Top 10 must-have tools for repairing PCs, smartphones, and other gadgets
iFixit Manta Driver Kit
This is now my go-to toolkit for fixing tech gadgets. No matter what the screw of fastener I'm faced with, there's a bit in this toolkit that can handle it.
iFixit's Manta Driver Kit not only contains 112 bits designed to tackle pretty much every fastener you're likely to come across when fixing electronic devices in both 4mm and 1/4-inch bit sizes, but it also comes with two premium anodized aluminum driver handles to hold these bits while in use. The bits are precision engineered and fit the smallest or most complicated of fastener perfectly.
Both the driver handles feature magnetized bit sockets to hold the bits, knurled grips for a positive feel in the hand, and have free-spinning tops on them so they can act as precision screwdrivers. They're some of the nicest, highest-quality bit drivers I've come across, and are a pleasure to use, and are more than robust enough to handle daily use and abuse.
The kit comes in the tough ABS plastic case, and the magnetized lid doubles as a sorting tray.
This is the perfect kit for someone looking for a driver set that's up to the task of dealing with both small, delicate fasteners, and big, chunky screws.
The iSesamo is a thin metal sheet with a non-slip handle that allows you to split open devices. It'll fit into the most microscopic of cracks and take a lot of prying force.
For $10, this is a brilliantly useful tool.
For devices that have tolerances too tight for the iSesamo to get in the cracks, the iFlex is the tool for you. This is a machined sheet of 0.2mm inox stainless steel that will slip into the tightest of gaps.
Broken screw remover
I come across a lot of chewed up or broken screws. Usually they're as a result of someone being too enthusiastic with a poor tool, but other times they're because someone's taken a powertool to the screws.
iFixit have two great tools to deal with such problems. And in such situations, these have become my go-to tools!
The first is Neji-Saurus-- the screw extracting dinosaur. It's a crazy name for a fantastic tool that can grip screw heads, bolts, or nuts allowing you to twist out even the most damaged fasteners. It might seem steep for $30, but it's a real lifesaver.
If you need to tackle screws that have had their heads sheared off completely, the precision screw remover set is worth a look.
Loctite Threadlocker Blue
Got a fastener that just always seems to work its way loose? Probably means the fastener is damaged, the thread is damaged, or you lost a washer that was helping to keep it down.
Rather than over tighten the fastener (which will just make things worse in the long term), apply a dab of Loctite Threadlocker Blue compound (I find the non-drip stick version a lot easier to use and cleaner than the liquid, which goes all over the place). The blue stuff is designed to be undone with hand tools, so it won't cement the fastener into place.
Follow the instructions, and don't go mad with it!
Nitecore TIP 2017
The Nitecore TIP 2017 has become my go-to flashlight for poking around inside things. It features a built-in lithium ion battery that can be recharged using a USB charger and a micro-USB cable and I have to admit that it works very well.
With the press of a button the Nitecore TIP can switch from a 240 lumen monster that has a 30-minute battery life, to a 1 lumen firefly that can last for 46 hours. The flashlight has a 1-year standby capacity which means it's great for storing in a toolbox.
Spare screws and fasteners
Chances are if someone has been trying to fix something before you, there will be at least one fastener that's missing. And in an effort to do a good job, I always try to replace any missing screws I come across so I always carry spares with me.
You can either buy a kit or just salvage old screws from derelict PCs.
Sure, you can spend big money on a PSU tester, or break out the multimeter, but for quickly confirming a dead PSU I find a cheap tester works fine. Also, if you have a few hard drives handy, you can add some load to the PSU by connecting them up before you test.
My go-to device is the Thermaltake Dr. Power II. It's reasonably cheap but reliable and does a pretty good job of finding faulty PSUs.
Having a magnetic tray handy to catch any screws that fall is a real timesaver. If they fall on the floor or roll off into a corner, they're usually gone!
If you can get a tray that comes with a magnetic pick up tool too, so much the better.
I love Sugru. It's great for repairing frayed cabling (be smart though and don't use it on high voltage cabling!) or damaged plastic or rubber parts. It's also great if you want some extra heat resistance or add some waterproofing to a homebrew project.
This, along with cyanoacrylate adhesive, are now a vital part of my day-to-day repair kit.
Sabrent USB-DSC9 USB 3.0 TO SATA/IDE converter
Connect any 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch Serial ATA/SATA Hard Drive, solid state drive (SSD), or desktop 5.25″ CD/DVD-R/RW externally to your computer through an available USB 3.0 port.
The Sabrent USB SATA Adapter is a caseless solution that makes swapping hard drives easier than ever before. Ideal for recovering data from drives inside dead PCs and checking drives that you find around the place.