Having an adequate set of tools to work with is absolutely key to making computer do-it-yourself projects satisfyingly successful rather than hair-tearingly frustrating, as I don't need to tell you if you're a Mac laptop user and you've ever had to come up with a TORX T8 screwdriver when some mission-critical piece of hardware needed attention or upgrading.
If you're not familiar, the TORX fastener drive system was developed by Camcar LLC of Acument Global Technologies (formerly Camcar Textron) in Rockford, Illinois, as an improvement over the long-established Phillips head and slot-head (flathead) screws - and also the more recent Canadian square drive Robertson type. Phillips head screws can be problematical in that they easily "cam out" under high torque; they were designed to do so as a preventative to over-tightening. This feature quickly morphs into being a bad one if the fastener becomes corroded or rusted.
TORX heads, by contrast, are designed specifically to prevent cam-out, which Camcar LLC claims can increase tool bit life by ten times or more, not to mention the frustration of galled-out fastener heads. A downside of the TORX system is that you really need the right size driver, and while if the torque necessary to remove or set the fastener is really light you might get away with a snug-fitting slot screwdriver jammed into the driver aperture, it's not recommended. In a pinch, we've also had success with manually filing a makeshift triangular head on the sawed-off shaft of an old screwdriver.
TORX screws were first embraced by the automobile industry (my Mazda B4000 4x4 pickup has a bunch of them), and it has also been latched onto by tech industries, where it is used in hard drives, computer systems, and other consumer electronics. Apple has used an odd mixture of TORX and Philips fasteners in its computers for many years, starting with the original Macintosh. For example, to swap the hard drive in a Pismo PowerBook, you have to remove and replace three Philips and six TORX (T8) screws.
TORX head sizes are designated by "T" followed by a number, and range from the ultra-tiny T1 through the humongous T100. Sizes from roughly T6 through T15 are commonly found in computer hardware.
toolkitHappily, the Newertech kit includes the legendary and often difficult to find T8, bracketed by T6 and T10 sizes, plus Philips #00 and #2 and 1.8mm and 3.0mm straight blade screwdrivers. Also in the set are a locking scissor clamp (similar to a surgical clamp, it lets you instantly lock on to and then relax finger/thumb pressure on a small object), a set of tweezers, and two nylon pry tools (a.k.a. "spudgers") that can be very helpful in opening recalcitrant device enclosures such as iPod housings without causing damage. It should be noted, however, that nylon Pry Tools are designed to be durable enough to pry open plastic items such as iPods, but because they are nylon and the edge wears from use, these tools have a limited lifetime and are not covered by the rest of the kit's one year warranty.
The whole works is housed in a lightweight nylon zip-closure case with internal foam block padding that has custom-shaped cutout apertures to fit each of the tools snugly and securely.
The screwdrivers all have swivel-tip handles that facilitate keeping a steady pressure on the fastener while you turn the tool to tighten or loosen it, and the screwdriver tips are magnetized, which can be extremely handy if you have to maneuver a fastener into a cramped, hard-to-reach spot, or retrieve one that's been dropped in an difficult-to-access place.
The NewerTech 11 Piece Portable Toolkit is priced at $19.99, which is only few bucks more than I have seen single TORX T8 screwdrivers advertised for, so it's a pretty good deal. LEM
Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and writing for Mac websites since May 1998. His The Road Warrior column is a regular feature on MacOpinion, and he is a news editor and columnist at Applelinks.com.