Jake Charman

Resident Geek of Nitrous Junkie Racing

10 Things Every IT Tech Should Have

Thu 16 Jun 2016

I’ve been working on computers for a long time now whether it be family members, friends, school or otherwise. I find myself always carrying certain tools and spares. It’s always irritating when on a job to realise you don’t have the tools or parts to finish. Here’s a list of stuff, more for my own reference than for anyone else’s, that every IT tech should own.

1) A multi-bit screwdriver
I personally have two screwdrivers that I more or less always carry. The first is a Stanley six way screwdriver. This is useful more for desktop PC applications like case screws. I also have a laptop screwdriver bought from Poundland. These are useful in a number of circumstances and aren’t that heavy to always carry.
2) An external hard drive 
My main use for this is at college when something goes horribly wrong and I have to reinstall the OS on a machine. It’s useful to have a storage medium big enough to dump the entire home directory onto before wiping the machine. While we do have Google apps for education. It’s still faster to use a USB HDD for this. In my case I bought an enclosure from Amazon for £5 and installed the drive from a dead laptop I had already. 
3) A multi boot USB stick
It’s common for an IT tech to come across multiple operating systems in day to day work. I always have a 32GB USB stick in my keys installed with the GRUB4DOS boot loader containing all the OSs I’m likely to need to reinstall (in my case Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7 and Ubuntu) plus a few Linux live distros for repairs.
4) A smartphone/tablet
Personally I carry both, my iPhone 5s and my Acer Iconia W500 which is currently dual booting Android and Ubuntu. These devices are great for quick Googling of tricky issues without having to run back and fourth between the issue and the IT office and some apps such as Fing, Wifi Analyser, VNC, RDP, ServerAuditor and many more.
5) Cables! 
I don’t personally carry these but at college I have access to a cupboard full. Quite often the cause of an issue is a flaky connection usually caused by the cable. It’s good to have access to a good variety of the cables you use. 
6) An RJ-45 cable tester
I don’t carry this with me but it has come in handy many times when I’m dealing with weird network issues. While you can easily do the same job with a multimeter, these are so much more convenient and my particular one cost me £2 from China with free P&P. 
7) Spares
Not something to carry around but definitely something to have. Always obey the rule of RIP (Rest In Pieces). If something dies, a laptop for example, take out all the working parts and put them somewhere safe. I’ve revived many a dead machine by having spare parts around.
8) A home server
Not strictly necessary but believe me, it’s better to hose your own server than one that hundreds of users are relying on. I personally have a machine running Ubuntu Server 16.04 installed with KVM hosting Windows Server 2012 R2 and Ubuntu Server VMs. For test use its a good idea to use VMs since with proper snapshots all mistakes are reversible.
9) An old laptop
A laptop you don’t particularly care about is a good asset to try ideas that may end badly or just use in situations you wouldn’t trust your main machine with. Mine is a mixture of parts from Acer Aspire 3000 and Acer Aspire 5000 laptops and is running Debian. I already had an Aspire 5000 lying around with a dead motherboard and I bought the Aspire 3000 from eBay for £20. If you’re going to do this though make sure you take the laptop apart and see what state it’s in. Mine caught fire due to a bad repair on a wifi antenna bridging out connections to the power supply. Me and the laptop both live to tell the tale though.
10) A soldering iron
Being able to repair a broken charger for a laptop for example is far cheaper than being forced to buy a new one. If you’re in an organisation where the budget is very low or if you’re just a cheapskate. A soldering iron will save you many times. For simple cable repairs you do not even need to be that good at soldering.