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PC Repair Kit Suggestions


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Over in the Hacks, Mods, and Code section, a topic on Hacker Backpacks was brought back from the dead, and it lists a lot of neat tools that aid in hacking. Shortly after it was revived, I needed some tool at work (computer tech for a school district) to test some PCs we think have bad power supplies now (lightning bolt, blown transformer, etc...). I didn't have one, so we ended up borrowing one from a neighboring district. After that, I was told to order that and anything else that I might need to help fix computers. Loving the fact that I now have a basic open ticket to order supplies, I'm at a loss as what all I should really have in a repair kit for PCs. So, I thought I'd ask here and see what the generally accepted list of parts is, and go for that.

What would you say is the essential gear for fixing PCs? The tool I needed was just a Power Supply tester, so I know that one is a must. I've seen posted around the web a device you plug into PCI slots and it tests the motherboard post codes, as well as the power supply too, so that might work better. http://www.casemodgod.com/new_page_2.htm is something I'd love to make, as well as other do-it-yourself kits like that, but I still need parts for those.

If you have any suggestions for networking tools as well, I'm all ears, as I tend to fix those problems too, along with just about anything else electrical (I've had to take apart VCRs to recover VHS tapes for teachers in the past). I know a good multi-meter would be a wise investment, just not sure on what kind of those to get either.

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Depending on what you plan on repair will help you decide on what tools you will need. If you are going to need to repair primarily desktops then you should probably go to a LOWS hardware store and pickup a Kobalt screwdriver that has 8 heads in the handle. (also it's magnetic) I say LOWS because Kobalt tools are exclusive to them and Kobalt tools are the best set of small hand tools I have every had. Plus if you break any part of them or wear the head out you can take the receipt back and get a new one no questions. (lifetime warranty) But back to the point. A powersupply tester is a good idea. Get one that isn't to cheap but don't spend more then $25. You also would want to get a pair of pliers to pull cables out of things like a HDD or an optical drive. You also might want to get something to pry the side of a case off. Sometimes after the side of the case has been on the box for a couple of years it can be hard to slide off. If this is so use the flat object, such as a flat head screwdriver, to pry the back lip back causing the rest to slide. I would also get a music CD and a DVD movie to test if optical drive problems are hardware or software. To save yourself some time have a paperclip on hand so you don't have to always turn the comp on to get a diagnostic disk out of the drive.

If you are going to be primarily repairing laptops then you are going to need some extra tools. Some of the tools from above will work of course. Depending on what kind of laptops you are going to be working on you may not need some of the tools more then the others. One tool I would pickup is a torque screw with 4 shafts in the handle with two heads per shaft. (also magnetic)(and also kobalt) I would also pickup some kobalt hooks. This will in a lot of cases prevent you from making pry marks on the laptop you are working on which is caused by trying to pry up a round object using a rectangular screwdriver. Depending on where you work you might want to pickup both or either an external optical drive and an external floppy drive. The optical drive will be good if the internal optical drive goes bad and you need to boot to a CD. The floppy drive will be good if you need to load some RAID drivers if your Win installation hasn't been slipstreamed. I would also get a USB mouse and keyboard in-case some of the controllers are bad or if the touchpad or keyboard is damaged.

If you are going to work on Dell XPSs get an internal USB PCI card because I work on maybe 15 XPSs a week that have failed USB controllers. Since there are no PS2 ports you are SOL if you don't have one.

The best tool for any new tech is www.google.com .

Oyeah get a cheap small flashlight.

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I'd have to agree with a lot of what blunderboy said. I'm also a technician for a school district and i have a lot of neat tools that i like to use. For one an external optical drive is great. This is when you need to lets say install something on a computer that doesn't have a DVD reader in it. So pick up an external DVD optical drive. Next a 3.5 and 2.5 HDD sled is very nice for backing up data in a computer that the motherboard may have fried. You already got your power supply tester. Make sure to get some good torque screwdrivers. Flashlight is good. If you gotta pull cable in dark ceilings be sure to get a  cap light. Just attaches to like a baseball cap and its kinda like a mining shaft helmet. Next for networks you'll wanna get a tone generator. This is good for tracing wires back to the closet. Also get one that has a built in cable mapper. You'll also need some RJ-45 crimpers and cable strippers. I could think of a thousand things that i use everyday. Finally i would suggest getting a good sized flash drive. A 2gb should do.

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* Screwdriver, as many as you can find because you'll always need the one you don't have

*As has been said a swiss army knife or something, and mybe some pliers

*All the adapters you can gather up (VGA->DVI, serial->PS/2, USB->PS/2, Mac video->VGA, USB->IDE/SATA, etc)

*A multimeter

*Some blank floppies/CDs

*A pen and paper for notes

*A USB stick full of anti-crapware tools and testing tools (SiSoft Sandra or AIDA32 for checking hardware specs without opening the box) and network diagnostics stuff if required

*A couple of film cannisters for screws

*A mouse

*Compressed air

There's probably stuff I've forgotten, but that should be enough to comfortably fix most machines without realising you need something you don't have.

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I'm also a techie for a school (although I am a senior at it also).  I would suggest a good Leather man or Gerber Multi-tool.  Over the summer we put in over 200 computers and my leather man became my best friend.  Also, a decent pair of crimpers, lots of Cat 6 cable, heads, and splitters (if you run phone over the Cat 6).  By an industrial grade portable electric screw driver.  I would spend at least $150 on it, but it is very useful.  Also buy a shopvac for cleaning out the dusty computers.

On the subject, does anyone know of a multi tool that comes with crimpers.  I have searched, but with little luck.  I know there are tech multi tools out there its just that not many of them are what I'm looking for.

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If you are going to work on laptops you can also pickup a universal A/C adapter. But if you are working for a company that uses only one type of computer then you wont need it. The VGA to DVI and DVI to VGA converter was a great idea but again of you are only going to working on one type of computer you may not need it. The external 3.5" HDD was a good idea. I would probably go with a Seagate Freeagent. If you are going to go with a 2.5" external HDD then I would look into the WesternDigital passport. Unfortunately with almost every 2.5" external HDD most fail faster then a normal internal 2.5" HDD because people tend to move them a lot more. I say a WD Passport because I have one and I have done one of those drop and fumble tricks where I saw it falling and I thought I could catch it but all I did was slap it around in my hand right before it hit the carpet. (the fall was maybe 2 feet. The only problem with the WD Passport is that I hear that you can only use the USB cord that comes with the HDD.

I would also pickup a crossover cable for computer to computer transfers. Also you might want to pickup a Cat5/6 10/100/1000 cable tester with a remote attachment. That is if you are going to working with any networking. Aslo if you are going to work with very long cables there is a pen looking tool that will help you pinpoint where the cable has gone bad if you run the tip along the cable.

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Thanks for all the suggestions. My list is growing quite nicely now thanks to all that you've said. I had a few things that were suggested, so I'm gonna try to fill in the gaps in my kit. Now if I just had a bag of infinite holding to tote all this in...


You mention the use of a crossover cable to transfer files from PC to PC. Would a USB cable to do the same thing work faster, or would that depend on the nic's involved? I can't remember which one would be faster, USB transfer or crossover cable.

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I would also pickup a crossover cable for computer to computer transfers. Also you might want to pickup a Cat5/6 10/100/1000 cable tester with a remote attachment. That is if you are going to working with any networking. Aslo if you are going to work with very long cables there is a pen looking tool that will help you pinpoint where the cable has gone bad if you run the tip along the cable.

You can make your crossover cables if you get the cable, and for a testing tool, I would recommend a fluke.

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Magnetic screwdriver with bits

Jewellers screwdrivers

Large Anti-static mat

Needle nose pliers


3 claw parts retriever/extractor

Temperature controlled soldering iron


Solder Sucker

IC Inserter

IC Extractor

Flash Drive

Live CD

USB/Firewire to IDE/SATA

Windows 2000/XP/Vista CD’s /DVD’s

There is a lot more stuff you could use but if the computer is that fucked up, you may as well just buy another as it will be cheaper.

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