All you need to build a modern desktop computer is a screwdriver. That’s it. But if you want an easier or safer time of it, there are a few simple tools you can add on top to make things go smoothly. Once you have your parts selected and you know the fairly simple steps to take, you’ll be ready to go.
A Driver Kit
A single screwdriver will do for a PC build, but having multiple size options (especially of the near-universal X-shaped Phillips head screwdriver) makes things a lot easier. For this purpose, we’ve recommended the iFixIt driver kit for years. The primary screwdriver is a super-sturdy hunk of steel with kerning for grip, and this kit comes with 64 high-quality magnetized steel drivers to cover almost any kind of small screw imaginable. These kits are so good that Apple’s been known to use them to help design new computers.
By the way, if you’re thinking about using a drill or electric screwdriver, don’t: Using a lot of speed or torque for the screws inside a PC case might break circuit boards or thin steel sheets. Stick with your trusty fingers.
An Anti-Static Wrist Strap
A lot of modern builders consider anti-static equipment overkill—so long as you’re working in a cool, dry place, you probably won’t short any parts out with a static discharge. But if you want to play it safe—and if you’re building an expensive high-end rig, why wouldn’t you?—an old-fashioned anti-static bracelet is the way to go. Put one end around your wrist, clip the other to a piece of grounded metal, and you’ll be free from worry about static electricity.
A Silicone Work Mat
One thing that might surprise you about building a PC is how many screws you have to manage. You can use cups or bowls from your kitchen to keep them straight, but this handy silicone mat is even better: It has built-in dividers for keeping things organized, backed with magnets to make sure they don’t go flying. The silicone material means that you can rest components directly on the mat without worrying about static discharges, too.
A Telescoping Magnet
We’ve all been there: getting a fiddly little screw down perfectly into a case goes wrong, and the screw is now lodged somewhere your pudgy fingers can’t reach. This telescoping magnet can grab them without the need to remove entire components … or abandon them to rattle around the bowels of your PC case forever.
Some Cable Ties
Things can get messy inside a PC case, with data cables going from your storage and disk drives to the motherboard, and power rails from the power supply to the motherboard, CPU, GPU, storage drives, and all fans. To keep things tidy, pick up a few of these reusable velcro straps. Not only will they keep cables out of the way while you’re building your computer, but the interior will look neat if your case has a transparent window. They’re also a better option than zip ties since they’re reusable.
A Set of Spare Screws
A new case and fans should come with all of the mounting equipment you need. But if you manage to lose something, or if you’re upgrading an existing build, you might be short a screw or two. (Literally.) This kit includes spares of pretty much everything you could ever need, including the hard-to-find motherboard standoff pegs, fan mounting screws, and thumbscrews.
Spare Thermal Paste
If you’ve bought a new processor or CPU cooler, it should come with a small tube of thermal paste, a substance that helps dissipate the heat from the processor to the cooler. But if you lose it or you need some more, it’s easy to find. We recommend a trusty PC building favorite, Arctic Silver 5. If you don’t know how to apply it, check out this article over on How-To Geek.
A Canless Air Tool
Canned air is a favorite for PC builders who are upgrading or simply cleaning their machines. But it’s not ideal: Those cans are basically built to be disposable, and the chemicals inside are very unfriendly to the environment. Instead, use this tiny little electric “canless air” machine: it’s basically a leaf blower for the inside of your PC. It’s great for cleaning off your nasty keyboard, too.
If you need a more direct way to clean problem spots in your computer, especially the crucial electrical contacts on plugs and circuit boards, isopropyl alcohol is the way to go. Use Q-tips to gently apply the alcohol in a thin sheet. It’s sterile and will clean off any gunk, then evaporate, leaving your components ready for action.
If you still need help selecting the actual PC components of the computer you want to build, be sure to check out these online tools to help you nail the compatibility and pricing. And of course, if you want a step-by-step guide on every single part of building the PC itself, check out How-To Geek’s exhaustive guide.