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Think inside the box

Once you’ve bought all the components for your rockin’ new gaming rig, there inevitably comes the moment when you have to cobble it all together. It’s not too painful, as long as you have the right tools.

OK, you’ve taken out a second mortgage on your home and bought all the bleeding-edge components required to build your own gaming rig. Cool! (Well, not that “second mortgage” part.) Consequently, you’re going to want more than an old, bent screwdriver and a pair of rusty visegrips to cobble it all together into a fire-breathing work of electronic art. What you need is a gamer’s toolkit. Here are the basics–plus a few extras–that I recommend for PC assembly.

At the top of the list is an antistatic wrist band so you don’t fry those expensive new components. Strap it on and attach it to your computer case to avoid becoming a human fly zapper.

In the words of Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, we need more power. So, next up is a power screwdriver. Once you’ve used one, you’ll never want to futz with a slow, old-fashioned, elbow-grease screwdriver again. Throw in a spare, fully-charged battery and a good selection of bits.

In addition, you need an assortment of traditional screwdrivers–both slotted and Phillips–to get into those tight and hard-to-reach places. Or you may want to consider a ratcheting or non-ratcheting screwdriver set.

You should also keep at least two pair of pliers in your toolkit to service most needs–needle-nose and diagonal cutters. Or you can substitute a single pair of long-nose pliers with cutters. While not required, curved chain-nose pliers are useful as well.

A small, adjustable wrench is requisite for your toolkit, too. It’s useful for installing and removing motherboard stand-offs and tightening or loosening nuts for which you don’t have the appropriate nut driver. You also need a pair of scissors, unless you want to tear bags and pouches open with your teeth (not highly recommended).

Stash a flashlight in your toolbox for working in those dimly lit spaces. A snake light makes an excellent self-standing light source while a quality-built Mag-Lite or penlight is valuable for illuminating small crevices and corners. I have one of each.

In addition, a can of compressed air is handy for blowing out dust and debris, as is a pocket knife or box cutter for opening cardboard packages. And, if you have some bucks to spare, pick up an ATX power supply tester, an optical-disc repair tool, and a magnetized screwdriver (just be sure to keep it away from electronic components!). Minimalists can replace a number of implements with a Leatherman Wave, the connoisseurs’ multipurpose tool. Finally, if you plan to do any modding, you might want to consider a soldering gun and a rotary tool.

Tools aren’t the only items necessary when assembling a PC toolkit. A first-rate collection of miscellaneous parts and supplies is recommended. An assortment to keep within reach includes thermal compound, screws, stand-offs, jumpers, spare cables, cable ties, and batteries. Toss some paper clips, rubber bands, Post-It Notes, a fine-point Sharpie, and some antistatic bags into your toolkit, too, along with a contingent of cleaning supplies and some soft rags.

Of course, depending on your needs and skills (or lack thereof), your best solution may simply be to acquire a good quality, pre-assembled kit like those offered by Belkin. It’s a great way to get started and it will save you a bundle over buying individual tools.

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