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Introduction to Lab Procedures and Tool Use

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Cisco Press.
  • Date: Jan 1, 2018.

Chapter Description

This sample chapter from IT Essentials Companion Guide v6, 6th Edition, covers basic safety practices for the workplace, hardware and software tools, and the disposal of hazardous materials. Safety guidelines help protect individuals from accidents and injury. They also help to protect equipment from damage. Some of these guidelines are designed to protect the environment from contamination caused by improperly discarded materials.

Proper Use of Tools (2.2)

Using tools properly helps prevent accidents and damage to equipment and people. This section describes and covers the proper use of a variety of hardware, software, and organizational tools specific to working with computers and peripherals.

Hardware Tools (2.2.1)

For every job there is the right tool. Make sure that you are familiar with the correct use of each tool and that the correct tool is used for the current task. Skilled use of tools and software makes the job less difficult and ensures that tasks are performed properly and safely.

General Tool Use (

Computer repair requires some task-specific tools. Make sure that you are familiar with the correct use of each tool and that the correct tool is used for the task. Skilled use of tools and software makes the job less difficult and ensures that tasks are performed properly and safely.

A toolkit should contain all the tools necessary to complete hardware repairs. Figure 2-3 shows an example of a PC repair toolkit.

Figure 2-3

Figure 2-3 Toolkit

As you gain experience, you learn which tools to have available for different types of jobs. Hardware tools are grouped into four categories:

  • ESD tools

  • Hand tools

  • Cleaning tools

  • Diagnostic tools

ESD Tools (

There are two ESD tools: the antistatic wrist strap and the antistatic mat. The antistatic wrist strap protects computer equipment when grounded to a computer chassis. The antistatic mat protects computer equipment by preventing static electricity from accumulating on the hardware or on the technician. Figures 2-4 and 2-5 show the two types of ESD tools discussed above.

Figure 2-4

Figure 2-4 Antistatic Wrist Strap

Figure 2-5

Figure 2-5 Antistatic Mat

Hand Tools (

Most tools used in the computer assembly process are small hand tools. They are available individually or as part of a computer repair toolkit. Toolkits range widely in size, quality, and price.

Cable Tools (

Tools for repairing and creating cables are also part of a computer repair toolkit. Figures 2-6 and 2-7 provide images of common cable tools.

Figure 2-6

Figure 2-6 Crimper

Figure 2-7

Figure 2-7 Punch Down Tool

Cleaning Tools (

Having the appropriate cleaning tools is essential when maintaining and repairing computers. Using the appropriate cleaning tools such as lint-free cloth, compressed air, cable ties, a parts organizer for small parts helps ensure that computer components are not damaged during cleaning.

Diagnostic Tools (

Diagnostic tools are used to test and diagnose equipment.

Digital Multimeter

A digital multimeter, as shown in Figure 2-8, is a device that can take many types of measurements. It tests the integrity of circuits and the quality of electricity in computer components. A digital multimeter displays the information on an LCD or LED screen.

Figure 2-8

Figure 2-8 Digital Multimeter

Loopback Adapter

A loopback adapter, also called a loopback plug, tests the basic functionality of computer ports. The adapter is specific to the port that you want to test.

Tone Generator and Probe

The tone generator and probe, as shown in Figure 2-9, is a two-part tool. The tone part is connected to a cable at one end using specific adapters. The tone generates a tone that travels the length of the cable. The probe traces the cable. When the probe is in near proximity to the cable to which the tone is attached, the tone can be heard through a speaker in the probe.

Figure 2-9

Figure 2-9 Tone Generator and Probe

WiFi Analyzer

WiFi analyzers are mobile tools for auditing and troubleshooting wireless networks. Many WiFi analyzers are robust tools designed for enterprise network planning, security, compliance, and maintenance. But WiFi analyzers can also be used for smaller, wireless LANs. Technicians can see all available wireless networks in a given area, determine signal strengths, and position access points to adjust wireless coverage.

Some WiFi analyzers can help troubleshoot a wireless network by detecting misconfigurations, access point failures, and RFI problems.

External Hard Drive Enclosure

Although an external hard drive enclosure is not a diagnostic tool, it is often used when diagnosing and repairing computers. The customer hard drive is placed into the external enclosure for inspection, diagnosis, and repair using a known-working computer. Backups can also be recorded to a drive in an external enclosure to prevent data corruption during a computer repair.

Software Tools (2.2.2)

Software tools help diagnose computer and network problems and determine which computer device is not functioning correctly. A technician must be able to use a range of software tools to diagnose problems, maintain hardware, and protect the data stored on a computer.

Disk Management Tools (

You must be able to identify which software to use in different situations. Disk management tools help detect and correct disk errors, prepare a disk for data storage, and remove unwanted files:

  • Disk Management—Initializes disks, creates partitions, and formats partitions.

  • Format—Prepares a hard drive to store information.

  • Scandisk or CHKDSK—Checks the integrity of files and folders on a hard drive by scanning the file system. These tools might also check the disk surface for physical errors.

  • Optimize Drives—Previously known as Defrag, optimizes space on a hard drive to allow faster access to programs and data.

  • Disk Cleanup—Clears space on a hard drive by searching for files that can be safely deleted.

  • System File Checker (SFC)—Scans the operating system’s critical files and replaces files that are corrupt. Use the Windows 8 boot disk for troubleshooting and repairing corrupted files. The Windows 8 boot disk repairs Windows system files, restores damaged or lost files, and reinstalls the operating system. Third-party software tools are also available to assist in troubleshooting problems.

Protection Software Tools (

Each year, viruses, spyware, and other types of malicious attacks infect millions of computers. These attacks can damage operating systems, applications, and data. Computers that have been infected may even have problems with hardware performance or component failure.

To protect data and the integrity of the operating system and hardware, use software designed to guard against attacks and to remove malicious programs.

Various types of software protect hardware and data:

  • Windows Action Center—Checks the status of essential security settings. The Action Center continuously checks to make sure that the software firewall and antivirus programs are running. It also ensures that updates download and install automatically.

  • Windows Defender—Protects against viruses and spyware.

  • Window Firewall—Runs continuously to protect against unauthorized communications to and from your computer.

Organizational Tools (2.2.3)

Keeping accurate records and journals during a busy workday can be challenging. Many organizational tools, such as work-order systems, can help the technician document their work.

Reference Tools (

Good customer service includes providing the customer with a detailed description of the problem and the solution. It is important that a technician document all services and repairs and that this documentation is available to all other technicians. The documentation can then be used as reference material for similar problems.

Personal Reference Tools

Personal reference tools include troubleshooting guides, manufacturer manuals, quick reference guides, and repair journals. In addition to an invoice, a technician keeps a journal of upgrades and repairs:

  • Notes—Make notes as you go through the troubleshooting and repair process. Refer to these notes to avoid repeating steps and to determine what needs to be done next.

  • Journal—Include descriptions of the problem, possible solutions that have been tried to correct the problem, and the steps taken to repair the problem. Note any configuration changes made to the equipment and any replacement parts used in the repair. Your journal, along with your notes, can be valuable when you encounter similar situations in the future.

  • History of repairs—Make a detailed list of problems and repairs, including the date, replacement parts, and customer information. The history allows a technician to determine what work has been performed on a specific computer in the past.

Internet Reference Tools

The Internet is an excellent source of information about specific hardware problems and possible solutions:

  • Internet search engines

  • News groups

  • Manufacturer FAQs

  • Online computer manuals

  • Online forums and chat

  • Technical websites

Miscellaneous Tools (

With experience, you will discover many additional items to add to the toolkit; for example, masking tape can be used to label parts that have been removed from a computer when a parts organizer is not available.

A working computer is also a valuable resource to take with you on computer repairs in the field. A working computer can be used to research information, download tools or drivers, and communicate with other technicians.

Figure 2-10 shows the types of computer replacement parts to include in a toolkit. Make sure that the parts are in good working order before you use them. Using known good components to replace possible bad ones in computers helps you quickly determine which component is not working properly.

Figure 2-10

Figure 2-10 Miscellaneous Tools

Demonstrate Proper Tool Use (2.2.4)

This section describes the proper use of common tools used to protect, repair and clean computers and peripherals.

Antistatic Wrist Strap (

The antistatic wrist strap is a conductor that connects your body to the equipment that you are working on. When static electricity builds up in your body, the connection made by the wrist strap to the equipment, or ground, channels the electricity through the wire that connects the strap, keeping the charge between you and the equipment equal.

An example of static electricity is the small shock that you receive when you walk across a carpeted room and touch a doorknob. Although the small shock is harmless to you, the same electrical charge passing from you to a computer can damage its components. Wearing an antistatic wrist strap can prevent static electricity damage to computer components.

The wrist strap (seen previously in Figure 2-4) has two parts and is easy to wear:

  • Step 1. Wrap the strap around your wrist and secure it using the snap or Velcro. The metal on the back of the wrist strap must remain in contact with your skin at all times.

  • Step 2. Snap the connector on the end of the wire to the wrist strap, and connect the other end either to the equipment or to the same grounding point that the antistatic mat is connected to. The metal skeleton of the case is a good place to connect the wire. When connecting the wire to equipment that you are working on, choose an unpainted metal surface. A painted surface does not conduct electricity as well as unpainted metal.

Antistatic Mat (

An antistatic mat is slightly conductive. It works by drawing static electricity away from a component and transferring it safely from equipment to a grounding point:

  • Step 1. Lay the mat on the workspace next to or under the computer case.

  • Step 2. Clip the mat to the case to provide a grounded surface on which you can place parts as you remove them from the system.

When you are working at a workbench, ground the workbench and the antistatic floor mat. By standing on the mat and wearing the wrist strap, your body has the same charge as the equipment and reduces the probability of ESD.

Reducing the potential for ESD reduces the likelihood of damage to delicate circuits or components.

Hand Tools (

A technician needs to be able to properly use each tool in the toolkit. This page covers many of the various hand tools used when repairing computers.


Match each screw with the proper screwdriver. Place the tip of the screwdriver on the head of the screw. Turn the screwdriver clockwise to tighten the screw and counter clockwise to loosen the screw.

Screws can become stripped if you do not use the correct size and type of screwdriver. A stripped screw may not tighten firmly or it may not be easily removed. Discard stripped screws.

Flat Head Screwdriver

Use a flat head screwdriver when you are working with a slotted screw. Do not use a flat head screwdriver to remove a Phillips head screw. Never use a screwdriver as a pry bar. If you cannot remove a component, check to see if there is a clip or latch that is securing the component in place.

Phillips Head Screwdriver

Use a Phillips head screwdriver with crosshead screws. Do not use this type of screwdriver to puncture anything. This will damage the head of the screwdriver.

Hex Driver

Use a hex driver to loosen and tighten bolts that have a hexagonal (six-sided) head. Hex bolts should not be over-tightened because the threads of the bolts can be damaged. Do not use a hex driver that is too large for the bolt that you are using.

Component Retrieving Tools

A parts retriever is used to place and retrieve parts that may be hard to reach with your fingers. Do not scratch or hit any components when using these tools.

Various specialty tools, such as Torx bits, antistatic bags and gloves, and integrated circuit pullers, can be used to repair and maintain computers. Always avoid magnetized tools, such as screwdrivers with magnetic heads, or tools that use extension magnets to retrieve small metal objects that are out of reach. Additionally, there are specialized testing devices used to diagnose computer and cable problems:

  • Multimeter—A device that measures AC/DC voltage, electric current, and other electrical characteristics.

  • Power supply tester—A device that checks whether the computer power supply is working properly. A simple power supply tester might just have indicator lights, whereas more advanced versions show the amount of voltage and amperage.

  • Cable tester—A device that checks for wiring shorts, faults, or wires connected to the wrong pins.

  • Loopback plug—A device that connects to a computer, switch, or router port to perform a diagnostic procedure called a loopback test. In a loopback test, a signal is transmitted through a circuit and then returned to the sending device to test the integrity of the data transmission.

Cleaning Materials (

Keeping computers clean inside and out is a vital part of a maintenance program. Dirt can cause problems with the physical operation of fans, buttons, and other mechanical components. On electrical components, an excessive buildup of dust acts like an insulator and traps the heat. This insulation impairs the ability of heat sinks and cooling fans to keep components cool, causing chips and circuits to overheat and fail.

Computer Cases and Monitors

Clean computer cases and the outside of monitors with a mild cleaning solution on a damp, lint-free cloth. Mix one drop of dishwashing liquid with 4 oz. (118 ml) of water to create the cleaning solution. If water drips inside the case, allow enough time for the liquid to dry before powering on the computer.

When computers are in areas where there is excessive dirt and dust, use an enclosure to prevent much of the dirt from harming the computer. The enclosure should have filters to prevent dirt from entering the enclosure. These filters need to be cleaned or replaced on a regular basis.

LCD Screens

Do not use ammoniated glass cleaners or any other solution on an LCD screen, unless the cleaner is specifically designed for the purpose. Harsh chemicals damage the coating on the screen. Often, there is no glass protecting these screens, so be gentle when cleaning them and do not press firmly on the screen.

Clean dusty components with a can of compressed air. Compressed air does not cause electrostatic buildup on components. Make sure that you are in a well ventilated area before blowing the dust out of the computer. A best practice is to wear an air filter mask to make sure that you do not breathe in the dust particles.

Blow out the dust using short bursts from the can. Never tip the can or use the can upside down because doing so will cause the can to freeze. Do not allow the fan blades to spin from the force of the compressed air. Hold the fan in place. Fan motors can be ruined from spinning when the motor is not turned on.

Component Contacts

Use a lint-free cloth that is slightly moistened with isopropyl alcohol to clean the contacts on components. Do not use rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol contains impurities that can damage contacts. Before reinstallation, use compressed air to blow lint off the contacts.


Clean a desktop keyboard with compressed air and then use a handheld vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove the loose dust.


Use glass cleaner and a soft cloth to clean the outside of the mouse. Do not spray glass cleaner directly on the mouse. If cleaning a ball mouse, you can remove the ball and clean it with glass cleaner and a soft cloth. Wipe the rollers clean inside the mouse with the same cloth. Do not spray any liquids inside the mouse.

Table 2-1 shows the computer items that you should clean and the cleaning materials to use.

Table 2-1 Memory Modules Computer Cleaning Materials

Computer case and outside of monitor

Mild cleaning solution and lint-free cloth

LCD screen

LCD cleaning solution or distilled water and lint-free cloth

CRT screen

Distilled water and lint-free cloth

Heat sink

Compressed Air


Isopropyl alcohol and lint-free swab


Handheld vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment


Mild cleaning solution and lint-free cloth

Video—Computer Disassembly (

In this video demonstration, a desktop computer will be disassembled using proper lab procedures and tool use. The CPU and cooling unit are left on the motherboard and the motherboard is left in the case, but all other components are removed from the case. Its shows the steps to dissipate the static electricity by touching bare metal case and wearing an antistatic wrist strip while working in the system. It explains that you need to unplug the computer before disassembly so there is no power to it. The video demonstrates removing the process of removing the power and data cable connections, the power supply, adapter cards, and RAM.

Go to the online course to view this video.

6. Summary (2.3) | Next Section Previous Section

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