You don’t need an expensive toolkit to build your own computer, but there are a few simple electronics tools that you absolutely must have. All of these can be easily obtained at almost any computer store or online. You may already have some of them. If not, then the easiest way to get the tools you need is to purchase a computer repair tool kit that contains all the tools you need, as well as a handy carrying case to keep them organized.
As with all tools, you should buy the best quality computer tools that you can afford. Good tools last longer and make the job easier. If you plan to become a professional computer technician, you should consider buying a professional tool kit from a company that sells computer tools like Tecra Tools.
All computer tools should be non-magnetized.
Screwdrivers and nut drivers
You should have available, at a minimum, small- and medium-sized Phillips and flat screwdrivers and a 1/4″ nut driver.
It’s best to have numerous screwdrivers or a bit-driver and multiple bits on hand to accommodate any type of nut or screw.
For the majority of PC builds and upgrades, a basic No. 2 Phillips screwdriver will be the only tool you’ll need. As you start working with more diverse hardware and accessories, you’ll need different-size screwdrivers and nut drivers.
I keep an array of screwdrivers on hand, as well as a bit-driver and an assortment of magnetic bits. I also like to have a small electronics toolkit handy, on the off chance that I’ll need to disassemble a drive or other accessory that’s held together with a less-common type of screw. Most small electronics toolkits will feature Allen (hex), Torque, Phillips, and flat-head bits. Another screw type that’s becoming more common is the five-pointed Pentalobe, which is used on some Samsung SSDs and mobile devices.
Low-cost power screwdrivers are available, but it’s typically the more expensive offerings that are best suited to PC-building. Look for a model that has an adjustable clutch and a handle that can flip to different positions. The adjustable handle will make it easier to squeeze into tight spaces, and the adjustable clutch will reduce the likelihood of stripping screws or mounts.
A power screwdriver will save your forearms from a ton of abuse, especially if you have multiple systems to build.
I hate to leave anything inside the tower when I know it won’t be used. It is becoming increasingly common to find extra connectors dangling inside some towers, and many cooling fans have both 3 and 4 pin power connectors attached you’ll need one or the other, not both. Removing unused connectors not only cleans things up, it also minimizes confusion for less-savvy upgraders. To remove those connectors, use a small wire cutter to snip any wires attached to the connector. Wire cutters are also handy for snipping excess nylon from zip ties and other types of tie-downs.
A good wire stripper is immensely useful any time you want to do more advanced electrical or wiring modifications. A pair of needle-nose pliers or long tweezers is ideal for picking up dropped screws and grabbing small connectors or wires to manipulate them in tight spaces.
Very small needle-nosed pliers are very handy for removing and inserting jumpers on motherboards and hard drives. A pair of tweezers or surgical forceps also works well for this purpose.
Straps, zip ties, and tie-downs
Plastic cable ties are useful for neatly bundling wires and cables away from fans and other components inside the computer. If you can’t find them, electrical tape is an acceptable substitute.
Adhesive tie-downs, zip ties, and Velcro straps will go a long way toward ensuring a neat and tidy wiring job.
Effective cable management is paramount to a clean and cool-running system. You’ll need a variety of straps, adhesive tie-downs, and zip ties, along with a bunch of creativity and patience.
I have a tub of nylon zip ties of various sizes and colors on hand, in addition to a roll of thin Velcro straps. Most cases will have locations to tie everything down; adhesive tie-downs come in handy for those that don’t.
PSU Tester and Multimeter
A good multimeter and a power-supply tester can save countless hours of troubleshooting when tracking down electrical or wiring-related problems.
Few things are more frustrating than painstakingly assembling a system, closing it up, pressing the power button, and finding that nothing happens. If you don’t have a power-supply tester or multimeter on hand, you might spend hours troubleshooting and swapping out components until you stumble across the culprit.
If you do have one of these devices, it’ll take only seconds to ensure that your power supply is in good working order, that voltage is being output properly, and that simple components, such as the power switch, are functioning. On numerous occasions I’ve encountered systems that wouldn’t power on because of a defective power switch. With a multimeter, it’s a simple matter of testing for continuity.
Anti-Static Wrist Strap
This is a little elastic strap connected to a wire with an alligator clip on the other end. The alligator clip is attached to a metal part of the computer chassis, and the elastic band slipped around your wrist. Better-quality anti-static kits also include a rubberized mat that connects to the wire and is placed under the computer being worked on. This provides extra static protection and protects your tabletop from scratches.
Cotton swabs, micro-fiber cloths, isopropyl alcohol, and some canned air should be all that’s necessary for most PC-cleaning tasks.
Whether you’re working with a brand-new pile of parts or are refurbishing an old system, keep a collection of cleaning materials in your toolbox. For most jobs, cotton swabs, microfiber cloths, and canned air are all I need to clean up the fingerprints, dust, and other crud that builds up inside a PC. As mentioned earlier, you should also keep some isopropyl alcohol and paper towels on hand to clean up old thermal paste.
Compressed air is used to blow dust out of the nooks and crannies of your computer. Never blow into a computer with your lips to remove dust. Use canned air instead. Canned air is a kind of compressed air that is sold in small handheld aluminum spray cans. The purpose of these cans is to dislodge bits of dust or debris in computer keyboards and inside computer cases. This prevents the computer from damage due to overheating when air intakes are blocked.