Friday, April 18, 2008

The basics - tools you need

Okay, first off you need tools if you are going to fix PCs. I know that there are a ton of "computer tool kits" they sell at every big box store, but really you only need a few things for most fixes. so if you already have one of those kits...pitch everything but these items, these are the must haves:
  • Magnetic tip screwdrivers, phillips and slotted
  • very small screwdriver (not eyeglass small, but about a 2 mil blade)
  • scissors
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Paperclip, just straighten one and use it to extract Cd's or DVDs from drives without power. That is what the little hole on the front of the drive is for.
This kit will do for around 90% of projects. I used to work for a great system integrator (Free plug Karl...Cierra Solutions), and I had to carry all the goodies I needed in my bag with me, so I leaned it out as fast as I could. Let me tell you, carry around a bag with a notepad, label writer, tools, cd book of all the possible Cd's you might need, pens and such and soon you learn what to cut down on.

The $10 kit I have pictured here is a good starting place, but you can ditch quite few of these tools. You don't need the chip extractor that is in many of these kits. And the tweezers are kind of useless most of the time. The tube is handy for storing spare screws, and believe me you will need them.

Put together a small kit like this, and if you have the time and money add these items:

Hemostats are useful for a lot of things
  • Nut drivers in 1/4 and 1/8 inch drives, these fit screw heads, and also the brass standoffs, as well as most of the posts on video cards and such.
  • Torx T-10 and T-15 bit drivers. Better yet get one that has a tip that flips. Even better is a screwdriver with a hollow handle that stores a variety of tips.
  • Hemostats, the kind that lock, get one curved and one straight, great for holding things and if you need to solder something, can work as a heat sink too. Beats the tar out of tweezers
  • Flash Drive, yes this is a tool, keep on here, and a couple of USB cables are handy often too.
  • Small flash light, I found a 1.99 book light that uses an LED, and has a flexible neck and clip that lets me put the light anywhere I need it and frees my hands to do other things
  • If you are getting older, get a pocket magnifier, and save lots of headaches
  • Small Zip Ties, get a few sizes if you have the room
  • Diagonal wire cutters (Dikes to some), get ones that you can hold comfortable, and make sure they won't pinch you when you use them
You can find a lot of really useful things at dollar stores and places like Wal-mart, or Target. Keep your eyes open for something useful, I have a set of tips that include several nut drivers that I salvaged from a dollar store ratcheting screwdriver. They fit in my drill's magnetic tip just fine. And just a side note, that magnetic tip on that comes with most drills these days (and some pocket screwdrivers) is actually a 1/4 inch driver, you can use that in a pinch, and I have. All of the above tools can be easily found, except many the hemostats, I get mine at the flea market 2 for a dollar. These tools can see you through just about anything you will run into on most standard PC repair. But here are the last couple of tools I would add, when and if you have the money.

Home depot sells a very inexpensive mini screwdriver set, with both Phillips/Flathead, and various Allen or torx tips for about $6 each. Mine came with three double ended tips in each, so for $12 I got 12 drivers. I bought both of my younger sons the basic one Phillips one Flathead version for stocking stuffer over Christmas, and had change from a five when I bought them. For laptops, or cell phones, or just plan taking things apart, these are great. Radio Shack and Fry's both sell a kit that has one driver and a mess of tips, and it costs about $15. I have one of these too, but the Husky branded ones are just as good, and easier to tote in my mini tool kit

This is a little more pricey, at about $30
but for me it has been worth the money over and over. This handy little device connects directly to the PATA ports on regular and laptop hard drives, or to a SATA drive, and then to your USB port. With it's own power supply for the full size drives, it allows you to access data from a hard drive without installing it, making it easy to copy data across drives. Being a typical geek, I also have a pile of old hardware, and this let me check which drives were good, and which should be made into clocks or other art. You could also use it with your laptop to test a drive without removing it from the computer it is in. Just connect the cables, add the power and see if it is the PC or just the drive that is dead.

Next time, CDs that are useful tools as well.
Until then, get your Geek on, and nerdy to me.


katdish said...

As I've said before, I'm not actually a geek myself, I just hang out with them. But I think this blog will be helpful to Ron because he's pretty good at that technical stuff. If a problem can't be fixed by ctrl/alt/del I'm at a loss. Anyway, thanks for your willingness to share your mad computer skills with us. Before I read this entry, I really only knew of one purpose for hemostats. I used them quite frequently "back in the day", but I won't go into that here...

Rock-a-fella said...

This is a great idea for a site. I saw you mentioned something about working on cell phones. You don't know anything about fixing them do you? I'll send you a Starbucks card or two before we get into that discussion. Thanks for all your help bro'.

Shaun Walker said...

I would be glad to help out if I can on cell phones. I don't do much hacking, but I once took a phone swimming, and later dropped the replacement while riding my motorcycle. I used parts of the one I swam with to fix the one I dropped, and it worked for about another year.