RebornData asks: "I do freelance computer support for small businesses, and after running into a string of hairy hardware problems, decided to buy some generic PC diagnostic software. My searches turned up numerous vendors but very few independent or reputable reviews and comparisons, so I embarked on an evaluation of my own. What I found was an industry filled with con artists, bitter feuds, and outdated products. I'm now out $400 and am wondering whether my hope of finding useful diagnostic software was a naive dream. Has anyone found something that works for you?"
"The premise of PC diagnostics software is simple: provide an easy way to test for PC hardware problems, independent of software configuration. Some hardware vendors (like Dell) provide diagnostics with their systems, but they are usually model-specific and not even all major vendors provide them. Of course there are free utilities like the well-known memtest86, but I was wanted something more comprehensive.
So I started my research, and found a variety of packages, including PC Doctor, PC Check, Microscope, PC Certify, Tufftest Pro, among many others, ranging in price from $500 to $35. Some come with associated hardware, such as loopback connectors for parallel, serial, network or USB ports, or ISA / PCI cards that will show low-level POST codes for machines that appear completely dead.
Some of the vendors provided demos, but most were severely crippled. The cheaper software tended to be outdated and incomplete, lacking support for newer hardware features. Almost all practiced high-pressure sales tactics over the phone, and I discovered that one company was actually a spinoff of another by a disgruntled former employee, resulting in a bitter, lawsuit-ridden feud.
Microscope, by Micro 2000, seemed to have the most online feedback, mostly positive, but they didn't provide a demo. After contacting their sales, they suggested that if I bought a full copy for my evaluation, I could return it in 30 days if it didn't meet my needs. Well, it turned out to be buggy and missing important features found in other, cheaper products. When I called to return the product, the salesman disclaimed all knowledge of the promise they made, and they've refused to take it back. Some further digging found that I'm not the first person to be taken in by these tactics.
I still would like to find worthwhile PC diagnostics software, but the (a) lack of independent reviews, (b) shady industry sales tactics and (c) poor performance of a 'well regarded' package leave me wondering... am I a sucker for buying into the whole concept in the first place? Can anyone point me towards a reputable vendor, or an alternative set of independent tools that will do the same job?"