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Setting Up Your Computer Repair Shop

A computer repair shop is where you will do some of your business, maybe not all of it.

This is a quote from one of my instructors while I was in college when he looked at my tool/parts box:

"You spend the first ten years of your career collecting all that stuff, then for the next ten you keep it in a closet, moving it around once in a while. Then for the next ten years you try to get rid of it!"

There are those people that leave the job at the job when they go home. Some of us have a work space at home.

Now if you are an entry level or in school you will need to setup a little work space to do your experiments and work on different things to gain more experience. Or maybe you will have a side job fixing computers. You may be like me (a nerd) and need to have more than one computer, when you blow up one you still have one that works!  :)

If you can afford the space a spare bed room or part of a garage is best for a computer repair shop. With a separate place to work and study where it is quite. It would be better to be able to leave your experiment or what you are working on where it won't be disturbed would be best.

If you have young children having a door that locks will keep the curious from getting hurt or moving something that shouldn't be moved.

Computer Repair Shop - What you may need:

  • An open table or bench
  • Tool box with various tools, screw drivers, torque drivers, and maybe a small wrench set (millimeter and inch).
  • Various pliers, needle nose (straight and bent)
  • Magnifying glass
  • Small bench vise
  • Anti static mat
  • Anti static wrist strap
  • Surge suppressor (not a power strip)
  • Good lighting
  • Flash light
  • Some cleaning supplies such as canned air, wipes, and a small paint brush
  • Small parts box with trays (believe me this will come in handy!)
  • An old vacuum cleaner comes in handy for those really dirty jobs
  • A digital camera, you never know if you take something apart if you will finish the job right away. A picture is better than memory.
  • If you plan on doing low level repairs you will need a variable wattage soldering iron, 25 to 450 is a good range.
  • You will need some rosin solder (for electronic soldering) and soldering wick to desolder parts
  • Computer Repair Shop IT Tool Box
  • Documentation - Keeping your text books from College or trade school will come in handy. These publications will assist you with what you don't learn in class.

As you work towards your degree or certification you will collect different parts such as power supplies, video cards, hard drives, floppy drives, and so on. (trust me on this one). You will need some place to store these various parts, a spare closet works pretty well, and keep boxes only if they contain a part.   Smile!

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A known good part from an upgrade is cheaper and faster to get than ordering a part, so when you fix or upgrade keep the known good parts you never know when they will come in handy. Once you know what the actual problem is then you can buy a new part. By having a few known good spares it will save you time and money. Buying a part then finding out that it wasn't needed is a waste of time and money.

Computer Repair Shop - Some spare parts I recommend keeping on hand:

  • A power supply - Any power supply over 300 watts will power up most motherboards and add on video cards.
  • A processor - This one is a little tougher to justify unless you have done an upgrade. ( Was in my storage and found: A 8086, 486, Pentium, PIII, P4, P4D, Core 2 Duo - I doubt I will use the first four...)
  • Memory Modules - If you do an upgrade keep the ones you remove, not all modules will fit all motherboards but an old 1 GB DDR 2 saved me a trip to the local electronics store a couple of times (I have memory from SIMM to DDR3 spares [found some old 64K DIP chips the other day] - I know, I know...)
  • A hard drive - having a good spare hard drive for testing the interface on a motherboard is helpful (Formatted with an OS, DOS would be the best, no need for installing drivers, you could keep your Diagnostic tools on it also)
  • A CD/DVD drive - I have taken one of my drives out of my main computer because the one in the computer I was working on was dead. (I have a USB DVD also)
  • A Video Card - The old VGA cards are the best for testing, however they are getting very hard to find, I have three cards: VGA PCI, APG, and a PCIx. The PCIx is for newer motherboards if the slot is in question.
  • A Floppy Drive - If you pull one that is known good then keep it, you never know when you might have to have one for doing a test and they are also getting harder to find.
  • A NIC - I use the USB NIC for work on computers that I suspect the embedded NIC is causing problems (better than a PCMCIA card for laptops too!). I do have some older PCI NICs but the drivers are not compatible with Vista or Windows 7.
  • A Motherboard - Only if you do an upgrade and it is known good, you may get by with using that until you can purchase a new one.

This is assuming you are either setting up a (DIY) computer repair shop or doing work for someone else.

Never put a used part in a customers computer unless you explain to the customer that either the wait time for the new part to arrive is a long time or lack of new parts because of the age of the computer.

Always keep anti static bags or containers, you never know when you will pull a part then need to store it for some time.

Computer Repair Shop - For those that don't have a lot of room for extra monitors, keyboards, and mice then a KVM switch (Keyboard/Video/Mouse) will save a lot of space. This will allow you to connect more computers to one keyboard/video/mouse and just push a button to cycle through all the computers. (I have two KVM switches; one at my computer desk for the desktop and my laptop and one on my bench I can connect up to four computers to).

Computer Repair Shop - You may also want to setup a small network for the shop also, an eight to twenty-four port Auto-switch works well to network a small shop. An advantage to using a network is if you have a computer you are troubleshooting has a video problem you might be able to connect to the computer by remote control such as with Dame Ware Mini Remote or MS Remote Desktop. I have changed video drivers on a non functional video card to fix it using this technique. If you connect the auto-switch to your router then you can test network and internet connections also.

Note: When you install new computer parts you may get a small printed document about the part with specifications and installation procedures. If you are doing work on your own computer then keep those documents, they have some very useful information. If you are doing a job for a customer ask the customer if they want the documents, some will say yes others will say no. If you keep those documents you can build yourself a small library for your computer repair shop that will come in handy from time to time. My bookshelf has about seventy-five small documents from parts I have installed over time. I reference them from time to time when working on a computer or writing on this web site.

As you progress though you career you will collect all kinds of different computer parts and documentation. For me one of the hardest parts to throw away are cables, you never know when you will need an IDE drive cable, a power cable, a "y" power connector, or various and sundry cables. I have four boxes of them...

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