As far as computer repair tools go, there are a few items I never leave home (or the office) without when visiting clients. One of them is my networking tools toolbox – essential for computer repair professionals dealing with networks. If you’re already dealing with networks, you probably already have something like this. If not, this is a good starting point.
My box just what I need for the amount, and type, of networking jobs I do. Basically this toolbox houses my network testers, wire strippers, spare patch cables, punch-down tool, etc. Everything I need to terminate and test network ports and wiring.
Each tech will have a variation of what sort of networking tools they carry with them. This is just what I have and is a good guideline to building your own network toolbox. If you do more networking jobs more often, you might want something more. For me, this works out nicely.
First, the box itself (pictured at the top of this post). I picked this up at my local Harbor Freight – check it out here. It’s sturdy, easy to store in my car, easy to carry and doesn’t look half-bad either. The dividers make it easy to organize everything I carry in it.
Network Cable Tester
This is a very basic tester I picked up at Home Depot. My tester I normally use died after many years of service. There are some pretty big differences between this $79 tester and my previous $450 tester. For example, the more expensive tester told you the length of the cable being tested – and if there was a break in the cable, it tells you approximately how many feet down the line the break is, making troubleshooting much easier. It also had a feature to test the network ports on a network switch and was even able to obtain an IP address for testing purposes. All of these features come in very handy!
My next cable tester will probably be a Fluke tester, similar to this one. My old one was made by Ideal, and while it worked great, I think a Fluke will last longer. It’s a brand I see being used a lot by network technicians.
I don’t have a cable certifier, as my networking jobs don’t require it. These are more expensive and have features I’ll probably never use.
Wire Stripper and Crimper
The orange wire stripper is a cinch to use and inexpensive. The crimper is something I hardly ever use. I don’t really have the need for it except for the rare occasion. You should be using keystones/jacks, patch panels and patch cables in your network setup. If you’re crimping wires, something needs to be fixed or changed in your network…
Impact Punch down Tool
A punch-down tool will terminate CAT 3/5/5e/6 cable to keystones and patch panels. Whether doing a new network install or you just need it to re-terminate existing wire, this is the tool to use. There are less expensive, more basic, tools you can use, but this is nice for the “impact” feature. It will terminate and cut the end of the wire in one motion. The blade is interchangeable – use the 110 blade for network patch panels and keystones and use the 66 blade for telephone 66 blocks.
One of my favorites. I use my toner probably more than any other tool in my box. There are two parts to a toner kit: the “wand” and the box that generates a tone – an audible beep you can hear using the wand. This makes troubleshooting and find network cable runs much easier. The end of the box that creates the tone has a few different attachments. One attachment has alligator clips for clipping onto bare (unterminated) wire. The other click has an RJ-11 plug you can use to plug into phone jacks (RJ-11) or network jacks (RJ-45).
Once you have the tone generator plugged in somewhere, say, in a network jack in your client’s office, you can use the want to “sniff out” the cable run where the wires are terminated. Usually there is a dedicated closet where all of the network and phone cables are housed. Simply use stick on the wand in to the mess of wires until you are able to track down the run – the louder the tone gets, the closer you are to the cable you’re searching for.
Pretty basic tool here. Used to easily cut out hole in drywall for boxes/face plates and getting into walls for pulling wire.
If you’re doing phone work, you need this. It’s a phone with two leads with alligator clips at the end. The clips can be connected to a 66 block or to an adapter for plugging straight into a phone jack. They’re usually a few hundred dollars, but this one is inexpensive and looks like it’s getting good reviews. I ordered one – we’ll see how it holds up to the “traditional” butt set.
This style of butt set is old-school but gets the job done.
Fiberglass Wire Running Kit
Okay, this won’t fit in your toolbox, but it’s a must-have if you plan on pulling any amount of wire. These kits usually come with 5 or 6, 6-foot pull/push rods. They glow in the dark, are unbreakable (I’ve never broken one anyway!), very flexible and can be connected together to make one really long rod. I’ve never had to use a fish tape because of these rods. They’re far better! In ceilings or walls, they make pulling wire a lot easier. A popular system is called “Creep-Zit” from Labor Saving Devices, Inc.
Other items in the box
Wire coathanger (another way to pull wire in tight spots)
Various cable ties
Long drill bit
I’m sure I’m missing something – I’ll update as I remember.
Do you already have a toolbox like this? If so, what tools to you carry?