If you’re looking for the best chip puller or IC extraction tool, I don’t think anyone will argue with my assertion it’s the Jonard EX-2. I finally picked one up this fall after watching various retro Youtubers use them for more than a year. The videos aren’t exaggerating. This chip puller makes life with retro machines much easier. This is my Jonard EX-2 review.
Why chip pullers matter
You can remove chips by just levering them out with a flat-bladed screwdriver. I did it that way for years. The problem with that is you risk bending pins on the chip, and potentially damaging components on the board. The last time I used a screwdriver, I heard a crunch that wasn’t the sound of the socket letting go of its bear trap grip on the chip. I damaged the capacitor next to the chip. Replacing a cap isn’t the most difficult or expensive repair, but it was a needless one.
I’ve owned more proper chip pullers for years, but the problem with a simple U-shaped chip puller is you don’t necessarily get enough leverage on the chip. When a chip’s been sitting in a socket for 40 years, it’s not intimidated by my below-average 5’9″, 150-pound frame holding a cheap chip puller. The chip’s probably going to win that battle.
Enter the Jonard EX-2
Admittedly, the Jonard EX-2 looks more impressive in video or in photos than it does in person. It looks like it’s mostly made of metal. But the frame is just metalized plastic. When I picked it up, it weighed about 1/3 what I expected. But the parts that matter most are made of metal. It has two claws the grip the chip, and a metal plate it pushes the chip up against.
And the nice thing about the Jonard EX-2 is you can use it in tight spaces. Need to pull the VIC-II chip from an early C-64, where it’s encased right up against the edge of a metal can? No problem. You’ll never get a screwdriver in there, but the claws of the EX-2 go right in. Just pop the Jonard EX-2 on top of any DIP of 24 to 40 pins and squeeze the lever while holding it tight against the chip. You generally don’t have to pull up. Just hold it steady and squeeze and let the tool do the work.
Typically an adult male can squeeze hard enough to pull the chip from the socket with one hand. But if your hands aren’t quite that strong, you can squeeze one side with one hand, and the other side with your other hand. The chip may still put up a fight, but it will release. And since the EX-2 does pull straight up, the chip will usually come out without any bent pins. When I have gotten bent pins, it’s been minimal, and confined to a very small number of them.
Is it worth it?
The Jonard EX-2 isn’t cheap. I paid around $25 for mine, after shipping. If you’re only going to use it once, then it’s hard to justify the cost. Since I have multiple old computers to keep in service, and some of them have chips in them that haven’t been made since 1992 and were only ever available from a single source, I think it’s worth it to me. A common damaged chip may cost $5 to replace, but I sometimes have to deal with chips that cost more than the EX-2 does. It protects my investment, and it saves me time and frustration. It makes the task of reseating or replacing chips much easier, and reseating all the chips in a misbehaving vintage computer is a good early troubleshooting step.
For me, working on old computers is a hobby. It’s supposed to be fun. Before I had one, I wouldn’t reseat all the chips in a Commodore 64. It was too big of a project to be worth it. But now that I have one, I can reseat all the chips in 15 minutes or less, and spray the sockets with some Deoxit D5 for good measure. It brings it into the realm of preventative maintenance, prolonging the life of the sockets and helping me put off much more intense maintenance.
So if you don’t have one, think about picking one up. Or if you need a gift idea for a retro computer enthusiast, here you go. You can get them from most major electronics suppliers like Newark, and sometimes they turn up on Ebay.