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Put Together a PC Toolkit

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  • Put Together a PC Toolkit

    Over the years I’ve done classes and taught many individuals on the ins and outs of building, repairing, upgrading and troubleshooting PCs and networks and have often been surprised by how many go out and buy ‘PC Toolkits’ or ‘Network Toolkits’, oft times spending $50 to $150 and up. Is this something you really need?

    For most people, even most computer techs that make a living working on computers, I’d have to say No, especially for the Home Enthusiast or part time builders/techies. Most people can put together a basic toolkit using tools and items they keep around the house. To that end, the purpose of this will be to take a look at items that one might want for the basics of a ‘toolkit’.

    The first thing you’ll need (and you won’t find it in any pre-packaged toolkit) is a good place to work. Preferably a well lit, dry room, non-carpeted (walking on carpet can build up static electricity) with a decent size work surface/table that is non-conductive (non-metallic), if in doubt, place a piece of thin plywood (i.e. Luan, which is inexpensive), Masonite, cardboard or even a plastic tablecloth.

    Once that’s located, you can layout all your system components and manuals to ensure you have room for your tools also so they can all be handy, if a little short of room and nothing better available, pull up a chair or tray table for the excess (nothing worse than having to constantly be going back and forth to other places to grab things you find you need after the fact).

    Next thing will be to gather the tools you’ll need or be likely to need. To build a basic PC, there’s really not a lot that will be required, (I’ve done numerous builds with nothing more than a screwdriver), but since we are talking a basic ‘toolkit’, we’ll expand this to include many things that might make it easier and if you are looking to work on systems in the future, things that might come in handy.

    Since I mentioned a screwdriver already, we’ll start with that (or them). For a basic toolkit, I’d suggest a small variety of screwdrivers with assorted tips (Phillips, Slotted, Torx, Hex, etc) or a small combination set that includes a small variety. You can find small assorted kits at most hobby, computer, hardware, department, etc. stores or even at a dollar, discount store. These are used over and over in assembly and disassembling systems and the various components. Most common need is #1 and #2 Phillips heads.

    Click to enlarge:

    Next would be an item that will be a point of contention to many, both as to need and importance in the list, a Wristband Grounding Strap. Many will say this should be first on the list, and in large part I agree, especially for first time/newer builders. On the flip side though, I quit using these back in the nineties, or a few thousand builds/repairs and upgrades ago, and most of the builders/techs I network with don’t use them either.
    A wristband Grounding Strap, as the name applies, is attached to your wrist, generally the non-dominant one, and has a fair length wire (generally coiled to help keep it out of the way) attached that ends in an alligator type clip that you attach to the computer case or other metallic object to provide a ground for static electricity to discharge to, so you don’t fry any of your electronic components. Many people simply touch the case often as they go (even when wearing such a strap).

    So while I would suggest this for most people new to working on computers (cost is nominal from about $3 on up), being careful (good work space, touching the computer case, etc) basically eliminates the need for one.

    Moving on to other ‘tools’, in additional to screwdrivers, you might also want a small selection of small nut drivers (or look for a screwdriver set that includes assorted bits, they might also have some nut driver heads included. Most often will be looking for those in the range of 4-6mm.

    Also nice to have is small needle nose pliers, these come in very handy for attaching/removing jumpers on the mobo, hard drives, optical drives, etc as well as attaching the small power connectors for fans, and the case headers for the lights and switches on you system case. Again you can often find these in hobby, hardware, etc stores and often in small sets that may include other mini-tools like side cuts, lineman’s pliers, snips, etc. The last set I picked up was about $8 and had needle nose, linesman, pointed needle nose, curved needle nose and, side cuts. Can also add tweezers, surgical forceps, etc to accomplish the same tasks and/or add to your ‘toolkit’.

    Click to enlarge:

    Next I would suggest a small packet of cable ties, generally small and thin (black or a color of your choice) to bundle wires and/or attach then to parts of the case to keep them out of the way of your fingers, case fans, etc.
    A can of compressed air is also an item to have handy.
    Some cleaning items for contacts on DRAM, GPU cards etc need to be on your list. While there are compounds specifically made for these purposes and other items are often used, I generally suggest plain old isopropyl alcohol or ‘Rubbing’ alcohol used in conjunction with foam makeup swabs or lint-free cloths.

    Click to enlarge:

    You may (and probably will or have) see people suggest using Q-Tips (or other cotton swabs) and/or using erasers to clean the gold contacts and other things, but with contacts on DRAM DIMMS, video or other add-on cards they often leave residue such as cotton fibers and minute pieces of eraser that can dislodge into the DRAM or add-on card sockets of your mobo.

    It’s generally a good idea to have some type of Heat sink or Thermal compound/grease handy also. Many CPUs and heatsinks come with compound (either already applied or in a small applicator), but if you have problems and have to remove the heatsink and reapply, it’s always good to have it available. The compounds are easily available and if you work with PCs a fair amount, it might be worth investing in a good size tube.

    Another item to have handy is a pill bottle or small compartmentalized case to keep assorted screws/standoffs/jumpers and other small items in, especially if you work on computers with any regularity.
    And last but not least, you may want to have a small flashlight nearby, to keep your kit on the smaller size a keychain type flashlight comes in handy.

    And there you have it, most anything you might need to build a computer, and most of what you’d need to repair or upgrade a system. Next we’ll look into additions you might want for the troubleshooting, repairing and upgrading side of a techies world.

    Any additions, suggestions, comments, criticisms are welcome.
    Last edited by Tradesman; 11-25-2012, 08:32 AM.


    Pls offer comments on support I provide, HERE, in order to help me do a better job here:

    Tman

  • #2
    All sounds like good stuff there TM....I usually can get away with just a single flat head screwdriver
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    • #3
      I hear ya, and have done that more than once...will probably review and update this later this coming week or next weekend.....Just looked at a system today (an AMD rig) that wasn't seeing all it's DRAM, pulled the CPU, and sure enough, had a couple of bent pins. Pulled a couple razor blades out and used those to straighten the pins (can't be without those high-tech tools )


      Pls offer comments on support I provide, HERE, in order to help me do a better job here:

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Tradesman View Post
        Pulled a couple razor blades out and used those to straighten the pins (can't be without those high-tech tools )
        as long as it gets the job done
        AMD Phenom II x4 965 BE
        Noctua NH-U9B SE2
        Asus M4A89GTD Pro USB3
        G. Skill Ares 16GB F3-1866C10D-16GAB @1600 9-9-9-24
        Samsung 830 Series 256GB SSD
        XFX Radeon HD 5850 Black Edition
        Corsair HX850
        Antec 900
        Winidows 7 -64bit

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        • #5
          Agreed have used a number of ODD odds and ends at different times
          Last edited by Tradesman; 12-30-2012, 06:08 PM.


          Pls offer comments on support I provide, HERE, in order to help me do a better job here:

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          • #6
            Some very good ideas Tman. I also found these to be very useful for sticking tiny screws back into their holes. They also work well on those tiny pesky front panel connectors too. I have used them to hold tiny wires for soldering. I found them on eBay, a pack of 10 for about $12. Search for Mosquito Forceps, these are 5" but are available in many sizes and shapes.

            Last edited by Britton30; 12-30-2012, 05:58 PM.
            I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that.

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            • #7
              Yep, very nice, hemostats are handy to have also, as well as dental picks, scalpels, etc, there's all kinds of things that can be used and are handy to have


              Pls offer comments on support I provide, HERE, in order to help me do a better job here:

              Tman

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