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A Case of Maxtaken Identity

Ordering computer equipment online can be fun and thrifty, but sometimes things go wrong. This is the story of my first bad online buying experience.

Welcome to the Pecos Buffet! Grab a plate and help yourself.

A Little Bit of This.
The school of hard knocks can be a hard teacher
When disaster strikes, be prepared
A Case of Maxtaken Identity

A Little Bit of That.
Do what you promise and promise what you can do
When is a hard drive not a hard drive?

The Buffet Dessert and More From Your Gracious Waiter
Editorial Privilege

The school of hard knocks can be a hard teacher.

As much as I loathe shopping for groceries or items at the local box store, I actually enjoy shopping for computer goodies online. I have a list of favorite online vendors that I am aware of that I shop at and have emails sent with the latest bargains. I never had a problem, or more correctly stated I wasn't aware of any problems until a recent Saturday in April. That was when my online shopping luck not only ran out, but took a decided turn for the worse.

During August through September 2006 I ordered a lot of computer equipment from Newegg and one of the items, a Maxtor 250 GB Maxtor SATA hard drive was what the online vendors call "Open Box". An hour after my order I realized that I wanted to try out the Intel Matrix RAID. So I called them and asked them to add another identical "Open Box" Maxtor hard drive to my order. They told me that it had already been boxed and I would have to order it as a separate item. I decided that for the extra $6.00 in shipping to do so. When I received my order, I noticed that one Maxtor was indeed a returned Maxtor hard drive. But the second hard drive shipped in a separate box said "Refurbished to MAXTOR Specifications" on it. I was unhappy about that, but it worked when I installed it so I used it and didn't think all that much about it.

When disaster strikes, be prepared.

That is until this Saturday the 21st of April 2007, approximately eight months after my original order. I was in the process of deleting files prior to a complete backup that I wanted to do before experimenting with configuring my RAID array in Kubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. I was getting error messages when trying to move files. I was confused at first, but after 15 minutes I realized I was seeing the symptoms of the sudden failure of a hard drive. I also knew exactly which hard drive had failed. Now I know that this is nuts, but it seems like that hard drive knew that I was working on a full backup! Sure enough, when I rebooted my computer the RAID 0 (striped) volume showed as Normal and the RAID 1 (mirrored) volume showed as Failed. And which drive was missing from the RAID array? You guessed it, the refurbished drive.

I made the mistake of rebooting the computer again. The RAID 0 (striped) volume showed as Failed and the RAID 1 (mirrored) volume showed as Degraded. My Vista RC1 operating system was on the striped volume and was now lost including all of the emails in my MS Mail boxes. Fortunately, I have learned the hard way to export my emails occasionally when doing any major OS work on my system and I lost no important emails.

I went to Newegg to look for a replacement drive. RAID arrays can be very particular about the type of hard drives you mix and match with so I went looking for an identical replacement drive. Unfortunately, they did not have a Maxtor drive of that model and I didn't feel like experimenting with a similar drive. I fired of an email to Newegg explaining that I had received the wrong drive. I was very unhappy that one of the "Open Box" items I ordered said "Refurbished to MAXTOR Specifications". Not only wasn't it "Open Box", but that implied that it wasn't refurbished by Maxtor, which made me even more concerned.

Their reply wasn't all that unexpected. They noted their 15 day policy for "Open Box" RMA's

I realize I have much (most?) of the responsibility by accepting the hard drive. However, I ordered 'Open Box' and got 'Refurbished' which is a different item entirely. I never order refurbished items because I know I am getting someone else's problem item that may or may not be fixed. More often than not it is just a lemon that should be relegated to the electronic scrap heap. No doubt vendors are aware of this as well based on the number of returns they get.

Now you might ask why after seven months I bothered telling Newegg that I had received an incorrect item. That is a good question. Put yourself in my shoes. You are excited to get your hard drives and looking forward to setting up your RAID array. But I had two working hard drives and I was excited and itching to get to work on my system. When I installed the refurbished drive it seemed to be working. At that point I decided that I didn't want the hassle of the RMA and the additional expense of shipping it back to Newegg.

You are still wearing my shoes. What would you do? It is human nature to avoid the extra hassle, costs and time to do the RMA especially when you have a hard drive in the hand.

This was the first bad experience I have had with Newegg and I have ordered a lot of computer and camera gear from them. Sitting here now after all of these problems I have to think this: I wouldn't be in this situation if Newegg had just sent what I ordered in the first place. I made sure that my subsequent emails to them gave them my perspective. If the hard drive had survived another four or five months I wouldn't have bothered mentioning to them at all.

A Case of Maxtaken Identity

With the unfortunate and untimely death of my 'Refurbed' Maxtor hard drive I began on what was to become one of the strangest online shopping journeys one could imagine. I couldn't even make up something this bizarre.

I ordered a replacement 'new' Maxtor DiamondMax 10 250GB SATA I 1.5 GB/s16 MB buffer hard drive from ZipZoomFly. Now as much as I hate all of those specs, or having to type them all here for you to be confused by, it was very important that I find a matching drive for my existing hard drive and those specs are exactly what I needed to order a replacement for my RAID array. I ordered the drive and paid a little extra for two-day shipment. When I got it I immediately noticed some very strange things.

Now perhaps I am jinxed, but what I received was a Maxtor Quickview drive, not a DiamondMax 10, with the same specs and model number. There is something strange that happens to you when you get a new piece of hardware from that FedEx guy. The first thing you want to do is plug it in and get it working. That is exactly what I did even after my Newegg experience. I received the same error message on my RAID POST screen. Not good. I carefully removed the drive so I could tell if it was spinning up. Nothing.

I called Seagate tech support (they bought Maxtor) and the tech was very friendly and offered to replace the bad drive. During the conversation I asked him if the Quickview drive had NCQ (Native Command Queuing) and he told me no. The drive was similar but not what I ordered. He could only replace my bad drive with another Quickview drive, which I did understand. I offered to pay additional for the DiamondMax 10 but he said he could not do that either. I thanked him. I would have never known that the Quickview drive was not NCQ if the drive had been working.

I called ZipZoomFly and talked to Mike. After a somewhat lengthy discussion of what I got and what I thought I was getting, he told me to take some pictures so they could verify that it was not as advertised. He was courteous and understanding. I sent the pics by email and told him that Seagate tech said that this drive did not have NCQ.

Do what you promise and promise what you can do

Later that night I ordered my third Maxtor DiamondMax 10 250GB SATA I 1.5 GB/s16 MB buffer hard drive, this time from PC Connection. I should mention that I had no way to ask them to verify that the model was a DiamondMax during the online order process, but the follow-up questionnaire I had a place to type some comments and I asked to please verify the model name. I was sure that it was already too late, but mentioned it anyway to document the issues I had experienced. Who knew what I was going to receive? I was still holding out hope that I would actually receive exactly what I ordered. Is that too much to ask for?

On Friday I got my prepaid return RMA approved. The following Monday I shipped back the second Maxtor drive and later that morning received my third Maxtor drive. I opened it up and what did I see? That now ugly word Quickview! Of course I didn't even bother to open the anti-static bag holding the drive. I immediately got on the phone and talked to Matthew at PC Connection. Poor Matthew. He didn't fully understand the situation and I tried to explain it again agreeing with him that it was all very confusing. He couldn't understand why it was a different drive if the model number was the same. I had to agree with him, but logic wasn't going to be useful in this situation. There was no logic to it. The drive was the same model number with a different model name and different performance specs, at least according to Seagate technical support. It made no sense at all.

Matthew was very patient with me and I with him. He told me that his tech people couldn't verify my story, but he would get back with me. I think we spent a half an hour hashing it all out. Later he called me for the serial number. Before the end of the day I had a prepaid return label authorization via UPS.

In my opinion, both vendors operated in good faith. I really believe that they thought they were sending what they advertised. Why do I think that? The box that PC Connection sent was a large box containing a smaller box that seemed to be the original and on the outside there was a label clearly marking it as a 250GB DIAMOND MAX SATA 72 6L250S0 hard drive.

Even weirder is the manufacturing date on the third Maxtor drive - 27MAY2006, just two days before the manufacture date of my last disaster. Where did these hard drives sit for 11 months? Surely not on the shelves of the two vendors. And it is not likely a coincidence that both vendors could send me the wrong drive and both wrong drives made only two days apart. Both vendors to their credit resolved a bad situation to my satisfaction and were courteous and understanding in doing so.

Another reason that I believe that PC Connection acted in good faith was the desire that Matthew showed to get to the bottom of this. Not only did he believe my story, but he made my problem his problem and put a lot of time and energy into getting me an answer. I had requested that he contact me when he found out more but I didn't really expect him to. He really impressed me. He followed up our phone conversations with an email that noted that the Quickview drive had special firmware that optimized it for video/data streaming devices and that it did support NCQ. He also noted that the only way to know whether you had the DiamondMax or Quickview version is to open up the box.

When is a hard drive not a hard drive?

The information I have found on the web fully supports what Matthew says. This is the information I have been able to find and verify online:

This is the only spec sheet (in pdf format, 882 KB) that I could find on the Quickview.

This fascinating webpage outlines the differences that the Quickview drive offers for video/data streaming applications. The way I read that page, the Quickview drive allows more data errors to be ignored allowing for faster video playback. That is not exactly a good idea though when trying to save your Excel spreadsheet or Word document that you have spent hours or days working on.

Waiter! I want to look at my buffet choices again.

Editorial Privilege

This is the section where I am allowed to stray from the facts, give my opinions and feelings and make speculations and inferences.

Now I can speculate about what actually occurred here. I am convinced that it has everything to do with the acquisition of Maxtor by Seagate. If you take a look at you won't find any internal Maxtor hard drives. This implies to me that their existing stock has been sold and no new Maxtor drives are available. The manufacture date on the drives I received is certainly suggestive as well.

I recommend that if you get a Quickview drive instead of the DiamondMax model, it is best to send it back.

I should mention for the purposes of full disclosure that I received a free 300 GB ATA DiamondMax 10 hard drive from Maxtor. See my first motherboard review for the story and for the Obituary I wrote for my first Maxtor hard drive, Max. This may be unique in the annals of online shopping. The compensation was given before any transgression was committed.

I have much to thank Maxtor for. Receiving that hard drive has totally changed my life, really! I was semi-retired and couldn't find anything challenging to do that interested me. After receiving the hard drive, I decided that it needed a new home. That led me to building my first computer. That led me to documenting my build and reviewing the hardware. That led to other reviews and eventually this very article.

I want to personally thank Newegg, ZipZoomFly and PC Connection customer service representatives for their professional attitude and honest to goodness top rate customer service. I did not let any of them know that I am a writer of sorts and like to write reviews and helpful articles for my website - well at least not until we had already resolved the case of Maxtaken identity.

Waiter! I want to look at my buffet choices again.

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