Below is the list of PC Computer and Laptop repair tools. The items described should be in every laptop repair technician’s or repair enthusiast’s toolbox.
The list is being continuously updated.
1. Precision screwdrivers
Phillips screwdriver – size: #000, #00, #0, #1, #2
The most frequently used of all the PC Computer and Laptop repair tools.
Flathead screwdriver – size: 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4 mm
JIS (Japanese version of Phillips) screwdriver – size: 000, 00, 0, 1
Torx screwdriver – size: T3, T4, T5, T6, TR7, TR8, TR9, TR10, TR15, TR20
Hex screwdriver – size: 0.7, 0.9, 1.3, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 6 mm
When it comes to screwdrivers, the best and the cheapest option (at least in the long run) is to buy the whole set of precision screwdriver bits.
You can get them from your local hardware store or from eBay.
It helps a lot if tips are magnetized, but it’s not mandatory.
Flat ESD safe (antistatic) tweezers
This tool is invaluable when dealing with small parts or for prying open small connectors.
You can get antistatic tweezers from your local electronic components store or from eBay.
3. Small pliers
When it comes to pliers for electronics repair use, the smaller in size, the better. We should leave the larger ones to car mechanics.
Long needle nose pliers
Excellent tool for all sorts of jobs, available at your local hardware store and of course on eBay.
Diagonal side cutting pliers
Multiple uses besides wire cutting. Available at your local hardware store and on eBay.
4. Plastic opening (pry) tools
Old credit card or similar card made from plastic
This tool is essential for safely pry open devices, without scratching or damaging soft plastics or internal components. One major advantage over purposely built opening tools is the durability of a credit card; purposely built tools wear with each use and are only good for a few uses.
Guitar picks are readily available at any musical instruments store, they come in different thicknesses and strengths, so you can pick the right one for the job.
Purposely built plastic opening (pry) tools
Plastic opening tools are available on eBay but please note that they are only good for a few uses before they wear out.
5. Cleaning tools
ESD safe (antistatic) brush
Electronic devices, especially laptops, and desktop PCs often come full of dust and require cleaning of the cooling system and other, to static electricity sensitive components.
ESD safe brushes are also available on eBay, they come in all shapes and sizes.
Lint free cleaning wipes
Lint free cleaning wipes have multiple uses when used together with cleaning alcohol – cleaning of PCBs after soldering, contact cleaning, fan bearing cleaning before applying fresh grease, removal of thermal paste,… They are available on eBay and probably also at your local Pharmacy and Lab equipment store.
Useful for cleaning hard to reach spots, removing thermal paste,… Readily available at your local store or even at your home.
Isopropyl alcohol (known also as 2-propanol, isopropanol or simply IPA)
Quite easily obtained from your local paint or hardware store, but be sure to ask for a high grade, at least 95% pure for electronic use. It has multiple uses; contact cleaning, thermal paste removal, keyboard cleaning, flux removal after soldering,… It evaporates quickly, leaves nearly zero oil traces, compared to ethanol, and is relatively non-toxic, compared to alternative solvents. But never use it on visible plastic parts because it can damage some plastics and especially not on LCD screens as some contain anti-reflection coating which can be dissolved by IPA. Diluted to 50% with deionized or at least distilled water, it loses its aggressive properties and can be also used on plastics.
Homemade solder flux remover or similar commercially available product
The DIY or homemade variant of a very efficient flux remover is described here in detail while commercial variant can be usually obtained from a hardware store or similar specialized store.
De-ionized or distilled water
Remember, electronic parts and water can be great friends, but only when electricity is not around. The use of de-ionized water is preferred over distilled water as it is purer, it contains fewer salts, oils, and minerals but can be quite hard to come by. Purified water is used for cleaning LCD screens, keyboards after liquid spills and sometimes for rinsing motherboards after cleaning them with isopropyl alcohol. Before cleaning electronics with purified water, they need to be electrically discharged else short circuits are inevitable and will cause permanent damage. De-ionized water can be obtained from lab supply stores. Distilled water can be found in any hardware store or petrol station.
5. Safety equipment
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) can cause serious damage to sensitive electronic equipment, some semiconductor devices can be damaged by charges less than 1000 volts. 1000 volts may seem much, but note that when you feel a static shock, you are experiencing a minimum of 3000 volts of electricity. Walking across a carpet can generate between 1500 and 35000 volts, picking up a common plastic bag from a bench can generate from 1200 to 20000 volts. In electronics and chip manufacturing industry, they use anti-static flooring, ESD measuring equipment, and special ESD safe tools, they even control air humidity, but for an ESD safe electronics repair, the equipment described below and some common sense will suffice.
Anti-static (ESD) wrist strap or ground bracelet
Wrist strap usually consists of a band of fabric with fine conductive fibers woven into it, a retractable cable and a 1 megohm resistor. If a user is right-handed, the wrist strap is put on a left hand. The end with a crocodile clip is attached to the ground, usually to the computer chassis, laptop USB port or when neither is possible, to an earth ground in your house or workshop. Anti-static wrist wrap is obtainable from almost any computer parts store.
Anti-static (ESD) mat
Anti-static mat is used on a work bench, placed under the electronic equipment you are repairing. By having a controlled low resistance, it provides enough grounding for the electronics to be safe and at the same time doesn’t short exposed parts. The mat needs to be properly grounded by plugging it into the grounded line in an electrical outlet. Some even allow you to connect an anti-static wrist wrap to them. It is available from almost any computer parts store.
Gloves protect users’ hands when working with hazardous substances, such as isopropyl alcohol or soldering flux and at the same time protect the sensitive equipment and contact points from skin oils. They are also used for thermal paste application, where oils from the skin could deteriorate the performance of the thermal compound. Gloves are usually made from Latex but for users with allergies the alternative are non-powdered gloves made from Nitrile. Both are obtainable from Pharmacy and Lab supply stores.
6. Lighting and magnification tools
Good light source and sometimes even magnification are essential for electronic repair work, especially when soldering small components, during solder joint inspection or when checking part numbers from small ICs. The user must carefully choose an appropriate magnifier for the particular job, a compromise between magnification level and a working distance. When magnification increases the working distance decreases. This can present a problem when, for instance, using high magnification tools during soldering, as magnifier needs to be relatively close to the object and thus prevent the user access to it.
Handheld magnifying glass
Modern handheld magnifying glasses often come equipped with LED light, like the one in the picture. This kind of magnifying glass is very portable, but the downside is, the user must hold it and thus has only one working hand left. LED lighted magnifying glasses can be found in hardware stores and also on eBay.
Third hand (helping hand)
Third hand or commonly known as a helping hand can be a great asset as it enables the user to have both hands free when soldering or doing other similar work. The magnifier position is adjustable and it often comes equipped with LED light and soldering iron stand. It can be obtained from an electronic parts store or from eBay.
USB digital microscope camera
The USB microscope camera can be useful for solder joint and liquid damage inspection. It is usually capable of magnifications from around 50x to 200x and has several LED lights. Light and magnification levels can be adjusted to suit the purpose. It is available on eBay.
7. Measuring instruments
Digital multimeter or DMM for short is an invaluable piece of equipment when diagnosing faults in electronics. Almost all multimeters, even the lower priced models are suitable for basic diagnosis as they feature functions for measuring AC and DC voltage, resistance and continuity, AC and DC current. If you plan to get advanced in electronics and want a DMM you won’t outgrow soon, choose one with extra functions as continuity buzzer, diode check, capacitance check, transistor test, auto range, empty battery indication and auto off function. Read the manual before using the multimeter on a live circuit for the first time. A multimeter can be purchased in an electronic parts store or if you are not in a hurry, ordered via eBay.
ESR or equivalent series resistance meter is a useful instrument for in-circuit measurement of ESR value of electrolytic capacitors. ESR value gives us a clear indication if the capacitor is working as intended. Capacitors that are not bulged or leaking can still have high ESR value and thus don’t perform their function. ESR meter and its milliohm measuring capability has various other uses, the most important is short locating. Equivalent series resistance meter can be ordered via eBay.
GetGui DC charging adapter with ammeter
GetGui DC charging adapter with a current measuring ammeter function is an invaluable tool in every laptop technician’s toolbox when dealing with a wide array of laptop power related problems. By observing the current change or jumps during the different powering states (ACPI S0 – S5), the user can get a quite accurate estimate on where the problem lies. In cases where the laptop is unable to even power on, this tool can tell the user, by current consumption, if the problem is in the open connection between the DC jack and 3.3V/5V standby IC chip or if a component is short-circuited. It can also be used to estimate a laptop’s battery autonomy and check for a battery charging problems. Detailed instructions on mentioned diagnostic procedures can be found on this blog. GetGui DC charging adapter with ammeter can be ordered via eBay.
Note: please check if the required charger tip for the particular brand and model of a laptop is supplied with the charging adapter, before ordering. The charger tip should be of the same dimensions as the one that is on the power supply adapter that came with the laptop. Compatible charger tip could be acquired via eBay or by contacting the seller of the GetGui DC charging adapter.