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Those ubiquitous high-buck zipper-case computer tool kits always start looking appealing around this time of year, either as gifts for techie friends or for yourself.  But I’ve seen very few that aren’t oversimplified — or loaded down with useless “tool count” boosters.  On the other hand, the case these kits ship in is often perfect in size and shape.

My advice?  Pick up a cheap kit that comes in a decent case, then throw away junk like chip pullers and flesh the kit out with some selections of your own.  Here are ten of my favorites:

1. Screwdrivers

Even the most basic computer tool kits usually include a pair of standard and Phillips screwdrivers in a medium and small size.  You’ll likely find these included with the kit you’ve purchased for the case, but if they’re really crappy you might consider dropping in a couple from your shop spares — or maybe catching one of Sears’ or Stanley’s sets on sale, adding the appropriate ones to the kit, and dumping the rest in your shop drawer.  I personally avoid screwdrivers with excessively large handles for this application, as most computers are compact these days and space is always at a premium.

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18 Responses to Ten Items For Your Computer Tool Kit

  1. jeff says:

    I’ll second the bit set. I recently completely disassembled both mac and dell laptops. The dell used the same size small phillips driver throughout but the mac needed different tips and I had to switch for seemingly every screw. The nintendo uses some weird looking tri-wing that I don’t have so I haven’t taken that apart yet.

  2. Zathrus says:

    The one thing I’d add that’s in the picture and not on your list is a grounding strap. Most people simply don’t understand how important grounding is, or how to do it properly. It’s cheap and simple insurance.

    I’m still using the crappy little toolkit I bought nearly 20 years ago. The elastic is shot and the #2 Phillips has seen better days, but otherwise it works just fine. I’ll eventually get fed up with the Phillips and replace it with a spare from the garage, but I mostly use the hex head drivers anyway.

    @jeff — the tri-wing is available in el-cheapo security bit sets, such as the one reviewed here a couple years ago. About $6 from Harbor Freight, although I would really recommend against opening Nintendos/Xbox/Playstations unless you have a really good reason (in which case you’d already know where to get the needed bit).

  3. Uthor says:

    The only things I’ve ever needed when working on a computer have been screwdrivers, needle nose plies, and something to cut zip-ties.

    With newer, upscale, cases, you can generally skip the screwdrivers all together.

  4. McAngryPants says:

    it is missing a bottle opener.

  5. Mr Bill says:

    Very nice!

  6. Topgun says:

    Can’t agree enough re: Hemostats! After picking up a half-dozen surplus stats in asstd. sizes, for about a buck apiece, I was amazed at how often they were used. Grabbing a loose screw, moving a wire, whatever…and they lock, so it’s like having an extra hand sometimes! They’re one little tool that’s always in plain view on my ‘go-to’ toolbelt.

  7. PeterP says:

    These days, the first thing I do with a new case is replace the stupid hex head screws with proper knurled thumbscrews. You can pick them up for next to nothing and they make any future work a breeze.

  8. Guy says:

    My thoughts;

    DMM
    Mirror on a stick
    Magnet on a stick
    ScrewStarter (HJJ if you can find one)
    And best of all a LED headlight so you can really impress you Geek friends. Seriously, great when you need you hands free to work on something.

  9. mhardy says:

    1. A spudger (or two) http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/108-4054

    2. I agree with the grounding strap, or a grounding adapter: http://www.cyberguys.com/templates/SearchDetail.asp?productID=5338

    Off topic: has anyone been able to get suggest a tool to work? when I hit submit I always get a PAGE NOT FOUND error.

  10. ddrfreak says:

    Ummm… i recommend you NOT submit this to digg. They will tear you up for the annoying “one item per page” pattern here.

    More hits=more money=angry readers.

    List it all on one page!

  11. ScottF says:

    I have been working on PC’s since the Apple II days in the late 70’s. My kit has shrunk from a large tool box to slender Phillips, a leatherman and a small box for misc. screws, jumpers and other tiny parts. Today’s machines are designed to be easy to service. All of the other tools I might use on other electronic devices, but not PC’s.

  12. Zathrus says:

    Ulthor/PeterP — sure, the case access can be screwless or secured with thumbscrews, and drive bays too, but the motherboard will be secured to the case (or a tray) with screws. The heatsink often requires screws as well, either to attach or remove (or both). And while there are a few screwless expansion slot systems, they’re pretty few and far between.

    And good luck getting away from screws in the data center…

    @MrHardy — I got that error as well earlier this week; I don’t recall getting it a few months ago.

    And ddrfreak — who said anything about Digg? Yes, the one tool/page on this particular article is a bit annoying, but it’s rare for this site.

  13. C. Nerd says:

    Can of air. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve cracked open a case and blew out a ton of lint and dust, restarted the pc and BAM! Works!

  14. Kris says:

    Second the headlamp, unless you like sucking on your flashlight when you need both hands.

    A stubby phillips #2 screwdriver or stubby driver handle for your bit set.

    It’s also nice to have a built-in screw holder clamp on your non-stubby phillips when you need one hand to drive the screw, one hand to hold the screw until you start it, and another hand to hold the case together.

    I find most of the extraction tools on page # 10 are worthless – suggest a long pair of hemostats or a long (9″+) fish hook extractor.

    One comment, Guy: Magnets and Magnetic Media (like your hard disk) are not friends!

  15. Zathrus says:

    Kris, you cannot buy a magnet with a strong enough field to damage a modern hard drive (at least, not without opening the case, in which case you’ve already trashed the drive), and flash media are completely immune to it. If you’re still using floppy disks then you have other problems.

    Modern drives fly the head within a few nanometers of the surface because that’s the only way the magnets have enough field strength to actually affect the media. Even if you buy the strongest trapezoidal magnet from a place like Applied Magnetics you won’t affect the data on the drive. You probably will crush your hand though.

  16. Eric says:

    Hearty agreement on:
    -Hemostats
    -Air
    -Flashlight
    -Headlamp (even if you just lay it down near your work area as a mini worklight)

    I’ve also found it useful to be able to vacuum dust out. Haven’t used one of those miniature portable vacuums yet, and would be interested to head some feedback on them.

  17. Pat says:

    Being in IT there are four tools I find meet about 90% of my needs if used creatively.

    1. Precision screw drivers (can do the work of their bigger brothers easier then the other way around if in a pinch)
    2. Precision torx drivers (great Husky tool available at the Depot http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&productId=100087664&langId=-1&catalogId=10053 )
    3. Needle nosed pliers (used in conjunction with the previous two makes removing stubborn screws much easier, push down on the screw driver and use the pliers to twist)
    4. A powerful magnet (Careful with them but used in conjunction with a precision screw driver and a steady hand makes for the best screw retrieval tool I have found)

  18. Alene Dereus says:

    My ipod touch 1G is my most important iPod, Pda and much more, as well as has has been since I gotten it. It also work on the up-to-date iPod system software program, and any app I need it to run. I’m working with it to leave this comment at this time. Iwould point out it’s a much more as compared to simply just an “excellent hobbyist system” — you’ll find it an fantastic iPod

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