3 common PC building problems—and the tools that fix them

3 common PC building problems—and the tools that fix them

Working on a PC sometimes go fast and smooth—no fuss, no hassle. You pop in the components, connect all necessary cables, press the power button, and boom, a POST screen. Other times, however, you end up spending hours having to unsnarl an issue.

Of the problems you can run into while building, upgrading, or repairing a PC, some common ones are rooted in actual physical issues. Here’s what you need to fix them—and how to avoid these jams in the first place.

You can bypass other common building mistakes by reading our in-depth, comprehensive guide on the topic. It covers all the classics, including making sure all your cables are plugged in fully and the switch on the back of your power supply is flipped on.

Spinning motherboard standoff

toennchen imgp5029 wp Rainer Knäpper, Free Art License

These days motherboard standoffs largely are similar size and shape—and they’re not very tall. Getting in under a motherboard to access one requires skinny tools.

This situation’s a classic: You begin removing a motherboard from a PC, only to find that one (or more…) of the standoffs come loose instead of the screw. The standoff spins under the mobo uselessly and keeps the component trapped in place.

Fix: To get out of this mess, you need to hold the standoff in place while loosening the screw. A clamping tool works best. Try an adjustable wrench for errant standoffs found along the perimeter of the motherboard—use one that has a slim head, like these 4-inch and 6-inch Channellock models, or this pocket-sized option, so that it fits in that narrow space between the case and the mobo.

If an adjustable wrench is too bulky, switch to a hemostat, which is a set of locking forceps. (They’re most often used in surgical procedures but work for this purpose.) We actually favor hemostats over wrenches, even though they can leave marks on the finish of the standoff. The combination of a needle-nose tip and the locking handles makes maneuvering in tight spaces far easier. That needle nose is also usually skinny enough to grip the standoff’s screw threads poking out the back of the motherboard tray—a lifesaver when the loose standoff sits under the middle of the motherboard.

How to avoid: Verify that your motherboard standoffs have been tightened properly into the case. Typically, preinstalled motherboard standoffs will be fine, but it doesn’t hurt to check. Use a hex nut driver or an adjustable wrench.

If you’ve installed the standoffs yourself, or have rearranged the default preinstalled configuration to match your mobo, tighten until the standoff hits the case’s metal. Then go a tiny bit past that, and no more. Overdoing it can cause different problems.

Stripped screw head

stripped mini screws Michael Pardo / Flickr (CC BY 1.0)

A stripped screw head is one of the easier issues to deal with.

Choose the wrong screwdriver or fail to apply enough pressure when working with a screw, and you can end up with a stripped screw head. Each time the screwdriver slips as you move it, it’ll scratch away the grooves on the head of the screw. Do that enough and you’ll have nothing left, making it impossible for your screwdriver to work.

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