulling out some physical equipment every now and again.

You don't need to plop a full-blown workbench next to your PC, though. These three easy, cheap "tools" can help you keep your computer in tip-top shape for years to come

Screwdriver

There are numerous reasons you might want to have a screwdriver at the ready to crack open your desktop or laptop PC. It may be as simple as adding some RAM or swapping your hard drive for a sleeker solid-state model, or to get inside your computer to clear out cobwebs. And ff you're unfortunate enough to end up with the dreaded soda spill across your laptop keyboard, you'll definitely need a screwdriver to sort out that sloppy mess.

The kind of screwdriver you require depends on your specific PC. For my laptop I always have a Phillips #0 handy, but in a pinch my Swiss Army key chain has a screwdriver that will do. If you use a desktop a standard Philips head may be all you need.

Microfiber cloth

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A microfiber cloth can always come in handy for cleaning your PC.

This is an especially important tool to have around if your PC display doesn't have a glass front. Microfiber cloths are the easiest way to wipe all that dust off your screen or anything else that's messing up the display, without potentially scratching your screen.

These gentle cloths also come in handy when you're dusting the keyboard or wiping off bits of liquid. Some people also like to use a microfiber cloths as a barrier between their laptop keyboard and screen to prevent mucking up the display when the clamshell is closed.

Compressed air

Spray that dust out of there!

For those times when a microfiber cloth isn't enough, a can of compressed air is your PC's best friend. Compressed air can push junk out of the nooks and crannies of your keyboard, as well as all those dustbunnies gathering around your desktop fan and other ventilation points.

Unfortunately, it's all too easy to forget about the necessity of compressed air until you're in dire need of it. You're better off just having a can ready to go at home for those times your PC could use a serious dusting.

Just be careful using compressed air, especially if you're cleaning inside your PC. You could damage components if it's not used correctly. And don't forget to disconnect the power supply (including laptop batteries) before spraying!

If your computer needs a truly deep cleaning, check out PCWorld's guides to cleaning your PC inside and out and cleaning your laptop's fans.

There a slew of other maintenance tools that dedicated PC builders may need, such as a light source for peering inside your PC or isopropyl alcohol for cleaning. But for most folks, having these three basic tools at the ready will help solve many everyday hardware hassles.

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