The most important debugging tool in any E.E.'s toolbox is a trusty multimeter. A multimeter can measure continuity, resistance, voltage and sometimes even current, capacitance, temperature, etc. It's a swiss army knife for geeks!

What to look for?

Everyone always asks, "What multimeter should I get?"

Well, since they're rather commodified (there are dozens of manufacturers) it is hard to make everyone use the same model, even though it would make things easier.

These are the necessities:

  • Continuity testing with piezo buzzer
  • Resistance test down to 10 ohm (or lower) and up to 1 Megaohm (or higher)
  • DC voltage test down to 100mV (or lower) and up to 50V
  • AC voltage test down to 1V and up to 400V (or 200V in the US/Canada/Japan)
  • Diode testing

Here are nice things to have in your meter

  • Auto-off - to keep from draining the batteries
  • AC and DC current test, from 10mA to maybe 200mA and then also a 10A one as well
  • Stand - a thing that flips out and keeps it upright on your table
  • Auto-ranging - note: some people don't like auto-ranging because its slower and not as precise
  • Hold - keep the maximum value on the screen so you can probe without looking at the meter.
  • Common battery - such as 9V or AA's, pocket meters use hard-to-replace coin cells

These are things that I rarely (if ever) use, in descending order

  • Frequency counter - before I had a scope this was surprisingly useful!
  • Capacitance testing - usually to check random SMT caps
  • Inductance testing - how often do you really use an inductor?
  • Duty cycle - never used this
  • Transistor beta meter - people don't really work with transistors anymore
  • Temperature probe - I use the "Pease temperature test": a finger

This guide was first published on Jul 29, 2012. It was last updated on 2012-08-15 09:11:58 -0400.

This page (Overview) was last updated on Jul 16, 2012.

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