The Best Tools for Building Your Own Desktop PC

Gaming computer filled with LEDs
Alberto Garcia Guillen/

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

iFixIt 64-driver tool 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.

iFixIt Driver Kit

iFixit Mako Driver Kit - 64 Precision Bit Set for Electronics Repair

This excellent little toolkit should have a designated home in of every gadget nerd's desk drawer.

An Anti-Static Wrist Strap

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

Ceatech Silicone Soldering 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

A telescoping magnet.
Master Magnetics

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.

Telescoping Magnet

Slim 25” Durable Telescoping Magnetic Grabber/Retrieving Magnet with Pocket Clip (07228)

This handy tool helps you track down lost screws without removing any components.

Some Cable Ties

AmazonBasics velcro cable tie

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.

AmazonBasics Reusable Cable Ties

Amazon Basics Reusable Cable Zip Ties - 8-Inch, 50-Pack

These little velcro ties will keep the power and data cables inside your PC nice and tidy.

A Set of Spare Screws

Computer screw kit

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.

Space computer and case screws

HELIFOUNER 450 Pieces Computer Standoffs Spacer Screws Assortment Kit for Hard Drive Computer Case Motherboard Fan Power Graphics

This kit will give you spare copies of every one of the weird little screws you might use in your PC build.

Spare Thermal Paste

Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste
Arctic Silver

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.

Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste

HELIFOUNER 450 Pieces Computer Standoffs Spacer Screws Assortment Kit for Hard Drive Computer Case Motherboard Fan Power Graphics

Some spare thermal paste is always a good thing to have around, in case you need to re-seat your CPU cooler.

A Canless Air Tool

Opolar 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.

Opoplar Cordless Air Duster

HELIFOUNER 450 Pieces Computer Standoffs Spacer Screws Assortment Kit for Hard Drive Computer Case Motherboard Fan Power Graphics

This pricey but handy rechargeable air jet can help you dust your computer (or anything else) without wasteful canned air.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol

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.

Isopropyl Alcohol

MaxTite Isopropyl Alcohol 99.9% (16oz)

This cleaning agent is ideal for getting dust and other gunk off of electrical contacts and wires.

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.

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »

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