Buying a Set of Precision Tools
I have written about how I learned how my hard disks were organised, and how older Lenovo ThinkPad laptops encourage you to look under the hood. I have never been a technically inclined person, so there is always a fear of breaking devices when you open them up, but Lenovo provide great manuals that actively encourage you to do so, and there are a lot of resources and teachers online that show you how to take your laptop apart safely.
With the above in mind, I decided to take the next step and buy my own set of tools.
Why buy precision tools?
For me, there were two reasons to buy precision tools. I had been able to do a lot with regular small screwdrivers up to this point, but began to notice getting to some places could require real precision. Up to now, I had only really done the basic stuff: replace SSDs, replace ROM cards, replace a DVD drive with an extra SSD cache, and so on. These jobs can often be done with just your fingers, or loosening a single screw.
The ThinkPad T440p I was now using comes with a socketed CPU. This means that the CPU, the processing heart of the laptop, can be removed. A lot of subsequent models and cheaper previous models have fixed CPUs, which means you are stuck with the CPU you bought.
The T440p guides I'd found showed me that the CPU that came with the device I bought could be replaced with a faster quad core one. Generally, the ThinkPad laptops are very easy to open up; the T440p only requires loosening two screws to get inside. But getting to the CPU would require accessing screws in more finicky places, and I wanted to be prepared.
The other reason to buy precision tools was that I was interested in opening up old MacBooks we had at home. I wanted to try and see if I could install Linux on those machines to give them a new life, and perhaps upgrade some of the memory and ROM sticks. However, Apple has its own weird star-shaped screw indents, which cannot be loosened with a regular screw driver. This is part of their business model of leaving the tinkering to the experts, which I addressed here.
I did a bit of research and learned that toolsets by a German company called Wiha are recommended in forums. I ordered the Mijia Wiha 24 piece set, which looks like this:
The tools and metal case feel sturdy and nice weighted. The heads are magnetic, which is handy when dealing with the very small screws that keep computer parts fixed to the board. The toolset is truly a pleasure to work with.
In order to replace a CPU, I needed two more items:
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Thermal paste
I think I bought the alcohol in a local pharmacy, and saw lots of praise for ARCTIC MX-4 thermal paste, so I got that one.
I won't go into the details about replacing the CPU, or at at later point replacing a keyboard on a different laptop.
The point of this post, and in fact, my whole blog, is to show that you don't have to be born technical to take small steps towards learning about how devices and software work. I am envious of those who were naturally technically curious as a child, and were taking apart radios (and putting them back together in working order) at the age of 7, but that was not me. But I have learned that you don't need to feel you've been designated to the 'non-techy' room for life. Tacky as it sounds, it can really be a journey, just as learning more about digital privacy has been for me. In fact, learning more about how your hardware works supports a better understanding digital privacy.
I love my tool set. It is not just a reminder that I've done something I previously would've thought impossible, namely replacing a CPU successfully. I love that I use it from time to time, to open a phone, or a child's laptop, and with each time, the barrier between me and my devices, which give me access to the online world, feels a little bit less intimidating.
Lenovo ThinkPad T440p "How To's" page
Octoperf Guide on the T440p (very detailed instructions and recommendations)
Wiha toolset (can't seem to find the set picture above anymore)
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