I still remember the first call-out I ever had as a computer repair technician. I was subcontracting for a larger computer repair company and the job was to look at a failed hard drive in an industrial desktop computer following a storm the night before. I remember well the first words of the owner of the business as I walked into his facility. ‘Where’s your toolbox?’ he said.
Walking into that business as a novice I really didn’t yet know what sorts of tools I might need on the job. I now have my own well-established computer repair business and I’ve completed almost 2000 jobs. I also have a well-established computer repair toolkit which comes with me to every job, and without which I would be very limited in what I can do.
The photograph accompanying this article shows my toolkit as it stands today. That little box contains almost everything I need with any regularity and I’d like to look at its contents in more detail. The box itself is actually a fishing tackle box from Kmart and it’s possible to conveniently split it into sections using the dividers provided. Let’s look at what’s in there.
I have one main screwdriver which has a set of 24 different tips, ranging from different sizes of flat-head, to different sizes of Phillips-head, to hexagonal, star-shaped and triangular tips. This range of tips covers just about every possible circumstance, though I do also have several more screwdrivers in the toolkit. In particular I also have a Pentalobe screwdriver for use in disassembling MacBooks and phones.
If you look at the top row of the toolkit you’ll see that I have a couple of double AA batteries and also a couple of CR2032’s. I’ve rarely needed the double AA’s but it’s handy to carry some of these around (and possibly a couple of triple AAA’s too). The CR2032’s are specifically for motherboards which use one of these as a CMOS battery. Having said that, it’s actually quite rare to come across a motherboard which requires replacement of its CMOS battery.
Next up you’ll see that a couple of the little compartments contain various spare screws. These are screws that I’ve picked up from broken computers and you never know when these might come in useful. In particular, it’s pretty common to come across laptops that have screws missing from the base. I’ve often thought that many laptops are assembled with more screws than is really necessary but it’s better to have the screws than not have them if that’s the way the laptop’s been built.
Glue and Thermal Paste
The next compartment along contains a tube of Super Glue and a tube of thermal paste, as well as a little grease cleansing wipe. Underneath there’s also a spatula for application of the thermal paste. You’re likely to need thermal paste regularly, particularly when carrying out thermal maintenance on a laptop or desktop computer, when it’s necessary to remove the old thermal paste and apply a new layer.
Prying Tools, Magnets & Suction Cups
A variety of prying tools is essential, particularly for the disassembly of laptops and removal of the glass from certain iMac’s. Using a plastic tool for this purpose is important so that you don’t mark the case in any way. I buy sets of prying tools which contain different types such as circular ones and longer ones. Having said that the type of ‘prying tool’ I use most is a simple guitar plectrum. I buy the hardest ones possible and, because they are thin and tough, they are extremely effective for prying things apart where there is only the smallest of gaps.
I have a couple of magnets which can be useful in retrieving screws that have fallen into inaccessible places. I also have a magnetiser (not shown in the toolkit) which is useful for magnetising a screwdriver when you need to put screws back in to inaccessible places.
There are also a couple of suction cups and I have much larger suction cups as well, specifically for the purpose of removing the glass from certain iMac’s.
Having some sort of torch is essential as you may have to work in places with low lighting. The insides of desktop computers also tend to be rather dark. I usually end up using the torch on my mobile phone and I also have a much more powerful torch available should I need to light up a larger area.
It’s always useful to have an empty thumb drive available, should you need to transfer files, or for use in a BIOS update when the USB drive would need to be formatted as FAT32. The other thumb drives in my toolkit actually contain a number of versions of the macOS for use when reinstallation on a Mac is required.
My most important thumb drive isn’t part of my toolkit but is always with me as I carry it on my key-ring. This is a bootable thumb drive which contains all sorts of utilities as well as installers for various operating systems and applications.
Pliers and Scissors
Finally, at the front of the toolkit, you’ll see that I have a small set of pliers and a small set of scissors. Both are useful in various situations. I also have a roll of insulation tape which is often useful on the insides of laptops in particular. You’ll also see there a roll of solder and I have a couple of soldering irons and a solder sucker in the car. I rarely do jobs that require any soldering but it’s always good to have all the options available at your fingertips.
As mentioned earlier, the contents of this toolkit, together with my main USB drive, are adequate for most everyday situations. I’ve also referred to some larger items I carry in my vehicle, such as a magnetiser, suction cups, a torch, and soldering equipment. The boot of my vehicle is filled with the necessary bits and pieces, as well as spare parts, and it’s important to have everything available for any and every situation you might encounter.
Guest article written by: Norm is from Northern Ireland originally and moved to Brisbane, Australia in 2019 after living in Sydney since 2009. He launched Norm’s Computer Repairs from nothing in Sydney in 2016 and the company grew rapidly over the following three years. Norm has restyled the company as Norm’s Computer Services in Brisbane and he offers on-site and remote computer repairs, services and upgrades. He is a certified IT Support Professional.