For the pro techs amongst us...

Discussion in 'OT Discussion Club' started by Bob., Jul 6, 2014.

  1. Bob.

    Bob. Member

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    I'm about to start taking computer and technology work, mostly the residential market. I have many hand tools from my current business, but am interested in what the pros recommend as far as a "compact, efficient, most of what you need" kind of setup.

    Any 'all-in-one' kits recommended?

    What about software tools like SAS portable for techs, or Malwarebytes' TechBench?

    Any 'transport' setups for bringing systems back to the shop?

    I'm looking for any 'pro' suggestions.

    Thanks!
     
  2. zanejohnson

    zanejohnson Diamond Member

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    all you need is every single version of windows isos, oem, and volume licenced

    a large work bench, with spots for 4 projects at a time (4xmouse 4xkeyboard 4xdisplay)

    one machine you'll use as your workstation (for hunting pesky drivers and such)

    one fileserver, to act as storage for your windows isos/tools/pos tools/db

    one workstation in the front of the shop you hire a young pretty girl to run.... use quickbooks for POS (young pretty girls can figure it out) ........ she's good for 3 things.... eye candy, handling customers (eye candy) and browsing/advertising on facebook/social media

    that's how i got started....later hired a young computer nerd out of high school, paid him 400 a week, to handle everything in the shop, i did all the outcalls.....

    worked well... i've moved onto to bigger things now and i just let that storefront go...now i pretty much only work from home (besides the rare call that i have to be in person for, which can suck because i have clients over 500 miles away these days) but the money is way better.
     
  3. luv2liv

    luv2liv Diamond Member

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    i did not know that's available to us. i want to start a pc repair shop too. thanks for the advice
     
  4. Bob.

    Bob. Member

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    Hi zane. Thanks for your comments. I just finished office space in my home to accommodate my current A/C service business. I knew when I was renovating that I'd be moving into Tech, so I built amenities into the space. It's not, however, zoned commercial, so I can't have people in and out. Most of the work I do initially will be service calls and pick/delivery of machines after repair in my office space. A shop is a goal for the future.

    I do have work stations and multiple 1 1/2" conduits in the walls to accomodate whatever cabling I need now and future.

    I do know that I'll need to set up a vpn server to access whatever (not to large) files I might need in the field.

    As far as windows isos, I have many flavors of the official iso images from here:

    windows 7 direct downloads

    I thought I'd use a process similar to this to create a multi-install key:

    http://garvis.ca/2009/10/16/creating-a-multi-os-installation-usb-key/

    One thing I know I'll also need is a usb key(s) containing utilities I might need. I'm not quite sure at the moment what all might be expedient. I thought the MWB or SAS technician keys might be handy for spyware and malware removal, which, presumably will be a common issue.
     
  5. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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  6. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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  7. Bob.

    Bob. Member

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    Thanks, Kaido. Both are items I could definitely put to use!

    Are there sites that could provide more of this type of info...some place that accommodates those new in the industry?
     
  8. shortylickens

    shortylickens No Lifer

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    yeah a handheld vacuum & air blaster are the next most important tools after your screwdriver.

    Also, RAID.
    Some people have fucking SPIDERS in their god damn case!

    D:
     
  9. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    Everyone kind of has their own workflow, so it's more of a matter of building up a toolkit that you like - there's a million different ways of doing the same thing in the computer business. What I used to do on the side (fixing computers) I now do full-time, so I've been exposed to a lot of awesome tools throughout the years. I've started documenting things in my personal wiki, although it's nowhere near as fleshed out as I'd like:

    Recommended software: A bunch of freebie software to throw on a new computer or rebuild. Really the only pay-for stuff I put on is Office, otherwise I just use LibreOffice (free, but not as compatible) or Google Docs (I just add a shortcut to the desktop).

    Technician's toolkit: A list of unorganized stuff. I'll get to it...someday.

    Reformat procedure: Another unfinished list. I rarely fix computers on the side anymore, unless it's something super easy - I just make a clone of their boot drive & do a fresh install. Takes an hour or two, mostly automated, and I can create a clone of the "master install" on a partition for reinstallation down the road. Makes longer-term maintenance easier & prevents me from having to spend hours fixing viruses when I could just install Windows & some apps and be done.

    Admin tools: Has a few links of useful tools, needs some more work.

    I keep some spare hard drives & stuff, but what I'll do a lot of times is not even bother fixing if the computer has a lot of software problems. Instead, I'll pop in my small 60GB SSD, do a fresh install of Windows from a bootable USB stick, install the software from the USB stick (7zip, Chrome, Java, etc.), then clone it to their boot drive after backing their old data up using Macrium Reflect. That way they have full access to their files down the road when they need to recovery their 2012 tax return saved in C :\Windows\WhyDidYouSaveItHere\TaxReturn.dummy.

    If you want to get really crazy, you can throw a WSUS server in VMware & tweak their copy of Windows to do a quick install of Windows updates (or use Nitrobit for a less-costly solution). There's all kinds of tricks & tools & hardware out there to setup a good toolkit. Feel free to PM me anytime!
     
  10. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    I would recommend getting at least one good multi-input monitor, like this one:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16824236292

    That one is around $200 and has 4 types of inputs:

    1. HDMI
    2. VGA (D-SUB)
    3. DVI
    4. DisplayPort

    In addition, I have several adapters:

    1. Micro-HDMI
    2. Mini-HDMI
    3. Mini-DisplayPort

    That way I can connect to older computers, modern computers, Macbooks, smartphones, etc. Also helps to snag the suite of Macbook & iPhone adapters if you plan on working on Mac laptops with their variety of weird video adapter plugs. I also keep a bin of chargers handy (the various Micro-USB models, plus iPhone 30-pin & Lightning plugs). Along with a multi-plug monitor, a Power Squid makes a good accessory for plugging in a bunch of junk at once - it's basically a flexible surge protector:

    http://www.powersquid.com/

    Definitely invest in a good-quality computer toolkit. I have a few from iFixit:

    https://www.ifixit.com/Store/Tools/Pro-Tech-Toolkit/IF145-072

    I also keep multi-function screwdrivers (#1/#2 Philips/flatheads) in my desk drawer, work bag, and glovebox since I always end up needing one. And some paperclips for stuck CD-ROM drives & for poking out stuck screws that fall inside the case ;)
     
  11. Red Squirrel

    Red Squirrel Lifer

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    Woah that is awesome! I have a portable drive that can do the same thing via a toggle switch but it's a pain to lug around due to needing power too.

    For air nothing beats an air compressor, no need to throw out consumable items like air cans or CO2 canisters.
     
  12. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    That's a great way to get started with a storefront setup. I do pretty much everything with VMware now that quad-core computers with 32GB RAM & 6TB hard drives ($299!) are pretty standard. OP, I'd also pick up a couple docks - a nice USB 3.0 SATA dock for 2.5" & 3.5" hard drives & SSD's:

    http://www.amazon.com/Cable-Matters-...dp/B0099TX7O4/

    Also a USB adapter for older IDE drives:

    http://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-Conver...dp/B00CPGYNV4/

    One big thing is to lay out a set price list for your services. Go to Staples & Best Buy's Geek Squad to check out competing prices. Also check on Craigslist. Setup a Paypal account for accepting money. Get a bank account with a bank that can take photos of checks so you don't have to drive to the bank or an ATM to deposit it, such as Chase:

    https://www.chase.com/mobile-banking/check-deposit

    Also get a Square credit card reader:

    https://squareup.com/

    So basically:

    1. Have competitive prices that are set in stone (ex. diagnostic is $25, wipe is $100, whatever)
    2. Be able to take money in every way possible (cash, check, debit card, credit card, Paypal, etc.)
    3. Have a solid toolkit
    4. Have a solid workflow

    If you really want to CYA, make sure to have people sign a release form before you work on their computer, and then pop their hard drive into your dock to clone IMMEDIATELY, just in case you lose any data while working on it. As a free service, I clean the outside of the computer (including the screen) with electronic wipes & the inside with my canned air gun so it goes back to them looking cherry. I rarely do side work anymore, but I do have a small bench setup with my tools and charge $100 a pop to do a backup & reinstall.
     
  13. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    It's really the bomb since you can USB boot stuff like XP and customized OEM install discs like the Dell master disc set for desktops & servers. Plus stuff like Memtest86+, Hiren's Boot CD, antivirus rescue discs, rootkit boot discs, etc. No having to worry about setting up custom boot menus or hacks or anything. It's not cheap ($100 on Amazon) but it's a great tool!

    http://www.amazon.com/Elegant-Invent...dp/B008S4XY08/
     
  14. Bob.

    Bob. Member

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    Wow, Kaido! This is really some great information! I do have some of this stuff covered, but you've given me a lot to go on. Thanks so much for taking the time to post all of this. Very much appreciated. And the drive docks are something I've been using for a few years now, and I picked up my first copy of ghost back in 2000 (now using Acronis)...indispensable! But you've piqued my curiosity...you mentioned that you "do pretty much everything with VMware now"...could I ask you to expand on that? Also, how important has advertising been for you? Again, thanks for taking the time to help. :)
     
  15. Markbnj

    Markbnj Elite Member <br>Moderator Emeritus
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  16. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    Word of warning: they are RIDICULOUSLY powerful. That comes with two caveats: one, it will blow hoards of dust into the air, especially on dirty old nasty machines. If you can, do it outside (seriously). Almost gave myself an asthma attack the first time doing a super dusty computer :biggrin: Second, be careful with how close you get the tip - it's powerful enough to rip out the thin wiring for fans & stuff, so you don't want to put it an inch away like you would with canned air. On the plus side, you never have to pay for canned air again, which is awesome :thumbsup:
     
  17. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    Macrium Reflect is the new Ghost. You can also mount Macrium Reflect images (.mrimg files) as virtual drives for read-only access, which is super handy - that's the way I back people's old drives up so they can still access their misc saved files down the road. You can use Macrium to clone a drive, clone to an image file, or clone to a virtual machine.

    So VMware lets you virtualize a computer. If you're not familiar with that, it's basically an emulator, like a Nintendo emulator, but for computers. You can virtualize a drive using a P2V conversion (physical to virtual) if you need to keep old software running for whatever reason. For example, I had one client who used a janitor/maintenance program with years of data in it, but the company that made the software went out of business & it only supported a max of 1GB of RAM, so it wouldn't run on the new computer. I virtualized the entire old computer so that they could continue to run the program since it already had all of their data & they had no desire to upgrade to something newer.

    You can use virtual machines in a lot of other applications as well. For example, you can setup a Windows Server to do stuff like WSUS, which is a local Windows Update server (or Nitrobit, which is a cheaper Linux server for doing Windows Updates). That way, when you do a fresh install on a system, you can zap over the Windows system updates from your LAN rather than via WAN from Microsoft's update servers. There are some tricks for hacking non-domain computers to talk to a WSUS server. That's pretty advanced stuff, but it can be a real timesaver to do little tricks like that.

    Going back to Macrium, you can also clone to a partition & have a boot option to restore the "factory image", so if you setup someone's computer with Windows & Office, activate their licenses, run updates, install their software, etc., you can clone it for a "perfect" image and then use that later on down the road for a quick full system reload. Pretty nifty!

    I started fixing computers in college, so it was mostly word of mouth. A couple computers a week pretty much covered my expenses back then. I then got into it professionally, both freelance & as an on-site guy, both of which I enjoyed. Freelance is fun if you like to stay busy; you can make a lot of money if you're willing to work all the time. There were lots of 16-hour days - the pay is good, but it can be a lot of hours, and then it can be quiet for awhile, so you have to learn how to budget well to get through the thin times. Fortunately with computers, it's like HVAC or plumbing work - computers are always breaking & it's really handy for consumer & businesses to have someone swing by to fix their stuff.

    I do have buddies who do storefront & do pretty well, because if you're a place that people can just dump their electronics off at, well, it's like being the McDonalds of computer repair. Especially if you get into stuff like solder repairs on broken laptop power supplies, BIOS chip replacements, smartphone screen repair & battery swaps, that sort of thing. I worked with a guy a couple years ago who was so successful at doing that stuff on the side (including game console repair, like the Xbox's Red Ring of Death) that he quit working at our main job site & now runs his own (very successful) computer fixit business a couple towns over.

    A lot of it depends on what you want to do. I work for a few sites now, but I'm under a main company that has a steady paycheck, health insurance, company barbecues, etc. I got paid more as a freelance consultant, but I also don't have the crazy hours or paycheck insecurity or lack of inexpensive healthcare options (although that's better these days!), so that's nice too. Sort of depends on the type of person you are. I've found I do like having a routine & seeing familiar faces, but it was also nice going out & meeting new people, driving around the state, doing lots of random jobs, etc.

    If you know what you're doing, you'll always be able to make money. Computers are always breaking & very few people are willing to invest in a Mac or learn Linux to have a more stable computing experience. Although computers are getting cheaper as well, so economically, it's not always best to fix someone's computer when they can just buy a replacement & have you do the initial setup & data transfer from their old system. Lately I've been setting up a lot of people on those $249 15" Toshiba's from Best Buy. They're great machines and can also hook into a flat-screen TV, so sometimes I'll pick up a Logitech K400 and have them use it as kind of an HTPC.

    I don't do much sidework these days due to my schedule (fulltime job + still doing night classes + family) and quit doing it for awhile, but I still take jobs here & there if someone really needs the help. The money is always nice. Personally I do a flat fee of $100 for a full-service operation: clean out your computer physically (wipe it down & blow it out), backup your stuff using a drive image, do a fresh install, and make a new master image. That way I don't have to deal with their viruses or finding files saved in random locations or whatever, since I just reinstall Window & dump a Macrium image of their old computer on the desktop for them to access. Easy peasy.
     
  18. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    Also, mine was pretty much word-of-mouth or going around visiting businesses. If you're a dude who shows up and tells them that you fix computers right here, on-site, or can take one back to the shop with you, people either need that right now or will eventually need it, especially if they don't have a dedicated on-site guy. You'd be surprised at how many 100 or 200-employee companies don't have any dedicated IT staff; that's how I got in as the "on-call" guy at a couple of places - I was reliable & did the jobs quick, so they always called me with jobs.

    In my area, the standard rate is $130 an hour. In college, I charged $35 an hour (keep in mind you're not always working 8 straight hours a day though!). I was coming from making $7 an hour at the local pizza shop, so that was a pretty huge jump for me. Granted, you have to take several things into account: taxes, insurance, gas for your vehicle, and total number of jobs worked per week, among other things. But if you get out there, leave your contact info with some receptionists, and target smaller businesses that may not want to have one of their employees run a PC down to Staples, you can start picking things up pretty easily. Again, it's like being a plumber - it's something that is always needed because people rely on computers to do a lot of work these days.

    Being on-call can be taxing. I had a lot of late nights because I was "the guy" for fixing computers. But that's really IT in general. I had late nights & evenings these days too. I've had opportunities to change career paths within IT, go into upper management, etc., but really, playing with hardware, setting up computers, and helping people get squared away is what I like doing the most, so why not doing it all the time for my job? It is a shrinking industry imo...Best Buy has that Toshiba laptop on sale for $229, so it's not always cost-effective to replace or upgrade parts on an existing computer. The NUC mini-computers are taking over the universe. Thin clients aren't quite ready to rule the day, but with dedicated virtual GPU's, they're getting pretty close. So that's something to keep in mind if you plan on doing this long-term...
     
  19. RossMAN

    RossMAN Grand Nagus

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    Kaido delivers again, definitely Elite Member material :thumbsup:
     
  20. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    ftfy :biggrin:
     
  21. Bob.

    Bob. Member

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    I can't tell you how helpful your posts have been. I truly appreciate the time you took to post. I'm off to my day now, but will be referring back to this. And I have to agree with RossMAN...you've really delivered (and he should know, being a "delivery guy" himself!).

    I can count the number of times I've posted to an OT group, but never has it been more productive and valuable than the two threads I've posted OT here. Getting the right information is everything! Thanks seems inadequate, but thank you!
     
  22. ultimatebob

    ultimatebob Lifer

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    Kaido for Elite!
     
  23. ultimatebob

    ultimatebob Lifer

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    I'd recommend installing FoxIt reader instead of Adobe PDF Reader on new PC's. The update process is far less obnoxious, and it seems to have less known security holes.
     
  24. Kaido

    Kaido Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord

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    No problem! This is a pretty good group; it's definitely my favorite forum on the net. Aside from the neffing, I've probably learned more about computer stuff here than I did in college (no joke). Lots of good people contributing guides, answering questions, and generally just being really helpful sharing good information. Plus you learn a bunch of stuff from sharing - for example, I learned more about the Mac platform from writing Hackintosh guides than I ever did just tinkering around with them. Anyway, best of luck to you, it's a fun gig!
     
  25. Bob.

    Bob. Member

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    Sorry I missed this. Great tip, and I definitely agree. I ditched Acrobat for Fox years ago and never looked back. Thanks!