If there's one tool no power user should ever be without, it's the screwdriver. Just like opposable thumbs, the screwdriver is what separates enthusiasts from lesser creatures. Without it, we'd be reduced to purchasing pre-built PCs from overpriced vendors, and we'd be oblivious to the evils of proprietary parts. Just like Mac users (ZING!).
With the invention of the screwdriver, we've been able to evolve from PC users to PC builders, from mere consumers to hobbyists. Thanks to a single tool, we're prepared for whatever computer related situation arises, whether it means constructing a full blown Dream Machine or replacing our neighbor's dead motherboard with one that works, and then throwing in a name brand power supply just for good measure.
But just as doctors wouldn't use any run of the mill scalpel during surgery, we're just as discerning when it comes to picking out the right tool for diving into a pile of parts. With this in mind, we've assembled a collection of 26 screwdrivers ranging from ordinary in appearance to extraordinary in features. We've used and abused each one and will tell you which screwdrivers have earned the right to travel in your toolbox, and which ones that aren’t worthy enough for your prized gaming rig.
Craftsman Auto-Loading Multi-Bit
We can think of several different treats that taste better than the Push Up ice cream pops we used to eat as a kid, but few were as fun to devour. It's the same feeling we get from using Craftsman's auto-loading screwdriver, though we don't recommend putting it in your mouth. But what we did do was spend the first few minutes just pushing up and down on the handle changing bits. After the novelty wore off, we were left with a capable tool, though not spectacular. We love having an assortment of magnetic bits at our fingertips, but we're not so keen on the plastic construction. Hurl it against the wall just once in a moment of frustration and it'll be the last time you ever use it.
Verdict: 6 $20, www.sears.com
Companion 7 Piece Flexible Ratchet Driver
On paper, the Companion sounds like the idea tool for a man to proudly wave around in his hand. Not only does the thick shaft come ribbed for extra comfort, but the tip includes an extension for added length – oh boy! But lest you plan on living out some bizarre fetish, there are better tools to tout around. The two-way ratcheting doesn’t allow you to use the Companion as a standard screwdriver, and despite being able to lock the angled neck in place, there was a considerable amount of give left over causing the tip to wobble.
Verdict: 4 $10, www.sears.com
KR Tools X-Treme Six-in-One w/ Flaming Handle
The most difficult thing about using the KR Tools X-Treme is resisting the urge to shout 'Flame on!' every time you take it out of the toolbox. The oversized rubber handle with strategically placed finger and thumb grips makes it a comfort to use, and six easily changeable bits means you can swap out your motherboard and change that door hinge you've been meaning to fix all in one fell swoop. This might be the best tool you can get for $5.
Verdict: 8 $5, www.sears.com
Stanley 10" Multi-Bit Ratcheting Screwdriver w/ 10 Assorted Bits
Should we ever be attacked by a horde of goblins on a PC repair job, we'd want this Stanley by our side. The heavy duty handle and extra long shaft will keep both goblins and hard to reach screws at bay, and a rotating addition on the base of the shaft stores up to 6 different bits. Three-way ratcheting controls mean you'll be prepared for most any situation, but if you drop a screw, you better have a pair of tweezers handy. For all of its plusses, the Stanley comes demagnetized - bummer!
Verdict: 8 $15, www.stanleytools.com
LoggerHead Tools BitDr
Like Transformers, there's more here than meets the eye. What looks like an unassuming fold-away screwdriver quickly reveals itself to be a multi-function wonder tool even MacGyver could appreciate. The BitDr comes with 10 double-sided bits stored in the handle, two ratchet extensions (both of which can be used by themselves), and an adjustable driver for working in a variety of quarters. It even comes with a bit small enough to work on notebooks, though it's too thick to worm its way into recessed screws. Not without its faults, we found using a traditional screwdriver to be more comfortable, and as with other adjustable ratchets, there's too much wobble at any given position. Still, between the portability and plethora of uses, the BitDr can be a lifesaver in a pinch.
Verdict: 7 $25, www.loggerheadtools.com
Great Neck 18 Piece Ratcheting Magnetic Screwdriver Set
There's a sign on the packaging that reads "Quality Checked," which tells us someone isn't doing their job. While playing with the ratchet control, we managed to pop the head off of the handle, and at first we thought "Hey, cool, it doubles as a stubby!" Our enthusiasm was quickly marred when we found out we actually broke the thing - do'h! Perhaps it was for the best. While we like the ability to store the included magnetic bits in the handle, there wasn't much comfort to be had from wielding the flat plastic handle.
Verdict: 3 $10, http://greatnecktools.com
Irwin 9-in-1 Multi-Tool
Irwin figured out that if you take a standard screwdriver and add a couple of mods, you can remarket it as a 9-in-1 multi-tool. And that's just what they did. The feather-light hollow plastic handle comes adorned with a rubber 'ProTouch' grip, and a removable shaft with interchangeable bits give the Irwin a bit of bulk. More bits or a magnetic tip would have both been welcome additions.
Verdict: 5 $8, www.irwintools.com
Kobalt 13-in-1 Ratchet Screwdriver
This Kobalt owes much of its weight to the shaft extension and numerous bits that come stored conveniently inside the handle, and we can only imagine how much heavier it would be had Kobalt opted for a denser metal than aluminum. As it stands, you could already flip it around and use it as a blackjack ala Thief: Deadly Shadows. As a screwdriver, the three-way ratcheting action works well, but we would have preferred an all rubberized handle instead of sectioned strips. And if opening up a power supply weren't already risky enough, Kobalt warns that the non-insulated design "will NOT protect against electric shock." Yikes!
Verdict: 6 $10, www.lowes.com
On the one hand, Canada has given us some of the tastiest ham ever to grace our pizza tops, but the country's also responsible for Avril Lavigne. Because of this inconsistency, we didn't know what to expect out of the Canadian-made Fuller Switch-a-Bit. Would it be a resounding success, or an abysmal flop? What we got fell somewhere in the middle. We love how the turn-dial base releases the bits one at a time, and once secured to the tip, you never have to worry about one falling out. The Switch-a-Bit proved versatile too, able to remove screws recessed in our notebook's chassis. But like the other non-magnetized screwdrivers in our roundup, dropping a screw can quickly lead to high frustration levels, particularly when working in hard to reach places where it might not be so easy to catch a loose screw before it falls. We also don't trust the long-term reliability of the thin plastic handle.
Verdict: 5 $14, www.fullertools.com
Felo Series 370 Bit Boy
We've yet to come across a ratcheting screwdriver whose shaft doesn't wiggle, but the Bit Boy manages to keep this undesirable effect to a minimum. There's plenty more to like here, such as a comfortable rubberized handle with thumb rests, and seven extra magnetic bits hidden in the spring loaded base giving you eight in all. But should the spring wear out or the plastic tabs holding the telescopic depot break off, you'll curse this nifty design as a no-good gimmick, especially after spending almost $30 on it.
Verdict: 8 $28, www.bondhus.com
SmartPro Tools Four Function 19-in-1 Ratcheting Screwdriver
SmartPro Tools saw fit to include everything but the proverbial kitchen sink, and if they could have found a way to fit it inside the handle with everything else, we have no doubts they would have. But what you do get are 11 standard sized bits along with a pair of double-sided precision tips for tearing into handheld gadgets, a breakaway stubby screwdriver, and the only reversible ratchet in our roundup devoid of any shimmy. And while the tips aren't magnetic, SmartPro throws in a powerful retractable magnetic pick-up tool. But by the beard of Zeus, why saddle an otherwise spectacular screwdriver with a chintzy plastic handle?
Verdict: 7 $17, www.smartprotools.com
Borderex All-in-One Screwdriver
Borderex claims its All-in-One screwdriver is "ideal for cars and computer repairing," but when it comes to screwing, we've learned that one size does not fit all (see what we did there?). It's a shame only two bits are included, because the long magnetic shaft makes easy work out of maneuvering into tight confines, and the rubberized handle feels gratifying after extended use. A separate stubby screwdriver thrown in adds value, but the bits are the same size, and some of our testbed's screws showed a stubbornness to cooperate with the All-in-One. Oh, and good luck finding the All-in-One online. Borderex told us their screwdriver is imported by Titan, but couldn't provide us with an MSRP or a link to purchase one.
Klein Tools 10-in-1
At a glance, the 10-in-1 looks to be little more than an ordinary screwdriver with a rubber grip slipped onto the handle. But an easily removable shaft reveals eight bits and two nut drivers, and in a nod towards the baby bear in Goldilocks and Three Bears, the 10-in-1 weighs just right. It's not the most comfortable screwdriver in our roundup, nor does it have many amenities like magnetized tips or ratcheting action, but it's a solid all-around workhorse.
Verdict: 7 $13, www.kleintools.com
Vermont American 1551 All Purpose Multi-bit Magnetic Hand Driver Set
Long on name but short on features, we did manage to find an alternate use for the 1551's storage area. Instead of having the bits clipped to a contraption inside the handle, Vermont American simply left a hollow opening to store whichever three out of the four included magnetic bits aren't being used. But if you find yourself always using the same bit, you can throw anything you want in the handle. For example, we shoved exactly 16 orange flavored tic-tacs inside, giving us instant access to an energy boost equivalent to 32 calories. But while the storage mechanism helps keep our breath from offending, the constantly rotating cap makes it awkward to turn the screwdriver.
Verdict: 5 $11, www.vermontamerican.com
DuraPro 15 Piece Ratcheting Screwdriver Set
No marriages have ever taken place as a result of our podcast’s Dreamdate segments, but that hasn't deterred us from wanting to play matchmaker. Ported over to the hardware world, we'd like nothing more than if SmartPro and DuraPro would hook up and bear offspring. Both are molded almost identically and come with oodles of bits, but the DuraPro lacks a retractable magnetic pick-up tool. Instead, it throws in a magnetic bit extension, which solves the problem of picking up loose screws, but introduces a new level of wobble to the ratcheting action. With or without the extension, it's the longer of the two screwdrivers, but the DuraPro lacks the detachable stubby or rubberized thumb rest found on the SmartPro Tools version (or its own branded version, the VersaDriver).
Verdict: 7 $10, www.durapro.com
Husky Pro 33 Piece Ratcheting Magnetic Screwdriver Set
If a Greek Goddess of rubber exists, we're positive Husky Pro must have called upon her to fashion the company's cushion grip. Holding the handle can best be described as ethereal, we just wish Husky didn't leave nearly an inch of the plastic handle exposed. Almost three dozen magnetized bits means you can fix the PC, stereo, door handle, light fixture, and everything else without going back to your toolbox, and an optional attachment holds six bits for quick retrieval.
Verdict: 9 $20, www.huskytools.com
Olympia Tools 27 Piece Flexible Driver Set
If you're going to win a swordfight using a screwdriver, this is the one you’d want at your side. The flexible driver shaft adds over a foot of length allowing you to deal damage from a distance, and when you're finished saving the galaxy (or the living room), the shaft comes in handy for maneuvering into tough to reach places. This can be particularly useful if you own a poorly designed heatsink that expects you to contour your hand into unnatural positions in order to screw it in. A reversible ratchet, several extra bits, and an in-handle storage area round out the feature-set. It's just too bad Olympia didn't make the handle more sturdy and comfortable, and the lack of magnetic tips is a bummer.
Verdict: 6 www.olympiatools.com
Make this one your everyday screwdriver and you'll hold more wood than Heidi Fleiss. But before being grossed out (or turned on), understand we're referring to beech wood, which the company claims "will not encourage blisters." Both the main screwdriver and included stubby sport smooth wooden handles with a linseed finish. Sturdy construction and nine magnetic tips move the Elemen'tary towards the front of the class, but the high price tag knocks it down a grade.
Verdict: 8 $65, www.elementarydesing.co.uk
Barbara K 21 Piece Lighted Screwdriver Kit
Buy your wife a bowling ball for your anniversary and it might be the last one you celebrate. There's a much smarter way of playing the gift giving game, and unlike a 5 karat diamond ring, it won't mean dipping into your Dream Machine fund. Instead, get her this Barbara K screwdriver kit designed for women, and then tell her you're looking forward to spending more time together fixing things around the home. Chances are she won't take you up on it, but she'll appreciate the thought, and you'll have a new favorite screwdriver to play with.
An uber-comfortable handle hides a lightweight flashlight inside for working in dark quarters, and its removable should you need to get a closer look. Twenty bits are included in the magnetic shaft, inside which sits a 14-inch retractable magnetic pick-up tool. Best of all, despite being designed for the fairer sex, you'd never know it by the color scheme so you needn't fear ridicule from onlookers (just don't let them steal a glance at the Barbara K! logo). Verdict: 9 $15, www.barbarak.com
Platinum Tools Precision Screwdriver Set
Perhaps you suffer from technophobia, the fear of technology, and break out in a sweat when getting too close to an electronic device. Or maybe you're just far sighted. Either way, that doesn't mean you have to forfeit your dream of starting a handheld gadget repair shop. With a precision handle that extends to 9.5-inches, you can fix all kinds of electronic doo-dads without getting too close. And with 30 bits and 3 ratchets to choose from, you'll never have to turn anyone away.
Verdict: 8 $19, www.platinumtools.com
Maxtech 39 Piece Multi-Driver Set w/ Precision Screwdriver Bits
Every Boy Scout dreams of owning a set as versatile as this, but Maxtech's kit ultimately falls short of earning a merit badge. But first let's focus on the good. Thirty bits (12 of which are double-ended) give you over 40 standard sized tips to work with. A reversible shaft with telescoping magnetic pick-up slides into a comfortable handle, along with a 1/4-inch socket adapter. A separate precision screwdriver with 5 precision bits complete the assortment of tools, and even the bit storage flips open like a tackle box. Use it to store case screws, a thumb drive, or even a Snickers bar (it fits!).
And you'll need it too, because you'll exert considerable energy getting the reversible shaft and bits to fit in the handle. Nothing slides in smoothly, and even a couple of the double-sided bits would oddly slide in just fine in one direction, but refuse to cooperate after flipping it around requiring an unusual amount of force. With a little more thought towards construction, this could have been the only kit you'd ever need to buy.
Verdict: 5 $13, www.Amazon.com
Swiss Tech Utili-Key 6-in-1
From Swiss army knives to Swiss chocolate, adding 'Swiss' to any product is usually a recipe for success. Not so with the half-baked Utili-Key. The Phillips head screwdriver comes in handy for impromptu notebook repairs, but was completely ineffective in our testbed PC. Same holds true for the flat tip, but we were most unimpressed with the eyeglasses repair tool. On two different sets of spectacles, the micro tip proved too fat to be of any use. The bottle opener is serviceable, as are the two included knives, but only when in a pinch.
Verdict: 4 $13, www.swisstechtools.com
General Tools 4-in-1 Precision Pocket Screwdriver
Let's face it, only nerds carry pocket protectors. But just because we're power users doesn't mean we can't appreciate a precision screwdriver disguised as a pen. That's just cool (and handy). For roughly the same price as a McDonald’s Happy Meal, the 4-in-1 pocket screwdriver fits neatly in your pocket, behind your ear, or wherever else you carry your favorite pen. But instead of writing your John Hancock, you'll instead always find yourself prepared to tear into notebooks, adjusting a loose set of eyeglasses, or replacing the battery in your MP3 player. And with a surprisingly sharp flathead tip, you can even gouge out your assailant's eyes. Not a bad deal for three bucks.
Verdict: 8 $3, www.generaltools.com
Black & Decker Alkaline Powered Screwdriver
You're not going to get much torque out of an Alkaline powered screwdriver, nor do you need much when working on a PC. If you run across a particularly stubborn screw, switching to manual mode leaves it up to your biceps to finish the job. And if that's still not enough, you should probably think about spending more time in the gym and less time in front of your computer. For everything else, Black & Decker's powered screwdriver will cut down on your build time, especially if you secure your optical drives with all eight screws. Depending on your case, you may need to keep a more nimble screwdriver handy for those hard to reach places.
Verdict: 7 $14, www.blackanddecker.com
Hitachi DB3DL 3.6 Volt Lithium Ion Cordless Screwdriver
Needs and wants are funny things. Do you really need a quad-core processor? Probably not, but it certainly won't hurt your encode times. You also don't need a top of the line graphics card, but with games like Crysis pushing the envelope, you may find yourself wanting an ATI 4870 X2. Or two. So what does this have to do with PC repair? Just as an uber high-end processor might be overkill, so too is a power screwdriver. But if you're going to get one, Hitachi's DB3DL strikes the right balance between and performance and aesthetics.
The dual-position handle comes decked out in a green, black, and silver color scheme. An adjustable dial gives you 44 in/lbs of turning torque so you can install your motherboard and mod your case at the same time, and if you're in a hurry, switch the speed from low to high (200/600 RPM). A red LED light lets you work in the dark, and an included backup lithium-ion battery leaves you no excuse for running out of juice midway through a job.