If you have always wanted to start your own computer repair store, knowing the right tools and equipment to have from the start will help you grow your business and be successful. A car mechanic, a carpenter, or an electrician always shows up to work with his toolbox, and the computer repair person is no different. Having the right tools on hand will make any job that comes your way much easier.
I started my computer repair store with only a few screwdrivers, and over the years, I built up an inventory of tools and diagnostic equipment based on trial and error. Sometimes it isn’t possible to go out and buy everything you think you’ll ever need, and you have to decide how to budget your money and only get the essentials.
In today’s article, we’ll explore some of the most important hardware tools in the computer repair workflow and how they help me get through my day-to-day tasks as a computer store owner.
Getting In: Screwdrivers and Opening Tools
At the very least, you should keep a set of precision screwdrivers with Phillips head and Torx bits. For working on most Macs, you will also need a three-point screwdriver and pentalobe bits. You can also use the triangle, hex, and flathead for a number of tasks. If your wrist becomes tired, you can find screwdrivers that are manual or ratcheted, as well as electric models.
In most cases, you will not need to spend more than ten or fifteen dollars on a set of manual precision screwdrivers. Though you won’t run into computers that require it often, I recommend having an Allen wrench set as well.
A magnetizer/demagnetizer is a useful tool. This can help when you need to remagnetize a weak screwdriver.You can get them for just a few dollars.
Some projects can benefit from a smart wrench and metric wrench set. Smart wrenches are wrenches with adjustable jaws. You can get a set of metric wrenches similar to smart wrenches but have individual sizes instead for just a few bucks. Precision pliers are also good to have in your toolbox. I would also suggest keeping a wrench, pliers, and wire cutters on hand. Additionally, tweezers are a great tool for working on tiny components, as they allow you to work more precisely.
The majority of today’s computers require some kind of spudger stick or wheel to open. Plastic spudgers and openers can be found very inexpensively online, but an old debit card is one of my go-to tools. Suction cups are also needed for some computers with removable glass parts. You may get a complimentary set of these suction cups depending on where you buy your replacement parts.
Additionally, a precision knife or X-acto blade is something I use every day to open or cut fine items. There is always a use for one of these, so it is highly recommended to get one. I suggest getting a few types and sizes of scissors; one for small cuts, one for packing, and one more because scissors always get lost.
Computer Repair: Staying Safe and Organized
While I am guilty of not using ESD mats and antistatic wrist straps most of the time, I highly recommend them. Disassembling a laptop, building a computer, or handling any high-priced equipment requires care to avoid zapping it.
Organizing screws: I use two things every day for organizing screws. The first is a set of plastic storage drawers, an inexpensive way to organize all kinds of screws. Most hardware stores and online stores carry these. Whenever I find an extra screw, I sort it by type in these drawers. In a short period of time, you will end up with more screws than you can ever use. You will be amazed at how many screws you will find out of nowhere.
Second, I use magnetic screw mats to keep screws organized. The magnetic pad measures about 8 inches by 8 inches and has a printed grid pattern, which is handy when taking apart computers with many screws. With this mat, you will never have to worry about losing screws mid-project again. The majority of the organization mats have a dry-erase surface, so you can label each screw as you work with a dry-erase marker.
Rubber bands, cable ties, and zip ties are also helpful organizational tools. Velcro straps are also handy for wrapping wires. Zip ties and cable ties are often used when tidying up a newly built computer. Besides being incredibly useful, rubber bands are a critical part of my organizational system. I would not neglect to organize my tools and inventory as it allows me to work faster and ultimately make more money.
Computer Repair Cleaning
A good air duster is essential for cleaning computers. Compressed air dusters are perfect for cleaning keyboards and computer interiors. Never point the can down as liquid will leak out. It has been recommended that vacuums and air compressors be used for cleaning. Neither of these is ideal; vacuums can generate static electricity, and air compressors can build up moisture inside.
You can clean most devices with isopropyl alcohol, especially when changing or reapplying the thermal paste on laptops and desktop processors. My favorite adhesive remover is called Goof Off, and I’ve used it since day one. This mixture of glycol ether and benzyl alcohol works very well for giving a dirty old computer a brand new glow. The product is only for exterior use, and you should never apply it directly to a computer. Apply it to a cloth or swab first.
Computer exteriors are best cleaned with microfiber cloths, while finer details are best cleaned with cotton swabs or toothbrushes. Typically, I use a dry microfiber cloth to clean a computer screen and a dampened microfiber cloth to clean the rest of the computer. A cotton swab cleans delicate internal components, such as removing old thermal paste from a processor before applying new thermal paste.
Computer Repair Tools: Measuring
Using a digital multimeter, you can check if a certain device has current flowing through it and how much. Using these multimeters, you can measure current and voltage in AC and DC, as well as resistance, capacitance, and continuity. If you’re looking for something simple with the functions you need, you can find it for under thirty dollars.
Testers for desktop power supplies: these devices allow you to test a power supply by simply plugging in the cables. As a result, you can quickly and confidently determine whether a desktop has a bad power supply.
You can use an IR thermometer to get an instant temperature reading by pointing it at something. I often use it in my shop to check the temperature of various computer components. I more commonly use it to play with my cat, as she likes to chase the laser.
Soldering Equipment: For Advanced Computer Repair
It is crucial to have a quality soldering station rather than just a simple soldering iron. One of the best entry-level soldering stations I recommend is the Hakko FX-888D, which costs around $100. In addition to soldering stations, Hakko also manufactures smoke absorbers and fume extractors.
You can loosen adhesive and open sealed devices with a heat gun. It can also be used in some soldering applications. In terms of appearance, it’s similar to a hairdryer on steroids. Hot air rework stations are more dedicated solutions. Due to their expense, they are only necessary for highly prolific soldering professionals.
You should keep four main supplies on hand: solder, solder wick, flux, and something to clean your soldering tip. Most of these items can be found online or in some hardware stores for very low prices.
More Helpful Computer Repair Tools
I suggest having an ethernet crimper, punch-down tool, and Ethernet cable tester on hand. These are useful if you make your own ethernet cables or repair others.
Having a magnifying glass or magnifying lamp is invaluable for seeing small details.
Thermal paste is important to keep on hand, especially if you are building computers or fixing overheating issues. Most computers need new thermal paste applied once they reach a certain age, so you will find yourself going through a lot of it.
Superglue is very useful for repairing plastics when they are cracked or chipped. You will probably run into many situations where you will wish you had some superglue, so I suggest having it on hand. Though if you do literally get it on your hand, having isopropyl alcohol, as I mentioned earlier, is perfect for removing it.
Tape (double-sided, electric, duct, scotch, packing). Tape will be used a lot in your computer store, so ensure you always keep some on hand.
What Tools Do You Need To Start a Computer Repair Business: Final Words
Whether you are starting your own computer repair store or already working as a computer technician, knowing the right tools for the job will help you every day. Your toolbox won’t have everything you need right away, but you can get a headstart and be prepared for future jobs by knowing what to look out for.
We just went over hardware tools, but stick around for a future article, where I will go over some of the most common software tools I use!