If you’re like me you are the “de-facto computer repair person” for your family and friends. With the ubiquity of laptops nowadays, it is easier for your friends and family to bring their computer to you. But there are still times where making a house call is still necessary.
The thought of going outside the friendly confines of your home to make a repair can seem daunting. What if they don’t have the correct screwdriver in case you have to open the box? What if they don’t have the software needed to fix any problems that have arisen? There are a lot of “what-ifs” when dealing with someone else’s computer — especially if they aren’t as savvy.
For that reason, I have created a DIY computer repair kit — a first aid kit for ailing computers, if you will. Here’s what you’ll need to make one:
A Multi-Head Screwdriver
If you have to open the box to see what is going on inside the guts of the computer, having a multi-head screwdriver is the best way to go. You’ll often have different screws for each layer of the case, so having one screwdriver that the head can be switched out saves you time (and space) in your computer repair kit. It’s ideal if you can get one with a ratcheting head; it makes tight spaces easier to deal with.
Bonus tip: Leave the heads on a strong magnet (if you have an old speaker that works best) overnight and that will magnetize them. Never lose a screw again!
A Ubuntu Live CD
Sometimes a computer simply will not boot into the operating system. Having a Ubuntu live CD allows you to discern if the operating system is compromised or if the hard drive has crashed — or is about to crash. Having an operating system on a CD also lets you do a back up if the hard drive is getting ready to die, because (let’s face it) your family more than likely has not backed up their data the way they should.
A Flash Drive with Antivirus Software
A good assumption going into a computer repair is that your family member has virus or spyware on their machine. Having a flash drive with some form of antivirus software in your computer repair kit ensures you’re prepared for this. I download and update Windows Security Essentials on a flash drive that I have no other data on. Viruses can “leak” onto a flash drive, so I try my best not to use the toolkit flash drive in my production machine.
A Can of Air
Reality check: PC’s get dusty.
Sometimes there is a blanket of dust on the parts inside that trap in heat and can cause static to build up. Anytime I open up a PC I clean it out with a can of air. It’s important to use a can of air and not a vacuum because vacuums create static, which can cause all sorts of problems.
If you have an old hard drive lying around consider packing it in your toolkit. Sometimes testing different hardware will give you a better understanding about what is going on and how to solve it. Be careful with RAM though; putting the wrong kind of RAM in a PC can damage the motherboard. In my toolkit I have a spare hard drive, a few sticks of RAM, and an old CD drive. That way, if I need to I can swap out the old pieces of hardware and see if that solves the problem. We’ve told you in the past how to repair a keyboard, but having one of those in your computer repair kit also can be a good idea.
Of course, the best maintenance is preventative maintenance. Take the opportunity to talk to your family about good PC habits. Remind them about security issues and to change passwords. Show them how to back up data correctly so they don’t lose their important documents or precious photos. Showing them how to do these things will save them and you a lot of stress in the long run.
That said, you never know when you’re going to have to make a house call. Being prepared is a good way to save you stress and any headaches that may accompany a house call.
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