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Another Take, A Different Road

PC-Doctor Service Center 6
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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:

Table 1: A Range of Possible Alternatives to the PC-Doctor Kit
Item Description Possible replacement Cost
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
PC-Diagnostics Professional 150.00
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.

Table 2: Free Diagnostics/Test Software for the Budget Toolkit
Item Description URL
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

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