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When I'm taking hardware apart or (hopefully) putting it back together, I usually end up relying on my Leatherman Wave. Sometimes, though, that's clearly not the right tool for the job, or not the best choice. I'm thinking about putting together a more comprehensive toolkit, but I'm having trouble deciding what to put in it. Screwdrivers? Hex wrenches? Crimpers and punchdown tools? What sort of tools do you guys think are the bare essentials?

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Take a look at serverfault.com/questions/2382/server-room-survival-kit for some inspiration. Some things won't apply, but I think there's a lot of overlap. –  Magus May 4 '09 at 20:55

6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted
  • Driver Handle - large and small
  • Range of screwdriver blades: flat, phillips, torx
  • Range of nut drivers
  • Small crescent wrench, rubber handled
  • Tiny blade screwdriver - flat and phillips
  • Pliers
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Pocket knife
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire stripper/crimper
  • Straight and/or angled forceps
  • Magnetic pickup tool -- for when you drop that stupid screw down into the case
  • Alligator clips
  • Small mirror on extendible handle -- what's that tag number again?
  • Multimeter
  • Portable soldering iron
  • Outlet tester
  • Something to write with/on
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In my toolkit currently is:

  • Screwdriver with interchangeable heads
  • Watchmakers Screwdrives (for laptops and small devices)
  • Wirecutters
  • RJ45 Crimps
  • Network cable tester
  • Tie Wraps
  • Bolts for rackmounting
  • Asssorted screws
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A Screwdriver with interchangeable heads presumably uses a magnetic tip. Care must be taken with magnets inside the chassis of a computer as CMOS components in particular can be damaged by the internal voltages induced in the chips via the varying magnetic field as the tip moves over such devices. –  Tall Jeff May 2 '09 at 19:45
    
Very true, and this kind of screwdriver is usually limited to opening cases and racking and un-racking devices. –  Sam May 2 '09 at 19:49

Small needle-nosed pliers

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My most used tool is a single long philips screwdriver. I find that I use that 90% of the time when I require a screwdriver. It is very pointy, and can fit in small and large screws alike.

I also bought some very small screwdrivers as invariably when my main screwdriver doesn't fit it is because the screws are too small and I hate the standard jewellers screwdrivers. Magnetic grabber for getting things out of small places, long nosed pliers, cable ties.

It does all depend though on what you are doing. If you are doing a lot of cabling then the right cutters and crimpers will save you much time. Do you often come up against hex bolts? If not then you don't really need to add them. Start off with what you need most and then add the bits as you need it. Most people do not buy their toolkit all at once, but build it up over time.

And with most tools you get what you pay for.

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+1 for long philips screwdriver. –  Chris Shaffer May 1 '09 at 14:56

A cordless power screwdriver really makes a difference when you have a lot of screws to turn.

Occasionally, I find a set of Torx bits handy. Also, once in a while a set of security bits comes to the rescue.

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Here's what in my toolkit:

  • Four Megapro Screwdrivers (regular, security, hex, and a special magnetic driver which I bought in-person at Megapro's head office; these guys were truly awesome in hooking me up with anything I wanted - I have every bit known to man)
  • RJ45/RJ11 crimp tool (less than $5 from a wholesaler; don't bother with tools that only do RJ45)
  • keyboard/screen cleaner (freebie from Microsoft)
  • adjustable wrench (freebie from a trade show)
  • SD to USB card reader adapter
  • USB to PS2 adapters
  • PS2 to serial adapter (probably can throw these out now)
  • 110 punchdown tool (plastic freebie; I don't do enough punchdown to warrant buying an impact tool)
  • cable ties (black and white; black is required by some restaurants like McDonald's)
  • canned air
  • infrared thermometer
  • Plano box with spare screws
  • CD wallet with blank CDs and DVDs
  • plastic squares that stick to the wall and accept cable ties
  • spare ADSL filter
  • stubby screwdrivers (Phillips, Roberston, Slotted)
  • IC extractor (never used it, but had room for it)
  • 4-prong grabber
  • utility knife
  • tweezers
  • PS2 to XT adapter (probably can throw this out now)
  • bag of RJ45 jacks
  • LED flashlight
  • needlenose pliers
  • various USB flash drives (essential software)
  • tons of Microsoft marketing propaganda for handing out to customers
  • CD wallet with Windows and Office install discs
  • spare ethernet, power, and USB cables
  • reversible side cutter/wire stripper
  • reversible linesman/longnose pliers
  • spare pens
  • USB hard drive enclosure with hard drive full of software
  • various stickers for giveaway
  • extra business cards
  • power supply tester ($40; saved the day many times)
  • electrical tape
  • handheld label maker (Dymo Letratag) with a wide assortment of label types
  • parallel to serial and serial to parallel adapters (probably can throw them out now)
  • black Sharpie
  • Cisco cable

I also have a set of precision screwdrivers, but they don't fit in my bag. Socket sets are sometimes handy. Network cable tester would be handy, as well as tone and probe, but I never got around to buying anything.

When I worked as a mobile computer guy, we carried much more spare cables in the car, as well as spare routers and switches. I personally carried a GPS unit because I suck at finding my way around. We also were required to carry a plastic card when doing contract work for IBM; I hung mine from my belt on a retractable badge holder.

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Oh god yeah - can't believe I forgot a blue Cisco cable - oh and a USB-to-Serial adapter to go with it :) –  Chopper3 May 4 '09 at 22:40

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