Watchdog: May 2008


Watchdog: May 2008

Winslow, watchdog of the month

Wrong to Trust Trustware?

I read in the February issue (“Security 2.0”) that Trustware’s BufferZone Pro would provide Vista support by the time the article was published. I purchased a one-year BufferZone Pro license only to discover that Vista support doesn’t exist. I contacted Trustware’s customer support and asked if the company would honor the one-year subscription once the Vista version was finally available. I have yet to get a response. This makes me very displeased since I put faith in the article. I know it’s not your fault, but if it’s still OK, I’d like to vent a bit and get a little pissed. A response would be nice from both Maximum PC and Trustware.

—Brian Starr

We’ll use the Han/Lando rule and simply say, “It’s not our fault.” Just kidding. While the article did preface the statement about Trustware’s Vista plans with “If true to its word…”, we are sorry that some readers were lead astray. The magazine must occasionally report estimates from software and hardware companies when it comes to pricing and availability, and as you might expect, that information is sometimes wrong—as it was here.

So what’s the story with Trustware? The Dog pinged the company to see what happened to the promised Vista support. A spokesman told the Dog that, due to additional quality assurance tests, the company felt compelled to delay Vista support until the end of the second quarter of 2008. In other words, it’s expected to be out by June. The official apologized but assured the Dog that Vista support is “definitely” coming. He said the company is offering full refunds to folks who purchased the product with the intent of running it under Windows Vista. Reader Brian Starr opted for a refund, but he did tell Trustware he plans to purchase BufferZone once Vista support is offered.

BufferZone's Vista support has been delayed a few months, but the company pledges that it will come out.


When is ‘New’ Not?

After testing his "new" drive, a reader found it had already logged nearly 5,000 hours of up time.

Last month I purchased a 250GB EIDE Western Digital hard drive from The drive, however, posted failed-read errors and reformats, so after a week, I decided to return it. I set up an RMA with the company and requested an exchange. Before I sent off the drive, I ran Hard Drive Inspector on it to look for issues. This is when I found that the drive had 5,111 hours (212 days) worth of run time on it. This was obviously not a new drive. I included a printout of the report and a request for a full refund when I sent the drive back. Two weeks later I inquired about the refund and was told that a replacement drive was on the way because that’s what I initially requested when the RMA was created.

I figured that if the new drive was truly new, I would not concern myself with a refund. And how could 3B Tech send me another used drive after I discovered the first one? I received the drive, ran Hard Drive Inspector on it, and discovered 4,924 hours (205 days) of use on it. I emailed the company requesting that I be reimbursed for shipping and given a full refund.

The next day I received a response that my request would be granted. I believe I will receive my refund, but a company that can send old hard drives as new should not be trusted. I will never buy from 3B Tech again. I would recommend that anyone buying a reportedly new or OEM hard drive check the SMART data to see how many hours of use the drive has on it.

—Vance Sykes

This isn’t 3B Tech’s first problem with hard-drive misinformation. Reader Lynn Means reported purchasing a new drive from 3B Tech and receiving a drive that was actually remanufactured. After she returned the drive, the company refunded her just 75 percent of what she had paid for the drive, added a restocking fee, and stiffed her for shipping both ways. Sounds pretty low.

The Dog tried to reach 3B Tech numerous times for its side of the story but never received a response. That’s no surprise, as the company has a pretty lousy reputation. On, consumers give the company a rating of 5 out of 10, with several people making complaints that echo those of Vance and Lynn: bad drives out of the box, restocking fees for defective merchandise, and apparently used items being sold as new. The Better Business Bureau also gives 3B Tech a thumbs down and has logged about 27 complaints about the company in the last three years.

Since 3B Tech did not respond to interview requests, the Dog recommends that readers steer clear of the company. Readers interested in seeing how many hours have been logged on their drives should give Altrix’s Hard Drive Inspector a spin. It’s available as a fully featured trial at



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