Leadership

Video: Build a complete IT toolkit for go-anywhere tech support

Whether you're traveling across the city or going from one side of the building to the other, there's nothing more irritating than being on a support call and not having the right tools. Bill Detwiler goes over a list of items that should be in your IT repair toolkit.

Whether you're traveling across the city or going from one side of the building to the other, there's nothing more irritating than being on a support call and not having the right tools. Since experience is always the best teacher, TechRepublic asked its members for advice in compiling a list of tools for IT support pros, and we received a lot of great feedback. In this IT Dojo video, I'll go over a list of items that should be in your IT repair toolkit.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can go to the video player page for this IT Dojo episode and click "See Full Transcript," or you can also read Mike Walton's download, "10+ tools you should have in your support tech repair kit," and my article, "Build an IT toolkit fit for almost any occasion," on which this video is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest IT Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

62 comments
takaharu
takaharu

By past experience, a mask is useful for the rediculous amount of dust you get in PCs and something to clean the dust with, like a can of compressed air.

mjfebus
mjfebus

Not bad but I do not know if he added the can of air for the kit yet but it is important or a must have with you.

russraburn
russraburn

I never go anywhere without my Modular Plug Hand Tool in case I need to terminate a CAT6 cable. A punch tool for RJ45 wall jacks is also quite handy! Some basic tools might include wire ties for wire management and a utility knife for opening packages, etc.

marvin
marvin

Good video. Two items I would add is a guitar pick & small paper cups. The guitar pick is great for snaping open a notebook case -- after all the screws are taken out. To keep screws in order, use small paper cups to coordinate which assembly (step) you are on. Helps make sure all the "right screws" go in the "right" places.

TheAncient
TheAncient

"For those of you who prefer text to video, you can go to the video player page for this IT Dojo episode and click ???See Full Transcript,??? Where is the link to this transcript?

byoung
byoung

Great video, Bill. With your permission, I'd like to show it to my students taking A+ at the local community college. One recommendation: I tell my students to carry their tools in a soft-sided tool container, and even then, always set it on the floor, not some executive's oak desktop.

jnenadal
jnenadal

Where is the power supply tester? About 70% of all computers I work on have a bad power supply which sometimes results in damages to the mainboard, CPU and RAM. Testing the power supply first can help you prevent wasting time by ensuring that the system is getting the power it needs. Also, a bad power supply can damage components, so you wouldn't want to use a bad power supply on new parts. Test it first. If it's bad, replace it and see if the computer works now. If still no POST, at least you know the power supply won't damage the next board. Another important tool is a cattle prod. This can be used to keep those annoying customers away that have to have their noses right in the computer while you are troubleshooting. One quick zap, they hit the wall, and you have at least 15 minutes of free time to figure out what is wrong with the faulty machine.

eatont9999
eatont9999

Extra power cable or two and a digital PSU tester are good to have.

LENNY
LENNY

you must include some cotton bud and some cleaning materials as well. Lenny

mpoyhonen
mpoyhonen

I would add a magnifying glass.

ralphsabean
ralphsabean

One tool was not mentioned much was a magnifying lamp when soldering and desoldering equipment and lighting is very important but you need the magnifying lamp as well too check for soldering faults and hidden beads as well as bad connections.There were many items mentioned that I would not have thought of there as well. Some times a spare monitor is needed too.

franciscofossa
franciscofossa

Crimper (minimal with RJ11 and RJ45), Cable cutter, RJ11 AND RJ45 connectors!! Same consideration if working with BNC or fiber!!! A Cellular phone capable of handsfree operation!!!!!!!!!! and/or PDA with WIFI capability (Bluetooth maybe too)

srmcevoy
srmcevoy

My set of screw driver's are static conducting. In stead of shocking the component it transfers it up the handle. I also Carry All windows OS Disks, a multiboot recover disk with erdmans, Slax Linux, Windows PE. On my thumb drive I carry malwarebytes, regcure, ccleaner, adaware, and asquared to clean up infected machines. http://bookreviewsandmore.ca/2008/11/computer-tools-tips-and-tricks.html

jon
jon

I frequently need some kind of serial cable to connect to the management interface of embedded devices, switches or routers. I have made a collection of 6 (3 male & 3 female)serial adapters with DP9 in one end and RJ45 in the other. These allows me to make 8 different DP9 -> DP9 serial cables and a DP9 -> RJ45 serial cable just by using a normal patchcable. Many new laptops dos not have a serial port, so my kit also include a USB to Serial adapter.

alinawaz83
alinawaz83

Where is RJ-45 connectors, Extra power and Data cables, testing twisted pair cables, etc

neidle
neidle

The video was fine, but you missed my favorite tool. I do a lot of computer deployments and found that a 7-in-1 screwdriver can be the only tool that I need. It is quicker and safer for opening cardboard boxes than a box cutter and you still have a screwdriver for aid in removing stubborn data cables.

le Korozif
le Korozif

Hello everyone! I've been doing service calls and installation projects for the past 5 years and I've found a few gizmos that saved my life a few times: Fluke Volt Alert (http://us.fluke.com/usen/products/Fluke+1ACII+VoltAlert.htm?catalog_name=FlukeUnitedStates) a small pen that tells you in a flash if there is current...or not! Stanley Snips (http://www.stanleytools.com/default.asp?CATEGORY=HT+SNIPS&TYPE=PRODUCT&PARTNUMBER=14-569&SDesc=7%26%2334%3B+MaxSteel%26%23153%3B+All%2DPurpose+Snips+Straight+Pattern) Usefull to cut tie-wraps, bundles of old cables or just anything else! Klein level (http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053&productId=100648004&N=10000003+90401+503486) usefull when you need to mount rails in "un-numbered, un-labeled racks" Cable tie cutters (http://www.idealindustries.com/prodDetail.do?prodId=15-991) Getting tired of scratching your arms with razor-sharp cable-tie? Cut them flush! Fish tape (http://www.idealindustries.com/products/wire_installation/fish_tapes/zoom.jsp) Usefull for routing cable under desk, in cabinet etc... and finally, a tool that every computer tech should carry: A nice pocket knife (http://www.victorinox.com/index.cfm?site=victorinox.ch&page=563&lang=E)

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In the following IT Dojo video, I go over a list of items that should be in your IT repair toolkit. Original blog post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=225 If you favorite IT tool isn't on our list, tell us what it is and why you won't leave the call center without it in the IT Dojo blog.

celia.wirth
celia.wirth

Those double sided velcro tie backs are lightweight and handy. I keep my tools in a 5 gallon paint bucket with a swivel padded fishing bucket lid so that it doubles as a convenient chair, regardless of how small the space is.

Niall Baird
Niall Baird

I dunno, but when you find it, please let the rest of us know! (I can't access the video either!)

michael_orton
michael_orton

1/ I got a digital voltmeter from a Charity shop in Newquay and find it very useful and 2/ A mother board tester. It has PCI and isa connectors. Plug into empty m/b and it gives numerical error codes. A few weeks ago I put this to good use. Was talking to a friend who was repairing a PC. He was about to bin a m/b and processor. One of the SATA ports was broken and bits of printed cct in the air. I grabbed it. Bunged araldite around the bits blowing in the breeze, and found that one of the sata ports appeared to be undamaged. The CPU was a P-iv 2.8 Ghz. Got a sata to 1 gig digital camara memory SD card, stuck in a scrap IDE Raid card for the IDE Hdds. Used the SD card for GRUB boot loader, added 2 gig scrap RAM. loaded openSuse11.0 and Mandriva 2009 and its an excellent PC. I did have to buy a 250 Gig IDE HD from eBay, but a good PC made up from scrap parts for under 60 quid. Fortunately I have a 6foot stack of large plastic bins of scrap PC parts. When my local PC recycling place closed I came away with the back of my car full of bits. Again the DVM was useful in cheaking the system, and the F-prot and partition magic 8.00 useful for ethnically cleansing the HD and re formatting it with all the partitions that I use in Linux, one for each file permission type etc. bTW I did use an old 40 gig HD for the actual program files. The other very useful object is an external 500 Gig HD, half formatted FAT32 and the other half, ext2 to transfer saved work partitions. Oh I have a mains cable with just the earth wire connected to earth the case as I work on it.

bhughes55
bhughes55

Good one -- hahahaha. Very good!!!!!!!!

vtassone
vtassone

Thermal paste. I like the cattle prod idea. It would come in handy when repairing a laptop and the customers cat runs across the table scatering all the damned screws. I also have one of those plastic 7 day pill boxes. Great for keeping screws in while working on a machine.

michael_orton
michael_orton

I got via eBay form Hong Kong for under a tenner a bit of plastic that has a 40/44/ pin and SATA ports that will take any HDD, it also has a power unit. This will allow you to break into any HDD when attached as a USB2 device to a linux PC. I also use Helix Computer Forensics live cd, which works with any PC with a Cd or DVD rom and a USB2 port for the Magic Bridge. It shows that if you have physical access, there is no such thing as IT security. I also have a bootable CD with Clam and F-prot AV Sw to "ethnically cleanse" PCs.

HTHelms
HTHelms

I have to get a bigger toolbox after seeing this....but mine always has a couple of new 2032 batteries.

chris.drabble
chris.drabble

Always carry some Blue Tak - put a Blob on the end of a long screwdriver to retrieve inaccessible screws - much safer than grippers (often no room to expand) and of course magnetic screwdrivers are a no-no. Plus a range of those very long jewellers type screwdrivers both flat and cross headed.

ray.derkacz
ray.derkacz

I'do include a selection of rubber bands for temporarily holding things in place. Also good for turning a pair of pliers into a clamp.

EVGA
EVGA

3 tools that have saved lifes. 1. Lcd Powersupply tester $20 from amazon. 2. Postcard Tester 3. A multipair tester With TDR.

mark.levy
mark.levy

I realize that I'm dating myself here; I'd guess that most people today have never seen a "wire wrap" tool. I have a simple, cheap wire wrap tool and a spool of wire that I keep in my kit. There was a day that I didn't have my kit at all, but I needed a jumper to help out a friend. I was able to use a stapler to create a "used" staple, and bent it enough to act as a jumper. Mark

pkducky
pkducky

After reading through all the posts, one item missing was a surge protector. How many times have your customers plug there expensive PC's into a power tap? Swap it out and you have provided a bit of insurance for the future.

kevin
kevin

Way back in a previous life I worked as a soundman for a few local bands. The sound board was almost always set up at the back of the room and powered off a different circuit from the equipment on stage. More often than not, we'd get serious system-wide hum from a ground loop. The solution... use a ground-lifter on the sound board's cord. You know, the old "three-prong to two-prong adaptors". It worked great, just don't lean against a water pipe while you're pulling out those 1/4" phone plugs or XLRs! Anyway, I have temporarily solved a number of problems with these ground-lifters. Usually scenarios where two distant pieces of equipment are connected through a grounded cable (ethernet, USB, parallel, serial... whatever). By lifting the ground on the equipment at one end, you allow the ground of that piece of equipment to be at the same potential as the piece of equipment it is connected to (through the cable). This is only a temporary "fix", but it is a great way to troubleshoot power supply problems. It's so easy, too, that it's usually the first thing I try when troubleshooting any computer or telecomm hardware problem, no matter what the symptoms.

leadmann12g
leadmann12g

Definitely add: nylon wire ties, a GOOD roll of electrical tape, cheap 1 inch bristle paint brush (with the metal ferrule covered in a layer of electrical tape) and lastly, an anti static cloth (on which you can place sensitive electronic components.

Btrgonethanjail
Btrgonethanjail

A small labeler machine. Nice to help make network cables organized and easier to manage. Also used to put MAC addresses on outside of devices if they don't have them already.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

I always have my cell phone on me, and I can't tell how many times it has come in handy. I have a LG enV, with a built-in, 2 megapixel camera with flash. It also has a video camera. In those hard to see places, I would pull my phone out, snap a picture, and then I can see what I am looking at or trying to see. For example: Trying to plug a cable in the back of a switch or router, can't pull the rack out, too much work to unscrew it from the rack, so I stick my arm back there with camera phone ready, snap a picture, then I know where and how to plug the desired cable in.

Breezeserve
Breezeserve

Other item that I include: Heavy duty tape, spare PCI blanking plates and button battery cells (BIOS)and spare front bay blanking plates for CD and floppy drives, I'm always concerned about airflow, but one other thing that I sould get but don't have is spare case fans, you never know when a fan might go down.

steven.durst
steven.durst

I would also add RJ45 Jacks and a punch down tool.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Your toolkit is good, but after my +12 years of expertise in the field, I added after some time additional tools. look: - ps2 - usb adapters - eraser - to clean memory contacts - I use my Blackberry camera - USB memory with tools (winrar, scavenger, partition tools, recovery tools, registry fix tools, updates, avg, virus signatures, etc) - my acer aspire mini laptop with 3g internet - cd / dvd blanks - my external mini HD (250GB) just in case i need to move data - swizz knife - connectors and crimper tools (rj11,45) - cisco console cable - usb to serial adapter - small switch or hub - crossover cable - network cable - phone cable - dsl filters - kill&watt to check power consuption (http://www.amazon.com/P3-International-P4400-Electricity-Monitor/dp/B00009MDBU/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1232463027&sr=8-1) - soldering equipment - cleaning materials - molex Y cables - db15 cable - power cables - usb to sata, ide, 2.5 hard drives adapter to read hard drives or recover data - usb and mini usb cables - batteries (cr2032, aa, aaa, 9V) - universal remote - universal power adapter with internal battery

cricket4b
cricket4b

The magnifying glass is necessary to read the small model numbers. The crimper tool, connectors and some spare Cat cable could also come in handy. Some other adapters are PS2 to USB for new mice, keyboards on an older PC. Good start on the kit, especially the mirror which would be "very" handy. Chris

clipvst
clipvst

The list is nearly complete, but along the lines of one poster's advice you sometimes need to access data on troublesome hard drives. In the past I have used a cracked open External Hard Drive case for this purpose, but there is now an adapter available that is designed for this task. Even better, it accepts 2.5" or 3.5" drives that are either IDE or SATA. I would also say that a multitool or Leatherman is invaluable.

fixit
fixit

Don't forget an ink eraser for polishing contacts and a piece of wooden dowel for pushing in ram modules. Don't forget most phones have cameras these days!

kevinmchambers
kevinmchambers

I have in my car an XP/Vista PC in which I have pulled the top off, leaving an open chamber to attach an IDE drive to the secondary master (no need to change jumpers - usually), or an SATA drive, and carry a couple of 2.5 to 3.5 IDE adapters. I can quickly pull the hard drive from any existing desktop, plug it into my PC and run data recovery software, antivirus software, chkdsk and registry repairs.

ocbacker
ocbacker

Read Your article about 10 things a tech should have in your tool kit. Missed some software though. If someone had a disk crash, or forgot their passwords, it is handy to have some CDs in the tool kit. Ex. Win XP CD, Win 98/95 CD if You?re visiting someone with real old PCs, or Bart CD, Linux CDs and different Linux password recovery CDs or PC-fix-CDs with boot option, are great to have with, on a home visit. Many times have I missed some repair CDs or diskettes to look at why a PC crashes, or if there are something to be rescued or saved from a crashed PC.

Aled
Aled

I recently added a 'mini refrigerator'! Yeah, yeah, I know you're thinking 'that's great for keeping your beer cold when you're out on a job'! Actually I used it on an overheating HDD in an External Drive Caddy. Where I'd failed to recover the data on previous attempts, I was able to image the whole drive, albeit slowly. Also there's one of the older tricks of refrigerating a stuck hard drive to get it to release. (Which I have used with varying degrees of success). Strange But True!!

plangite
plangite

a rare jewel of humour, specially coming for a woman. fresh air. Thank you. (ok. ok.. I know. this was three years ago. I hope the humour is better now.) cheers.

soates_cyberlink
soates_cyberlink

Cable long enough to reach the nearest switch to troubleshoot cabling problems instantly, stranded for easy snag free coiling and uncoiling.

bruceslog
bruceslog

If you're using Firefox with NoScript, as everyone should be :) - you have to allow zdnet, zedo, cnet, AND benet to get the video working. I know, too much cross site crap...

bhughes55
bhughes55

I've always used a magnetic screwdriver and have never had a problem!

leadmann12g
leadmann12g

Like both, especially the screw starter. An alternate, a tap set for small machine screw sizes.

pkducky
pkducky

Don?t forget the all important Magnifying Glass for Dojo?s who have been around the network for more than a few seasons (myself included). It seems the fine print on components is getting finer all the time! Also, instead of separate IDE and SATA adapters, there are USB dongles out there that have IDE 2.5 & 3.5 as well as SATA adapters along with power. No more slaving drives! Plugs right into that laptop your dragging around.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

To keep the video around five minutes, we focused exclusively on hardware in this episode. We're planning an entire episode on software tools.

microbe25
microbe25

I agree. I have found more than once where I needed an software disk that boots the computer, fix a forgotten password problem, or repair a missing or corrupted system file.

Btrgonethanjail
Btrgonethanjail

I agree with this one. I wouldn't show up without these. Saved me many times.

dan.manning
dan.manning

A can of air, turned upside down, dropped the temps of processors and mem chips enough to shorten the troubleshooting time for me.

bhughes55
bhughes55

I also have used this method a few times over my IT career however, I wouldn't do it on site though, it takes to much time and I reckon the end user wouldn't really grasp what was going on but would tell all this strange thing -- hahaha. Good on you for discovery this too.

srmcevoy
srmcevoy

Neither have I. But I know people who have fried components and whole systems. When It's not my gear it's not worth the risk.

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