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abritdownunder
July 18th, 2012, 05:58 PM
Most of the people on this forum are 'old hands' at maintaining and repairing their vintage computers, and have probably built up a collection of tools to help them. I've just returned to the world of vintage computers, and although I do have a few simple tools (screwdriver, hammer, tube of superglue!) I don't really have a suitable toolkit.

I was in my local Dick Smith's the other day, and they sell a cheap computer toolkit, which has some strange looking instruments, I believe that some of them were really dental tools! These kits looked cheap, the tools looked like they'd break the first time they were used.

What would you recommend as a basic starting toolkit? What's in your computer tool box?

At the moment I have:
2 philips head screwdrivers (small and medium sized - magnetised head)
A fine point soldering iron
A solder sucker
Pair of needle-nose pliers

What do you think should be next on my shopping list? Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thanks,

Chuck(G)
July 18th, 2012, 06:06 PM
A slotted-head screwdriver as well as a few nutdrivers are quite useful.

Is that soldering iron a temperature-controlled model? One is pretty important for repair, so as not to lift or burn traces.

A good pair of diagonal flush cutters.

You definitely should have some test equipment; a multimeter and a logic probe will be very useful.

ibmapc
July 18th, 2012, 07:20 PM
You also might want a good IC extractor

Doug G
July 18th, 2012, 08:16 PM
Tools I regularly used, which are still in my toolkit:

Dental tools are invaluable. I have a dental pic about 8" long with a straight pointy end and a 90degree bent pointy end. It's a great tool for prying old IC's from sockets without bending their legs (if you don't have a real IC extractor), for scraping corrosion off battery terminals if it's not too bad, for pushing molex pins when you suspect they might not be seated properly. In a pinch the pic worked to release RS232 crimp pins from DB25's without destroying them if you didn't have an official pin extractor tool.

A dental mirror is handy for looking around corners inside a cabinet, or re-directing light from your flashlight. Of course, these are metal tools so take care you don't hit any live circuits with them.

"Tweaker" size screwdrivers both phillips and straight slot. They were given away as promo items at lots of conventions I attended.

A good wire stripper. Also depending on the era, a wire wrap/unwrap tool

A spring hook or two.

A couple common size nutdrivers

A roll of electrical tape.

In later years, a decent RJ-11/RJ-45 crimping tool and some crimp ends.

A 'C' clip removal tool

Tor
July 18th, 2012, 11:44 PM
When I came back to soldering and working on component level after a couple of decades, I realized something has changed. I needed some additional items that I didn't need before:

1) Magnifying lens
2) Good light

So I try to have all kinds of 1) available, also combined with 2), e.g. a good light source permanently mounted at a table (can be moved around to any angle), with its own [EDIT] lens. But also simple hand-held lenses. And goggles, although I find them a bit tricky to use - unless they have proper multi-lens setups you need to move very close to get them to focus.
My sister gave me a thingy which is a small, powerful white LED mounted on a very flexible swan neck. It's very small and can be folded down to ballpen size, and can be attached to a pocket just like one. I use it to light awkward places.

-Tor

abritdownunder
July 19th, 2012, 02:53 AM
Is that soldering iron a temperature-controlled model? One is pretty important for repair, so as not to lift or burn traces.


No, it's just a standard, plain old cheap one. That's a good point... that's added to my shopping list!


You also might want a good IC extractor

Added to my shopping list, thanks.


Tools I regularly used, which are still in my toolkit:

Dental tools are invaluable. I have a dental pic about 8" long with a straight pointy end and a 90degree bent pointy end. It's a great tool for prying old IC's from sockets without bending their legs (if you don't have a real IC extractor), for scraping corrosion off battery terminals if it's not too bad, for pushing molex pins when you suspect they might not be seated properly. In a pinch the pic worked to release RS232 crimp pins from DB25's without destroying them if you didn't have an official pin extractor tool.

A dental mirror is handy for looking around corners inside a cabinet, or re-directing light from your flashlight. Of course, these are metal tools so take care you don't hit any live circuits with them.

"Tweaker" size screwdrivers both phillips and straight slot. They were given away as promo items at lots of conventions I attended.

A good wire stripper. Also depending on the era, a wire wrap/unwrap tool

A spring hook or two.

A couple common size nutdrivers

A roll of electrical tape.

In later years, a decent RJ-11/RJ-45 crimping tool and some crimp ends.

A 'C' clip removal tool

Good suggestions, especially the dental tools, I thought they were just a gimmick but I might get one of those kits. I've always wanted to be dentist, ever since watching A Little Shop of Horrors.


When I came back to soldering and working on component level after a couple of decades, I realized something has changed. I needed some additional items that I didn't need before:

1) Magnifying lens
2) Good light

So I try to have all kinds of 1) available, also combined with 2), e.g. a good light source permanently mounted at a table (can be moved around to any angle), with its own light. But also simple hand-held lenses. And goggles, although I find them a bit tricky to use - unless they have proper multi-lens setups you need to move very close to get them to focus.
My sister gave me a thingy which is a small, powerful white LED mounted on a very flexible swan neck. It's very small and can be folded down to ballpen size, and can be attached to a pocket just like one. I use it to light awkward places.

-Tor

Excellent point Tor. I hadn't even considered that but I'll definitely be getting a good light and lens.

Thank you all for the suggestions!

DOS lives on!!
July 19th, 2012, 07:00 AM
Since you are looking for maintenance items for vintage computers, why not build up a toolkit of must-have software items?

-HDD parking utility
-SpinRite (perferably version 4.0)
-Boot disk (MS-DOS 5.0)
-Benchmark Utility (TOPBENCH)
-CheckIt Diagnostic program
-Kolod HTEST/HFORMAT
-GSETUP
-SpeedStor
-ANYDRIVE

Others here probably have better or more things to add.

barythrin
July 19th, 2012, 09:14 AM
If someone is so ambitious this would be a good wiki article/entry if there isn't one.

abritdownunder
July 19th, 2012, 04:32 PM
Since you are looking for maintenance items for vintage computers, why not build up a toolkit of must-have software items?

-HDD parking utility
-SpinRite (perferably version 4.0)
-Boot disk (MS-DOS 5.0)
-Benchmark Utility (TOPBENCH)
-CheckIt Diagnostic program
-Kolod HTEST/HFORMAT
-GSETUP
-SpeedStor
-ANYDRIVE

Others here probably have better or more things to add.
I've got SpinRite, it's saved me once already! But you're right, I've been so focused on hardware toolkits that I completely neglected software.

Chuck(G)
July 19th, 2012, 06:13 PM
A set of POST ROMs probably wouldn't hurt.

EverythingIBM
August 30th, 2012, 06:34 PM
I bought this (http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-JACKLY-32pcs-Electronic-mobilephone-Screwdriver-Tool-Set-JK6066-B-/170899649264?pt=UK_Hand_Tools_Equipment&hash=item27ca69b2f0) screw driver set for $10, which is real handy. The quality is good too.
It contains torx screws as small as T3! I've came across even vintage HDDs which had incredibly small torx screws. There are also smaller star and straights. One thing I dislike about the set is that the drill bits aren't very long, so if the screw is in a deep recess, best to get a different driver.
But this set is mainly useful for the small torx screws.

http://i893.photobucket.com/albums/ac134/skc_lam1981/Carving%20Tools/T2jVJlXhRMXXXXXXXX_129760797.jpg

patscc
August 30th, 2012, 07:11 PM
For those of us in the US, Lowe's periodically sells one real similar to this for about the same, so keep an eye out. They work pretty good.
patscc

Chuck(G)
August 30th, 2012, 07:29 PM
Well, I'm kind of fussy about screwdrivers, particularly Phillips. Most of the Far East imports just don't have them done right. Go with a brand that has "Genuine Phillips" on it. Here's a nice set from Crescent that should meet most of your needs (http://www.qcsupply.com/351611-dura-driver-general-purpose-screwdriver-set.html?utm_source=amazon&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=productfeeds).

The other thing I'm fussy about is nutdrivers. A good nutdriver is worth its weight in gold. I think I've been using my Xcelite (http://www.apexhandtools.com/brands/xcelite/index.cfm?model_list=1&att_id=XCE002&att1=Hex%20Nutdrivers&att2=Fixed%20Handle) nutdrivers for almost 50 years now. They still work as well as the day they were new. Cheap Chinese drivers have a sloppy fit, plated finish and rounded "nose" and can be a pain.

As someone once said "I can't afford cheap tools." A few really good basics will last a lifetime.

barythrin
August 31st, 2012, 11:47 AM
Lots of cheap sets everywhere these days. The only thing I do recommend is getting one that would be insulated and not just metal on metal. Obviously working on electronics and have yourself as the ground isn't always desirable.

patscc
August 31st, 2012, 06:52 PM
Or you can wear latex or nitrile gloves, which can really help with those "accidental" shocks you get when poking around blindly in a machine. Also handy to keep rodent p**p off your fingers in case you find a nest in there.
patscc

EverythingIBM
September 1st, 2012, 01:46 PM
Well, I'm kind of fussy about screwdrivers, particularly Phillips. Most of the Far East imports just don't have them done right. Go with a brand that has "Genuine Phillips" on it. Here's a nice set from Crescent that should meet most of your needs (http://www.qcsupply.com/351611-dura-driver-general-purpose-screwdriver-set.html?utm_source=amazon&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=productfeeds).

The other thing I'm fussy about is nutdrivers. A good nutdriver is worth its weight in gold. I think I've been using my Xcelite (http://www.apexhandtools.com/brands/xcelite/index.cfm?model_list=1&att_id=XCE002&att1=Hex%20Nutdrivers&att2=Fixed%20Handle) nutdrivers for almost 50 years now. They still work as well as the day they were new. Cheap Chinese drivers have a sloppy fit, plated finish and rounded "nose" and can be a pain.

As someone once said "I can't afford cheap tools." A few really good basics will last a lifetime.

The aforementioned screwdriver set is fantastic. I took apart many thinkpads and 5 1/4" HDDs using it.
And you'll have immense difficulty finding those screw sizes anywhere else. Which is what I was after. I have plenty of high quality screw drivers that just don't go down that small.

Maverick1978
September 17th, 2012, 01:01 PM
I'll second Chuck's post about the Xcelite tools. I picked up this kit (http://www.amazon.com/Xcelite-99SM-23-piece-Series-Service/dp/B000ITYL4O/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1347915619&sr=8-3&keywords=xcelite+tool+kit) at a yard sale over a year ago for $20, and I've used it daily ever since. Best set of nut drivers and basic screwdrivers in my toolbox. It tends to go to work with me, and ride in my truck when I'm not at work. They've been inside my truck's engine, and just about every computer, monitor, and appliance I've taken apart in the last year.... If you can't tell, I'm quite enamored with them. Not sure that I'd pay the retail cost on them, but I'd definitely try to piece together a kit from eBay or the like (where they can be had quite cheaply, surprisingly)

generic486
October 6th, 2012, 01:31 PM
What are your opinions on a anti-static mat and wrist strap? I usually neglect them because it is fairly warm here but it would use it in the midst of winter, when I get most of my systems.

Stone
October 6th, 2012, 01:38 PM
As long as you grab the case first, before touching anything else, you don't need anything else.

patscc
October 6th, 2012, 02:00 PM
Let the static wars begin.
I'm a firm believer in static mats and wrist straps, since if zap a chip, the damage doesn't necessarily keep the chip from working. It's not like being excessively cautious is going to hurt anything.
patscc

Chuck(G)
October 6th, 2012, 02:16 PM
Never use static prevention, but then humidity around here rarely drops below 40-50% RH. I am careful with handling, however.

Doug G
October 6th, 2012, 05:14 PM
I've never used any anti-static prevention either, even in Denver when the humidity was often in the single digits. To my knowledge, I've never zapped anything with static.

Don't take this as a recommendation to avoid using static protection though, you really should use wrist straps and such if available.

DOS lives on!!
October 6th, 2012, 05:19 PM
The one time I made an effort to use an anti-static wrist strap is when I ran a computer workshop at a kids camp. I made sure to emphasize, "Now if you ever want to pop the top off this computer for any reason and tinker around inside, ALWAYS wear your anti-static wrist strap." Nevertheless, I've never followed my own advice there.

Chuck(G)
October 6th, 2012, 05:26 PM
It's probably easier to choose the appropriate flooring material. Vinyl composition tile is good. Carpeting can be nasty stuff, on the other hand.

Tor
October 7th, 2012, 02:33 AM
If you don't use a strap, at least wear cotton clothing (avoid synthetic fabric).

-Tor

Crypticalcode0
October 24th, 2012, 11:25 AM
Hm, My gear is the following.

I have 3 sets of Screw drivers for several different purposes.
A small metal, wristwatch set. (Using it for setting Pot meters)
A Insulated set this is generally the bigger stuff insulation up to 1000V.(House electrics and monitor fixes, and Assembly)
A ESD set this is my least used set to be honest.

A ESD wristband and wire I have a ESD mat on my worktable.

I have a Weller temperature controlled soldering station which has a 3 irons, 1 normal which can use different tips, a desolder gun, and a heat blower for the interesting stuff.
Desolder leach, also known as desoldering wick is handy to have

In general i keep a Laser temperature sensor at hand, just in case A multimeter and I would love to get my hands on a private logic analyzer and Oscilloscope.

A EPROM programmer is going a little too far IMHO but i do understand the requirement for dental tools in electronics, do not forget a good solid insulated pliers, and trusty ol side cutter.

PS: I nearly forgot pincet one of the corner stones of electronics tools.

Doug G
October 25th, 2012, 07:21 PM
If you have a shaky hand, or work on monitors and other RF stuff a good set of plastic non-conductive "tweakers" is nice to have. That way when your screwdriver slips off the thingy you're adjusting you don't short something out. Non-metallic screwdrivers were also a requirement if you were adjusting RF circuitry so you didn't detune circuits with your metal screwdriver. My uncle owned a busy radio/tv shop and I've inherited a giant bundle of his non-metallic adjusting tools.

njroadfan
April 20th, 2013, 10:53 PM
This toolkit is a good start: http://www.amazon.com/Syba-145-Piece-Computer-Tool-SY-ACC65034/dp/B003I4FETM

General tools I use in addition to the above:
-A dedicated soldering station with clamps to hold small parts (that "3rd hand"). Soldering Iron with temperature control is nice.
-A telescoping mirror for seeing around cases.
-A lit magnifying glass for seeing small parts.
-Add in a precision bit toolkit as posted earlier. A clicker torque screwdriver for these is nice, but costs a bit more.
-Specialized bits (ex: pentalobe) are available from iFixit. Purchase when needed as they are expensive.
-Wooden chopsticks from the local Chinese joint work great as probes.
-Crimpers for various communications wires (coax, RJ-45, etc.)
-A digital multimeter for testing circuits. Add in a test lamp and alligator clip leads! Sewing pins are good for testing small female connectors (gives you a place to clamp on the alligator clips).
-Cable testers are important if you plan on debugging building wiring installs. Optional otherwise
-Ethernet patch cables, both wired straight and crossover.
-Parallel data transfer aka "Laplink" cable and null modem RS-232 cables. Always handy.
-Various monitor adapters.
-Gender changers/adapters for serial, SCSI, etc.
-AC outlet tester. Sometimes getting clean power is the whole problem
-AC Power strip.
-Spare screws, jumpers, case standoffs
-Optionally an air compressor is handy for cleaning out really dusty cruddy cases.
-ATX power supply tester

Electronic "tools":
-USB to SATA/PATA adapter for quick connection of HDs and optical drives. Comes with a nice power supply that can be used for other things as well.
-12-in-1 USB flash card reader. Mostly for data recovery, the older ones support dead standards like SmartMedia and xD.
-USB-to-Ethernet adapter. The older ones supported various platforms with included drivers. Later OSes usually have drivers built in. Needed for machiens without onboard adapters or broken adapters.
-A collection of video cards for just about every bus/platform (ISA, VLB, PCI, AGP Universal, NuBus). Useful for testing "blank screen" machines.
-NEC Multisync II or any "true multisync" display. These usually support 15khz analog RGB along with other exotic signals and digital TTL RGB like CGA/EGA. A must with vintage equipment!
-A POST code card. ISA and PCI combo handles most everything. PCIe versions will be needed for the latest machines. Also MiniPCI/PCIe combo cards for laptops.
-I keep a collection of SCSI interface cards for just about every bus including parallel port. Handy for hooking up drives to vintage machines that lack USB and ATA, or are non-PC. I also have USB/Firewire PCI and Cardbus cards handy.
-In addition to the cards above. I have various "bridge" machines that can interface with vintage hardware like 5.25" drives, oddball tape drives and, removable media (Jaz, Syquest, etc.). Windows 9x is usually on these machines as it can run both DOS and older Windows software/drivers. I also maintain Mac bridge machines as well (mostly older beige PPC units with all the legacy ports running OS9 and OSX dual boot). Both have really saved me when I was doing this work professionally for a local computer store and had some "unique" data recovery scenarios.
-A memory tester. I don't own one of these, but dedicated devices are handy if you don't have another machine that takes the memory you want to test to rule out problems.
-A CFL backlight inverter tester. Tests backlight bulbs on LCD displays. Some even have the ability to test the inverters themselves.

Software Tools:
-Disk repair software for various platforms (Spinrite, DiskWarrior for Mac, etc.)
-Live CDs for various platforms (BartPE, MS DaRT etc.)
-A decent virus/malware program on the above
-WSUS/Offline Update CD. Quicker then Windows Update.
-Install CD/DVDs for popular OSes, including common OEM variants (XP Home/Pro, 2000, Server 2003, Vista 32/64bit, 7 32/64bit, MacOS 8.x-9.x, OS X, etc.).
-Now obsolete, but I have a bootable OS CD with Windows 9x, 3.1x, and DOS on it. The boot image is the Windows 98SE startup disk which has handy tools and drivers.
-Hardware test programs, mostly for hard drives. Grab ALL the various HD vendor's tools (Western Digital, Seagate, etc.) including defunct companies like Maxtor. They usually work best as opposed to generic tools. Various memory testers. Check-It! 3.0 is handy for vintage PCs but can only test 16MB of RAM.
-Imaging software (Ghost, Acronis TrueImage, CarbonCopyCloner, etc.)
-File translators. Sadly these have gone out of style, but something like DataViz Conversions Plus and MacLinkPlus is really handy to have around.
-Virtual Machines/Emulators. This is mostly a last resort for data recovery if a host isn't available or if a customer needs legacy software when moving to a new machine.

Note that this toolkit took years to build, it wasn't something I purchased all at once. I'm prepared for just about anything old and new as a result. This was mostly because the store I worked for didn't turn away vintage machines or Macs of various ages (the latter mostly because I had to tools to support them!).

Oscar
April 21st, 2013, 02:50 AM
Hi,

Did anyone mention a side cutter? Can't do without that!

A couple of bigger things to add to this list... Stuff that was way too expensive in the past but (thanks to Chinese manufacturing mostly) have dropped in price so much they make sense in Stage Two of your retrocomputing affliction:



Desoldering tool
Cheap Atten 858 or Zhongdi ZD915 desoldering stations cost something like $60. It really allows repair jobs that were impossible before. Although, yes, a $7 solder sucker does work, you're not going to remove a 68000 processor from its motherboard that way...
Logic analyzer
I bought a Saleae probe a few years ago. For finding out what's wrong, nothing has been more useful. About $100 or so?
Oscilloscope
You can buy anold Tektronix 465 for $60 or so if you look around. Correction to self: even more useful than the logic probe. And just as interesting as the vintage computer it's used on...



I actually made a page on my site describing my collection of tools (here (http://obsolescence.wix.com/obsolescence#!fun-with-tools/clqy)). Tools Are Nice.

Cheers,

Oscar.

Chuck(G)
April 21st, 2013, 09:31 AM
I don't count software or cables--in most cases, I can make either myself or know where to find them. However, you can't download a screwdriver.

I'm a bit surprised that no one has mentioned PanaVise. I'd be lost without mine. I use the 324:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4172KTWEgvL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

The great thing is that the rail that the spring-loaded PCB clamps rides on is a standard square tubing size, available at most US hardware stores, so you can fabricate your own extra-long rails. The advantage is that you're not trying to old a PCB steady while you work on it; holding angles are adjustable--and you get simultaneous access to both sides of the PCB.