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Basic computer repair/maintenance toolkit

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    Basic computer repair/maintenance toolkit

    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,
    A Brit Downunder
    www.abritdownunder.org
    Old programmers don't die, they just GOSUB without RETURN...

    #2
    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.
    Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

    Comment


      #3
      You also might want a good IC extractor
      Last edited by ibmapc; July 18, 2012, 07:21 PM. Reason: Spelling

      Comment


        #4
        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

        Comment


          #5
          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
          Last edited by Tor; July 19, 2012, 05:28 AM.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
            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!

            Originally posted by ibmapc View Post
            You also might want a good IC extractor
            Added to my shopping list, thanks.

            Originally posted by Doug G View Post
            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.

            Originally posted by Tor View Post
            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!
            A Brit Downunder
            www.abritdownunder.org
            Old programmers don't die, they just GOSUB without RETURN...

            Comment


              #7
              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.
              ~Ian~

              Remember, wherever you go, there you are.

              Comment


                #8
                If someone is so ambitious this would be a good wiki article/entry if there isn't one.
                Looking to acquire: IBM 5100, Altair 8800

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by DOS lives on!! View Post
                  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.
                  A Brit Downunder
                  www.abritdownunder.org
                  Old programmers don't die, they just GOSUB without RETURN...

                  Comment


                    #10
                    A set of POST ROMs probably wouldn't hurt.
                    Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I bought this 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.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        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

                        Comment


                          #13
                          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.

                          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 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.
                          Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            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.
                            Looking to acquire: IBM 5100, Altair 8800

                            Comment


                              #15
                              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

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