Just for grins, we priced out the items that we could in the PC-Doctor Service Center 6 kit, with an eye toward seeking items of comparable value and capability. Table 1 shows what we came up with:
|POST Card||Displays PC POST codes & status||Shentech Star Empery PT063||5.00|
|PC Diagnostic FlipPOST||90.00|
|PSU tester||Tests various PSU outputs||FrozenCPU ATX 2.0||15.00|
|FrozenCPU ATX 2.0 Ultimate||28.00|
|USB Flash drive||128 MB drive for storage||Corsair 1GB USB Flash drive||10.00|
|MUD||Bootable drive w/dongle, status LEDs||Not available for separate purchase||N/A|
|Diagnostics software||Suite of test & diagnostic programs||PC-Diagnostics Novice||30.00|
|Lavalys Everest Ultimate Edition||35.00|
|Loopback adapters||Hardware testers for ports & audio||Loopback adapters (low price)||25.00|
|Loopback adapters (high price)||50.00|
If you factor in a number of other, readily available freeware programs (which we cover in Table 2 a little later on) what Table 1 suggests is that for a cost of between $85 on the low end, and up to $328 on the high end, you can match nearly all of the functionality that the PC-Doctor Service Center 6 delivers, with the possible exceptions of the depth and breadth of video and memory testing that the packaged product provides.
This raises a possibly thorny question: “What price convenience?” It’s inarguable that PC-Doctor puts all of its components together into a usable package at a premium price. If you’re inclined to take the higher-cost road anyway, the difference between $328 and $400 isn’t that great. Mind you, it does leave enough change to purchase a reasonably capable multimeter-like the V&A Auto/Manual Ranging Digital Multimeter with USB Interface (Model VA18B), which can measure all the voltages accurately inside a PC that the FrozenCPU PSU testers only read to within ±0.2V or so.
On the other hand, if you’re inclined to take the lower-cost route, there’s no question that you can get close to matching what you might need PC-Doctor for-not including low-level video and memory testing-for less than 25% of what the Service Center 6 kit will cost you. If you’re on a tight budget and balk at spending $400, you can still put together a reasonable trouble-shooting kit for under $100. We’d recommend Everest Ultimate Edition over the PC-Diagnostics Novice software ourselves, though you can get good results from either package. You’ll also want to grab all the items listed in Table 2 as well, and add them to your toolkit.
|Memtest86+||GPL memory testing utility||www.memtest.org|
|Drive Fitness Test||Freeware HD test utility from Hitachi (works with all drives)||www.hitachigst.com/hdd/ technolo/dft/dftnew.htm|
|CPU-Z||CPU & memory information analyzer||www.cpuid.com|
|PC Wizard 2008||System information analyzer and benchmarking tool||www.cpuid.com|
|Prime95||Free multi-platform prime number search tool doubles as CPU torture test||www.mersenne.org/freesoft.htm|