Any system administrator will tell you there is no substitute for the proper tools. Whether you are unscrewing hard drives or troubleshooting a server rack, the right tool makes the job go better and faster. So what do sysadmins carry with them for day-to-day tasks? We asked our own IT team and scoured Spiceworks and other discussion boards to assemble this list of IT toolbox essentials.
A good multi-tool will let you leave the heavy toolbox at your desk when on many routine tasks. Look for one with a Phillips-head screwdriver. Users on Reddit like Victorinox Swiss Army tools, many of which can be found under $50—the Victorinox 54876 is a good example.
Victorinox makes a high-end tool designed especially for IT users called the CyberTool. Most CyberTools sell in the $90-$100 range, and have bit wrenches, hex sockets, and torx, hex, and pozidrive bits. If you work on IBM arrays, you know how handy a torx screwdriver can be.
Something like a Leatherman New Wave Multi-Tool packs a plethora of small hand tools into a pocket-sized form factor. The Gerber Crucial Tool provides a budget option and has essentials like a Phillips-head screwdriver and a v-cut wire cutter. It has a price point of around $25.
Portable Data Storage
Exactly which software a system administrator carries depends on the environment, but the mode of transportation is basically the same.
- Many IT techs carry a handful of USB Flash drives for performing spot OS installs. It is good practice to have at least one encrypted flash drive for storing user data.
- YUMI (Your Universal Multiboot Integrator) is a handy tool that system administrators use to create a multi boot USB drive that runs Linux distributions.
- Windows users can install Windows 8 on an external hard drive using a simple program called WinToUSB.
- A blank portable external hard drive is good to have for doing spot backups. Carrying 2 TB of storage should suffice in most cases. USB 3.0 drives have a high transfer rate and are backwards compatible with USB 2.0 inputs.
- Most antivirus software has a bootable system that can be added to an external USB drive.
Cables and Adapters
Adapters and cables generally depend on the specific systems and environments that IT techs work on. There are several cables and adapters that techs will find handy in most environments.
- USB to Serial RS-232 adapter
- Null modem cable
- Console cable (RJ45 to DB9)
- Console cable for Cisco environments
- IEC-320 to NEMA 5-15p adapter (for plugging a laptop or switch into a rack)
Small Hand Tools
- RJ Crimper (a Spiceworks favorite)
- Inexpensive cable wire cutter
- LAN Toner
- Punchdown tool
- A flashlight—or a headlamp, which frees the hands.
- Hard drive eraser
- Old-fashioned pen and paper, or a Windows tablet and OneNote
This should cover the basics for the day-to-day tools that system administrators use. Tell us in the comments about the items you carry in your IT toolbox.