If you're a professional computer technician, you've probably run into a stubborn computer that refuses to be diagnosed. POST failures that can't be traced, bus problems that seem to have no resolution and CPUs that don't work right are just a few that I've seen over the course of a technical career. What do you do when you find a system that you can't fix?
Micro 2000's Universal Diagnostics Toolkit contains two diagnostic products: Micro-Scope and PostProbe. This hardware and software combo provides the means to troubleshoot almost any PC, working or not.
Micro-Scope is a software diagnostic tool that automatically boots from a 3.5" floppy disk. It supports any Intel or compatible processor running any PC I/O bus. The list of features is exhaustive, including the ability to test CD-ROM drives without DOS drivers, check hard drives of any size, configure CMOS settings on computers that require a (usually missing) setup diskette, test any amount of installed memory and low level format any hard drive type, even IDE.
I tested the software on two systems that were not working, one due to a faulty memory module and the other with a CPU with a defective floating point processory. Micro-Scope identified the defective DIMM and the bad CPU, clearly and unambiguously.
The software is menu driven, with a DOS-like appearance. It can generate comprehensive test results, suitable for presentation to a customer. The program is customizable, allowing the user to select and save a suite of tests to run, a feature that is particularly valuable in a production environment for new system burn-ins or for diagnosing intermittent errors.
The software includes a detailed, 170 page manual that clearly explains each menu function. Micro-Scope is operating system independent, so it can be used on any PC, regardless of the installed OS.
The second component, the POST Probe PCI is a passive POST reading card. The card can plug into any PCI, ISA, EISA or MCA socket. The POST Probe is designed for "dead" systems that will not POST. It includes a set of LEDs that monitor critical system power as well as pads to allow the connection of an external voltmeter.
Besides power monitoring, the card examines clock and oscillator signals, I/O and reset signals. It also tests critical DMA and PCI functions.
I tested a Pentium II system with an Award BIOS by removing the CPU so that it would not boot. The card correctly returned a POST code of 0A, which indicated a defective CPU. Removing the memory also generated the correct error condition on the card.
The process of using the card is very simple. Once the card is installed and the system powered, the red, green and yellow LEDs indicate power and signal conditions. If those conditions are correct, the system the proceeds to the POST. A switch on the card allows the user to step through each POST code on the card to identify the step that is causing the problem on the computer.
The card comes with a detailed manual that covers procedures for testing systems with the most popular BIOSes, including AMI, Award and Phoenix. The manual also provides detailed instructions on installing the card and interpreting the results.
The entire package comes in a zippered case with storage pockets for the various components, including manuals, the card and floppies and the accessory loopback connectors. As with other Micro 2000 products that I've tested, everything is very nicely organized and presented. Micro 2000 offers unlimited lifetime technical support.
The Micro 2000 Universal Diagnostics Kit is a welcome addition to any PC technician's workbench. It identifies problems quickly, saving time and money. It is also an excellent tool for the field technician since it can be easily carried to the customer's site. I highly recommend it.
I almost wish that Micro 2000 would send us something that took a lot of configuring or didn't work right so that I could write more. These darned things that install easily and work right the first time can be boring!
Micro 2000, Inc.
1100 East Broadway - Suite 301
Glendale, CA 91205