I have a Sabrent adapter for HDD to USB connectivity. It's not as elegant as the Thermaltake docking, but it supports both SATA and PATA drives (3.5, 2.5 and 1.8-inch). Even internal optical drives can be used with it. This adapter has saved the day many times.
I always carry flashlights, one of which is either a headlamp, gooseneck LED, or some other kind of hands-free light.
To the external cables, add internal ones as well, including SATA, PATA, and floppy (if needed). If you will (or might) be replacing a hard drive, disk-cloning software can be useful if it's just a size upgrade, and you'll be especially glad of the internal cable you brought unless you know the machine has eSATA for that dock.
Cool article. jtt283 has a good point about the flashlights. An extra mouse (the portable, USB kind) and a tiny keyboard are sometimes helpful when it's only a shorted or malfunctioning device.
And maybe a P.H.D PCI2, if you are really serious.
I'm going to sound like an old dog here, but I tend to carry a few "legacy" adapters like PS/2 to USB and Serial to USB... I even carry a USB floppy disk drive to help gain access to some of my relatives/friends older PCs. The biggest problem I run into is that I always seem to run into a PC that doesn't support a USB to PS/2 adapter or is so old it can't even read USB pre-OS startup. That's when I have to head back home and open up the "legacy box" and return is a "REAL" internal floppy drive or Serial mouse. I try to do these PCs at home with all my supplies, but sometimes you just need to do a housecall.
Magnetic headed screwdrivers are the bomb, I have a fantastic little set with a single screwdriver and 24 pop-in heads in philips, flat and star-shaped around the same size as the above 7 piece set. I found it by accident in a gas-station for £5. Bargain.
The coolest freeware program I have found is Macrium Reflect. It creates a backup image that can be reloaded onto bare metal. It is free for home use and reasonably priced for business. I set up an external drive so that the program starts when you insert the drive. It is easy enough for grandma to use reliably.
This is a great article, but I can't help but feel it's a giant advertisement for certain brands (carry 4-5 Cruzer flash drives).
Great article on the hardware side, but I'd like to see more practical advice, perhaps a guide that tells people steps to take in case of an emergency, a sort of guide to really help out the new folks.
Good call on the internal cables, guys. As for the flash drives, we recommended three different brands, but honestly, any flash drive will do. We also included pliers (they're in the repair kit, I believe).
I don't know why a flashlight didn't occur to me. :facepalm: