Security

10 essential items for onsite tech jobs

Save yourself the embarrassment and aggravation of discovering you don't have the tools you need when you arrive at a job site. With these basic items, you'll be ready for almost anything.

Save yourself the embarrassment and aggravation of discovering you don't have the tools you need when you arrive at a job site. With these basic items, you'll be ready for almost anything.


When you're out on a troubleshooting call, the last thing you want is to be unprepared. Not only does it make you look bad, it's unprofessional and reflects poorly on your company. Because you can't always know what you are getting into, it's best to travel with more than enough. Luckily,

Here's a list of the items I have with me on every run out. With these items, I am rarely unprepared.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: ccleaner

Ccleaner is a freeware utility for system optimization, privacy, and cleaning. This tool will remove unused files from a hard drive and clean up online history. But more important, it includes an outstanding registry cleaner. Just be sure you use this tool with caution so you don't delete files that are actually important.

2: AVG Antivirus

AVG Antivirus is one of the first lines of defense I suggest to clients. And although AVG Free is fine for household use, make sure you are suggesting the Pro version for your commercial clients. The Pro version adds many features, including the ability to scan for rootkits.

3: Puppy Linux (or Knoppix)

I don't leave the house without Puppy Linux. You never know when you are going to require a tool that can run checks on hardware that a running operating system can't do. With either Puppy or Knoppix, you can reboot your machine into a live system and do maintenance that Windows simply can't do while running.

4: Extra flash drives

How many times have you done backups or needed to save log files and had nothing to save to? I always carry numerous flash drives of various sizes. I even carry empty flash drives in case a client needs one. Those items can always be billed.

5: Combofix

Combofix can really save your hide. This tool will scan for known malware and/or spyware and safely remove it. When Combofix completes its scan/removal, it will generate a report you can save and reference later (when billing or when a similar behavior strikes.)

6: Paper and pen

Paper and pen will always win. You never know when you need to jot down notes. And although most consultants are never too far away from their trusty laptops, you can't leave your laptop with the client so they can read your recommendations. Being able to quickly jot down an error message or thought is so much easier with your trusty pad and writing utensil.

7: Malware Bytes Anti-Malware

Malware Bytes Anti-Malware is one of the best tools for removing malware from a PC. Unlike a lot of its competition, Malware Bytes Anti-Malware can safely remove even advanced malware.

8: MiFi-like device

There are times when you need your good old friend Google. But what happens when your client's network is down or when you can't join their wireless network? You need to be able to have a connection with you at all times. Most mobile providers offer portable wireless access points (like the Verizon MiFi). These tools can get you wireless access where ever you have a cellular signal.

9: Ethernet cable

How many times have you had to scramble for another Ethernet cable? Whether it's to hook up a printer or that other machine that's just "sitting around doing nothing," most clients won't be prepared with spare cables. Having a spare can also provide your own laptop with connectivity when you can't get on your client's wireless network.

10: Snacks

You've been tirelessly working on an issue and lunch time comes and goes. You're trying to track down that virus and your stomach is growling. If you're like me, you start getting a bit grouchy once that hunger really sets in. Do yourself a favor and carry around a snack to avoid this problem. You and your clients will be happy you did.

Other items?

Do you travel with the items on this list? What other favorite tools and supplies do you always take to your onsite jobs?


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66 comments
martinep1
martinep1

Yes, you should always keep a toolkit to cover all common issue bases for known problems.

rlambertsc
rlambertsc

Nothing worse than trying keep your sanity while your blood sugar is dropping

ajogadeo2
ajogadeo2

hi , my name is Deogracious ajoga Senior IT support engineer, i loved this tips . most of our inexpirienced,untidy technicians always think this small things dont matter!, be carefull, dont spoil our names up there. we`re watching your every move. always go prepared. be called a gadget boy. regards to all. AJOGADEO2. Johannesburg, South africa

oz_ollie
oz_ollie

I always have the latest version of SystemRescueCD - http://www.sysresccd.org/, a blank 250GB USB hard drive, my laptop, a 3G wireless mobile broadband USB dongle and an FTP server back in my office so if I need any small utilities that I use infrequently I can download them to my laptop without searching the Internet. I have to disagree with floppy disks, booting from CDs is just as easy and you can fit much more onto a CD. In the last 12-months I've also stopped supporting any Windows version prior to Windows XP SP3, anything older just isn't worth the hassles.

RayJeff
RayJeff

I don't know about everyone, but I still say floppy drives are still needed with the newer computers. While the floppy disk may not be used by the computer user of today, those jokers are the best thing since sliced bread for people like us.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

A Windows 98 USB Driver Disc for my external HDD Enclosures. Only thing that I didn't have for a system that I was taking out of service and to help matters even more the External Caddy that I carry worked a treat. The problem was that the 64 Bit version of Windows 7 on the new computer couldn't read that original 98 created Partition. Of course if I had of had my NB running XP with me I wouldn't have had to make a 150 Km round trip to get something to read the old computers HDD or the USB Driver for the OS on it. Even several burnt Cd's would have made very little difference to my tool bag and one of them would have saved me a lot of time and petrol. Of course the USB 98 Driver Floppy would have taken up even less space and added no extra weight to my tool bag either. Another one that I'll chalk up to experience now that a lot of the very old systems are being replaced with new 7 systems. Live and Learn but this one is up there with the new mouse that simply didn't work when I went out of a Service Call. I spent hours and lots of money trying to find any place who sold a lousy mouse 250 Km's from base. ;) Col

LeonBA
LeonBA

I use a Xubuntu CD, or the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. The UBCDWin in fact is designed for that kind of work--it includes a host of diagnostic and repair utilities for Windows.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Or just plug in mt HTC Hero - tethering allowed out the box.

RayJeff
RayJeff

I have to say that Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware & CCleaner have really come to be my main software tools in my kit. Pens...I keep pens like there is no tomorrow. Oh..what about a small switch? And the ubiquitous multi-function all-in-one pocket toolkit. I bought 2 of them on sale from Staples about 10 years ago. But, of course I have a regular full-sized toolkit as well.

soates_cyberlink
soates_cyberlink

Ever show up and the user doesn't know an admin account password or their own in some cases. To be used cautiously and with expressed permission of user or management!!!

kktm
kktm

A clean copy of the hosts file for windows to replace an infected one.

agrod
agrod

My Essential 10 include: 1. My MacBook Pro 2. Dlink Pocket AP/Router/Client 3. 15 FT Straight and Cross-Over Ethernet cables 4. USB to IDE/Slim IDE/SATA bridge - for data backups 5. 1 to 3 micro extension cord - sometimes there is only one available plug! 6. iPhone - combination flashlight, camera and internet tether 7. Hiren's Boot Disk - best boot disk in my opinion 8. Bootable and empty USB flash drives 9. USB floppy disk drive (and empty floppies) - to install pesky F6 RAID drivers in Servers 10. Empty CDs and DVDs

ckensek
ckensek

Re AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0 This product is free for download for home use/personal use only. It's not licensed for home businesses/commercial clients. The free edition does have basic rootkit protection. The paid version does have enhanced capabilities.

jck
jck

Fully charged, of course.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

A laptop is also helpful, especially if you have an air card.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I quit smoking a pack per day and now I'm chewing two of those...addictive little buggers...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

My work being primarily hardware- and cable-related, I carry a fairly comprehensive set of tools into each job: I wear a belt holster that holds a Leatherman, a knife, an LED Maglite, and a pen. In the toolbag I carry to all inside jobs, I have: 5 Screwdrivers - 1/8" x 4" and 1/4" x 4 standard, #0 x 4, #1 x 3, and #2 x 4 Phillips 3 Nutdrivers - 1/8", 3/16", 1/4" 4" Long nose pliers 6" Chain nose pliers 6" Side cutters 4" Crescent wrench All of these are the individual tool; no bit sets. I learned a long time ago that I'd much rather pick it up and put it down than have to stop and change a bit. Also in the tool bag: 1" putty knife/scraper (cleans dried spills from point-of-sale equipment) Magnetic pickup tool (for picking up the inevitable dropped screw!) Crimping tool with three integrated dies: 4P, 6P, and 8P UTP/STP Cable stripper 110/66 punchdown tool zip ties Outlet tester digital multimeter Cat 5 circuit tester Spare Cat 5 cable assorted small parts: screws, clips, connectors, etc. My software kit (in the laptop bag) includes: - Knoppix and Puppy Linux - Ultimate Boot CD - Bootable CD with both Clonezilla and Ghost - Memtest86 - #1 TuffTest diagnostics - Win98 boot floppies (still VERY useful) A digital camera, flash drives, a USB floppy drive, and USB hard drives also travel in the laptop bag. This is what I find essential. I don't use everything in the bag on each call, but I can cover 98% of my calls with what I carry inside every time. edit: question marks?

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

I don't go anyware without my mini maglite, my leatherman, and some jewlers screwdrivers. I find that I need them to work with laptops. I also carry a mini USB wi-fi adapter along with my flash drives. On one of my flash drives I use as a "toolbox" with serveral virus and malewars scanners and shortcuts to my favorite online scanners, and magic jellybean keyfinder.

mwagner
mwagner

zip ties and wire cutters

Nickgreene
Nickgreene

Not really in my case, but a couple things i keep in a small box in my trunk are: 1. New IDE & Sata drives 2. Ghost images of most of our systems (maybe 10-15 different mobo/os combos we deploy) on an external drive box. 3. PCI Network Card w/ drivers. 4. Case/CPU fans

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

From memory, the default Windows hosts file is empty except for a few a few comment lines (beginning #). If one forgets a clean copy of the file, they may be able to just echo a comment string over top creating a new empty file(the singel > not double).

jefflagaya
jefflagaya

Ive used knoppix. i think its good. also for older pc you need to have IDE cables (new) because sometimes its the cause. some video cards.

thomascwhitfield
thomascwhitfield

I forgot how useful those Win98 Boot Disks really were. One quickly realizes they shouldn't really be described as "optional" like it says in the Win98 installation process.

babznme
babznme

You do carry just a bit more than I do, however...you are right on about the 98 disk! It has saved my butt more than a few times. When I can't get their computer to boot any other way, its the one that works. I put a cd driver on it and it will let me into the directory of whatever cd I need if that cd does not boot by itself for any reason. 98 disk is great for partitioning, fdisking, check disk, scan disk, ton of simple great tools! I still need to get me aportable usb floppy drive though! Great for those newer machines!

santeewelding
santeewelding

The word, "of". Noticing these things, I recommend that you don't need to keep it in your tool belt. You are prone, not only here ("all [u]of[/u] these"), but to burden yourself elsewhere in your written speech. Just what you want to hear.

abrown
abrown

These are always in my car, if not my tool bag!

babznme
babznme

My experience on client's machines with AVG is that AVG does not catch what Avast does catch. Avast Home edition has performed better than any other so called free anti virus software I have found on other machines. The other day I was collecting images from the internet and Avast dropped my connection on one of them because the pic had been embedded with a trojan. Get this....it was a pic of Jesus! Love Avast, get Avast, you will love it too! I have all my clients get it...

babznme
babznme

Yes, I carry usb drives for my more modern clients, but the older ones sometimes still need a modem or ethernet card, you can even install a floppy drive in those that don't have one and remove it later if the customer doesn't want it...at least if you have one around and you need it...oh and a vga card is good to have too...good list Nick! I carry mice too!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If the installation files are on the hard drive, there's a pristine hosts file in c:\i386. There is one active line in the file: [pre]127.0.0.1 localhost[/pre]

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The floppy set I have also supports USB devices. B-)

babznme
babznme

Although I understand the need for concise written language when writing tech answers or instructions, when did we become the grammar cops? And what's the matter with how he used the word 'of'? I went back and read it again, seems fine. But thanks, Santee, for keeping an eye out for us geeks & nerds. We forget not everyone speaks english....Peace!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I thought they may have hard coded the loopback rather than requiring it's entry in the hosts file. Especialy with the file being burried several directories deep inside \drivers\ rather than a traditional config type directory.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

You didn't really expect them to change it, did you? ;)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Ah.. so it's exactly like the original from the unix world then: echo "127.0.0.1 localhost" > \path\hosts I wasn't sure if localhost was there or simply coded into the windows tcp/ip protocol.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I still use a floppy at home as my boot partition. There are just to many benefits to having it kick up the grub menu; the least of which is not having it eaten should I reinstall Windows (it still doesn't play nice with multi-boot).

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I carry a Bootable Optical Disc as well, both CD and DVD the floppy is just another well used item in my Tool Box. ;) Though I may need to start thinking about including a USB Optical Drive. Though to be perfectly honest I still fit floppy drives to every new system that I build. :p Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

As [b]Must Have[/b] tools in every tool box. ;) Col

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

is knowing when to break the rules. B-)

lefty.crupps
lefty.crupps

Part of the game is never putting important info or half of your post in the subject line, for emails, blogs, etc. ;)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

"Alla dese tings" does not read well.

santeewelding
santeewelding

With grace does my good, big friend acquit himself.

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