What tools are essential for taking care of a computer, what tools should you not be without on hand when going to fix a desktop or server and what can you leave in your shop? A+ certification is a relatively new field, though the skillsets that make it up are as old as I.T itself, it consists of addressing the core issues surrounding a PC, fixing serial ports, software and hardware issues, hexidecimal and binary, the basic nuts and bolts of taking care of a computer.
Time Shaver For the Core Hardware exam, you’ll need a thorough understanding of the tools used to diagnose, troubleshoot, remove, and install FRMs in the PC. Your ability to appropriately use tools in troubleshooting, diagnosing, and repairing a PC is assumed in the A+ exams. If you have a fair amount
of experience using tools to diagnose and troubleshoot PC problems, then you should at least skim this chapter. However, if you don’t have much hands-on experience with these tools and how they are used, study this chapter, especially the section on multimeters. There are literally hundreds of different types of hardware tools. Some tools are specific to particular tasks and others are more generic. Luckily for PC repair technicians, most of the necessary tools are
fairly generic, which saves money when buying tools. The more specific a tool is to a task, the more it costs. Tip You can buy an adequate tool kit that has most of the basic tools you need at your local computer or electronics store or online for less than $20. (They often come in nifty little zippered cases.) When buying a tool kit, be sure that it has an electrostatic discharge (ESD) grounding wrist strap.
The PC repair technician’s tool kit consists of two groups of hardware tools: the never-go-to-thecustomer- site-without-these-tools and the tools-that-are-kept-at-the-shop-for-major-surgery. Like a doctor’s bag, only the instruments and generic medicines that are needed for general care are carried in the bag, and the really strange and specific tools are left back in the operating room. The following sections discuss the general categories of hardware tools, separating each category into those tools that go into the doctor’s bag and those that should be left in the operating room. Tools you shouldn’t leave home without
Many tools should be carried to all customer sites. They’re the staples of your tool kit. Don’t leave home without ’em.
Tip Screwdrivers are used in assembly and disassembly tasks, which are common activities in repairing
and diagnosing PC problems. (You don’t need a huge assortment of screwdrivers.) The screws used in the PC come in four general flavors: Phillips (cross-head recess or star), slotted (standard), hex head, or Torx. If you have one or two good screwdrivers for each type of screw, you’ll never need to return to the shop to get the screwdriver you didn’t think you’d ever need. Know the different screw heads by sight, especially the Phillips and Torx. Warning Magnetic screwdrivers, although convenient, can be dangerous to the sensitive electronic components inside the computer. Take it from somebody with fingers like small tree trunks: Using a magnetic screwdriver to fish out a screw that has fallen inside the system case is tempting, but there are fragile electronic circuits that the electromagnetic field can damage. More than likely, poking around with the screwdriver is a greater danger than the magnetic tip. Regardless, I suggest you adopt a bettersafe- than-sorry attitude and use nonmagnetic tools.
Needle nose pliers
While not completely necessary, you can use needle nose pliers to hold screws and connectors when your fingers are just too big. They also are handy for working with wire, and most needle nose pliers have a wire cutter near the hinge. I suggest carrying a set with you, just in case. Warning The handles on some pliers are plastic or rubber, which improve your grip, but don’t protect you from electrical shock. Pliers that are insulated against shock are marked as such, but are very rare.
This tool has a small set of retractable claws that extend when a button on the spring-loaded handle is pressed. After they are extended, you can place the claws around an item to be retrieved, such as the screw that fell onto the motherboard, and release the spring to grasp the item. This tool is a necessity and a safer choice than a magnetic screwdriver.
Diagonal cutters (dikes)
Manufacturers usually bundle all the cables, including the one you need, with cable ties. A small pair of diagonal cutters, also known as dikes, are useful for cutting cable ties and any other thick wire or plastic that you need to cut. Of course, cutting a cable tie should remind you to put some extra cable tie in your
ESD wrist strap
This tool is a necessity in every tool kit for travel and in the shop. An ESD wrist strap (shown in Figure3-1 ) is akin to the mask worn by the surgeon over his or her mouth and face. An ESD wrist strap is an elastic or Velcro wristband with a coiled wire that has a snap or clip at the end. The clip or snap attaches to a computer chassis or a grounding mat, or both, that grounds you and eliminates
the potential for ESD
damage from you or your tools. Wear an ESD wrist strap (or ankle strap or heel strap if your workplace is equipped for them) whenever you open the system unit or handle circuit cards, such as the motherboard or expansion cards. The wrist
strap must make two good contacts–with your skin at the wrist strap end and with a grounded surface through the clip or snap end.
An ESD wrist strap is an essential piece of equipment to have in your tool kit. Follow these steps to ensure that both you and the PC are protected against ESD:
1. Turn the PC’s power switch to its OFF position. Verify that the power actually goes off.
2. Unplug the PC’s power cord.
3. Ensure that you and the PC will not be in contact with any other grounded objects.
4. Place the PC on a flat surface that is free from metallic objects, electrical cords, power supplies,
hydroelectric plants, and the like. Make sure that the PC is not touching another PC or any other electrical device that is plugged into an electrical outlet.
Shocking Information An ESD wrist strap has a one-megaohm resistor located in its grounding cord. Never, for any reason, remove this resistor. If the resistor is damaged or is not working, replace the grounding cord or the entire wrist strap immediately. Dispose of the faulty cord or strap to avoid using it accidentally.
You can find just about anything you ever wanted to know about ESD and ESD protection on the ESDSystems.Com Web site provided by Desco Industries, Inc. at http://www.esdsystems.com .
One of the primary troubleshooting and diagnostic tools in your tool kit is a multimeter, also known as a digital multimeter or digital voltage multimeter (DVM). On the A+ Core Hardware exam, it is referred to as a multimeter. This tool, shown in Figure 3-2 , is used to test or measure a range of electrical
properties of the PC.
A multimeter is used to test and measure the electrical properties of the PC and its components.
A flashlight is another must-have. Many gloomy shadows lurk inside the computer where screws and other small parts can fall. You may also need it to read some very small print on chips, labels, or circuit boards, such as the pin markings on a connector or version numbers on a ROM, that can be hard to read
in the shadows inside of the system. A small high-beam flashlight comes in handy, although some of us need what amounts to a searchlight for finding small parts or components inside the PC’s case.
You rarely need to diagnose or repair a parallel or serial port on a PC. However, if it is necessary to isolate a port problem, loop-back plugs , which simulate a connection on a port, can be used to test the function of a port. Loop-back plugs, which are constructed by connecting the pins of a connector head together so that the data sent out is immediately sensed on the receiving pins of the port, are typically used in conjunction with a diagnostics software package, such as Pc-Check ( http://www.eurosoft-usa.com ),
Norton Utilities ( http://www.symantec.com ), or CheckIt ( http://www.touchstonesoftware.com ). A loop-back plug
performs a full operations test to determine if the cause of a communications error problem is in the
These have no specific repair purpose but come in handy when I need to see a
connector or wire deep inside the computer or around a card or connector. You can find nonmedical
versions (which are cheaper than medical versions) of these tools at most tool shops. Most good commercial tool kits available now include these items.
Angled mirrors help you see around corners inside a PC.
When you need to cut through something that can’t be cut with wire cutters or dikes, a utility knife or blade of some type can be just what you need. If you carry one with you, be sure that it has a retracting edge or snug-fitting cover. You may also want to include a small, good-quality pair of scissors in your tool kit. Just make sure that it has a cover or small case to keep you from stabbing yourself when you reach into the kit.
Anytime you open a PC, perform a little preventive maintenance. If nothing else, vacuum the system case to remove all of the dust bunnies that have accumulated inside since the last time it was cleaned (if ever). A variety of small vacuum cleaners designed specifically for PCs is available in both AC and battery powered models. Most have either a small brush head, like the one shown in Figure 3-4 , or a relatively short hose on which brush attachments are mounted.
You will definitely encounter questions that ask when, why, and what to expect from the software tools described in this section. A PC’s problem is not always apparent. Rarely do you arrive to find the power supply on fire, which would be a clear indication that the problem is actually the power supply. If you’ve worked with PCs long enough, you know that no problem is ever exactly what it seems. (Of course, the power supply or another FRM being on fire would definitely be an exception.) The problem often lies deep inside the computer, and you must employ something other than hardware tools. When the problem is apparent, you may need to use diagnostic and trouble-shooting software. These tools are as essential to your tool kit as the Phillips screwdriver is. Whether they’re a part of your travel tool kit is a policy matter for you or your employer. Using your software involves installing and uninstalling the software for each use. If your customer has a particular need or is having a repeating problem, you may want to encourage the customer to purchase a copy of the diagnostic software for his or her PC. Luckily, some of these tools are included with the operating system,