Hardware Tools Every School Computer Lab Should Have

Dumba Stephen

In the fulfillment of my duties as a Computer Lab technician at St. Peter’s SSS Nsambya, I dismantled computers and other IT equipment left, right and center on almost daily basis. Even with my full time schedule, I was often called upon by different institutions to help out on a few challenges in their computer labs. I was astonished that in these institutions, there still was a resident lab technician on full salary but only doing the work of watchman.

The purpose of this article therefore is to encourage the would be technicians in many schools and their administration to learn of the basic tools needed to manage maintenance works in a lab. Administrators will also be triggered to procure the equipment and hire people who know how to use them. This will in turn help institutions to lower the cost of maintaining their IT infrastructure.

Below is a non-conclusive list of tools that will help in the day to day maintenance of lab equipment.

Blower
Computers, like any other equipment will accumulate dust even in the cleanest of environments. Not only is it uncomfortable working on a dusty surface but over time, this dust also affects the computer’s performance. Vents and cooling fans keep the internal components operating at a safe temperature. Once dust is drawn into those vents they can begin to clog forcing the fans to work harder to maintain a safe temperature. Also, the harder those internal cooling fans work the faster they will break. If the fans are unable to maintain a safe temperature, other parts of your computer like the memory, processor or power supply can overheat and stop working correctly.

Tester and Screw Driver
There will be cases when one of your computers will not power on. The first thing I do in this case is to test whether the power cable or socket actually has power running through it. But also, I use the tester to open up system units to check on the inside.

However, sometimes you have to unfasten the heat sink which in the case of many Dell machines will require a longer screw driver.

Power Supply Tester
Many times we lose power supply units due to erratic power. In some cases though, we write off a power supply yet actually it is still fine. It is painful to buy a new PSU only to find out that it wasn’t the problem. This can be solved by using a PSU tester to verify its state.

Flash Disk
It is easy for one to ignore this but many of a technician’s tasks will involve the use of a flash disk. Unlike the yesteryears, you can now install an operating system from a flash disk or even break a windows password from the same. It is even more common these days to install software from your flash disk.

External Hard Disk Reader / Docking Station /Portable HDD
What happens when your HDD suddenly misbehaves? Sometimes, you are better working on it from outside the system unit. A docking station in this case comes in handy. There are also cases when you are recovering data from your system but lack enough space on which to put what is recovered. You can connect a docking station with a larger HDD just to make sure the data you intend to recover is saved. Portable HDDs are also a great option for backing up data for future use in the event that the one on the PCs is lost. I personally use portable HDDs to have a backup of my software collection of 10 years.

Paper Clip
A seasoned technician must have come across a scenario where their optical drive fails to eject. In some cases, the drive may fail to eject with a CD/DVD stuck inside. The use of a pin or paper clip then arises. Small as it is, pushing it gently in the small hole at the front of the drive may be your best option.

Crimping tool and Punch Down Tool
Ever needed to terminate a network cable? Yes, you may have the cable and the RJ45, but a crimping tool finishes the work. The punch down tool will be used in cases where the cable must be connected to a LAN socket. Sometimes, nosy students break a long network cable on a school compound. To reduce the inconvenience of laying down the entire length of a cable, I fix a LAN socket at one end and an RJ 45 at the other. I then terminate a shorter cable to connect the 2 points, saving me the hustle of jumping over walls.

Conclusion
This is not an exhaustive list but good enough to handle most technical scenarios in a school or small office environment. It is important to know that a reliable technician will also need some software in his day to day routine. You can find an article on software every school computer lab should have here.

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Stephen Dumba
E-zone School of Computing
0752 111 223 / 0772 111 223

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