It does not take long to discover that there are more types of sockets than flathead and Philips when it comes to bolts or screws. Three of the more popular are hex, Torx, and Star. But what is each type and what are the differences, so you can use the best one for the job?
Hex Socket and Allen Keys
The hex socket is probably the most familiar outside of the flathead and Philips socket design. It consists of a hexagon-shaped socket that fits around the identically designed bolt or nut head. Most people are familiar with the Allen wrench, a hexagon-shaped tool designed to be inserted and turn an item that has a hex socket.
There are two types, the six and twelve-point design for hex sockets. The six-point design is the most familiar and creates the familiar hexagon shape. While the twelve-point is often called a bi-hex or double hex because of the number of points. The twelve-point hex socket is arguably better when working in tighter spaces. This is due to the additional contact points which makes for easier turning even if the conditions are cramped.
You can find hex sockets in many different devices which include automobiles, construction work, electrical systems, and so forth. Hex sockets are one of the most common designs with many uses. It is why carrying around Allen wrenches is important because they will be needed in such situations.
What is a Torx Screw and Torx Bit?
A TORX® drive is a 6-point contact socket design that is patented. The design superficially appears like the hex socket thanks to the six-sided shape. However, the Torx drive profile is really a star pattern. Hence this drive system is often called a star screw although the official generic name is hexalobular internal.
You can see the extended points where the corners of the hex pattern would normally be. The result is better overall contact with a screwdriver that features a star socket.
The Torx drive is commonly found in socket-headed screws that you can use with counterbore or countersink. You will use a Torx screwdriver, a wrench, or a Torx bit on an impact driver to drive the fastener. Similar to hexagonal bolts, you can get the inverted Torx screw that has a solid head with a star profile.
The Torx was first developed in 1967 by a company known as Camcar Textron, with the name being a derivative of the company itself. You can find Torx designs in automobiles, motorcycles, computers, and consumer electronics. The original effect, whether intended or not, was to help make items being held in place by Torx screws and bits to be tamper proof. This is because the Torx design for tools was not commonly found and Allen wrenches do not turn them.
Advantage of Torx Screw – Security
With the design becoming more common, you can find Torx designs in many different devices and machines. Although there are new versions that retain some of the tamper-resistant qualities, meaning that only specifically designed wrenches or screwdrivers can remove the Torx screw or bolt.
The most common security feature is the hole that is drilled into the center of the socket. This hole allows the driver to slip over the pin that is found on Torx security screws. A standard Torx screwdriver will not work because the pin prevents it from fully entering the socket.
The size of the Torx will depend on whether it is an internal or external design. For internal designs, the measurements range from T6, which is 1.6mm from point to point, to T100, which is 22.1mm from point to point.
External Torx design ranges in size from E4, which is 3.8mm from point to point to E24, which is 22.1mm from point to point.
Star Socket and Star Screwdriver
The Star socket and screwdriver are common names for the copyrighted TORX® drive. They are basically identical with both working in each type of socket or screwdriver. The only differences are in terms of tamper resistance in which you may need a specific tool to remove a bolt or screw that has a Star or Torx design.
You will see the term “Star” used by companies that manufacture their own tools and bits to be used on Torx sockets but include differences that take them outside the Torx design which is still patented. So, you can be confident that a Star bit will fit into a Torx socket. Plus, you may see improvements over the standard Torx design in terms of bit or screwdriver itself.
Sometimes people mistakenly call Philips screws star screws. This is incorrect. A Philips screw has a crosshead drive profile with 4 contact points whereas a Torx or star drive has 6-point contact.
Although the + shape of Philips drive can take more torque than the single slot drives, it cannot match the superior hexagonal or Torx profiles.
Hex or Torx Which One is Better?
Better is probably not the right word to use when comparing hex, Torx, and star sockets, bits, and screwdrivers. But all three indeed have their advantages, even if though there can be a subtle difference between the Torx and star which are essentially the same.
Hex sockets are still the most common, which makes them easier to find Allen wrenches. If you have Torx or star screws or bolts on a device, then you might consider replacing them with hex sockets. This makes it easier to find the right Allen wrench and remove them when necessary. Although Torx wrenches and screwdrivers are becoming more common.
Conversely, if you want to make your device or item more difficult to be taken apart, then switching to security Torx sockets offers better protection. Thanks to the pin design, this type of screws are more difficult to remove without the right tool. Of course, someone who steals your device with such sockets may find other ways of getting inside.
As mentioned before, the differences between Torx and Star are subtle in that both are identical in terms of function. However, Star sockets and bits may have a small advantage because they use non-Torx designs in their products. This means that they may use superior designed to help you manipulate Torx sockets for a tighter fit or easier removal.
Keep in mind that there are different sub-types to each design, most notably the twelve-point hex socket which offers more surface and a tighter grip compared to the standard six-point version. You’ll want to double-check to ensure that you have the precise tool for the job of inserting or removing screws or bolts with a design subset.
And that is the difference between hex, Torx, and Star sockets and screwdrivers. Each has its advantages which make them quite popular when used in the automotive, computer, and electronic fields. This will help you make the best-informed decision about what to use when needing a specific socket.