Network Building: Right Tools

To build your network right, you must have the right tools. Start with a basic set of computer tools, which you can get for about $15 from any computer store or large office-supply store. These kits include the right screwdrivers and socket wrenches to open up your computers and insert adapter cards. (If you don’t have a computer toolkit, make sure that you have flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers of various sizes.)

If all your computers are in the same room and you’re going to run the cables along the floor and you’re using prefabricated cables, the computer tool kit should contain everything that you need.

If you’re using bulk cable and plan on attaching your own connectors, you need the following tools in addition to the tools that come with the basic computer tool kit:

  • Wire cutters: You need big ones for thinnet cable; smaller ones are okay for 10BaseT cable. If you’re using yellow cable, you need the Jaws of Life.

  • Crimp tool: You need the crimp tool to attach the connectors to the cable. Don’t use a cheap $10 crimp tool. A good one will cost $100 and will save you many headaches in the long run. Remember this adage: When you crimp, you mustn’t scrimp.

  • Wire stripper: You need this only if the crimp tool doesn’t include a wire stripper.

If you plan on running cables through walls, you need these additional tools:

  • A hammer.

  • A bell.

  • A song to sing. Just kidding about these last two.

  • A keyhole saw. This is useful if you plan on cutting holes through walls to route your cable.

  • A flashlight.

  • A ladder.

  • Someone to hold the ladder.

  • Possibly a fish tape. A fish tape is a coiled-up length of stiff metal tape. To use it, you feed the tape into one wall opening and fish it toward the other opening, where a partner is ready to grab it when the tape arrives.

  • Next, your partner attaches the cable to the fish tape and yells something like “Let ’er rip!” Then you reel in the fish tape and the cable along with it. (You can find fish tape in the electrical section of most well-stocked hardware stores.)

If you plan on routing cable through a concrete subfloor, you need to rent a jackhammer and a backhoe and hire someone to hold a yellow flag while you work.