Problem Products

Every once in a while we come across a product that has some real problems. Could be that it doesn’t perform as advertised, is outright dangerous or misrepresented. What follows are products I feel meet this criteria:

“Castlewood ORB Drive – Problem Alert!”

I have contacted Castlewood asking for a drive to evaluate and have not heard from them in over 10 days. I looked at their website and found that Castlewood was started Syed Iftikar. Syed founded SyQuest Technology and served as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President. I would bet that many SyQuest people are on the staff and that the ORB’s roots can easily be traced to the defunct SyQuest SyJet. If you had problems with SyQuest’s answer to Iomega’s products, I seriously doubt you will like Castlwood’s units (old wine in new bottles?). I will continue to call Castlewood and see if I can get some response on the ORB, but for now read the following emails and draw your own conclusions:

Email from Philip: “You ought to add the
Castlewood Systems Orb drive to the list. I’m on my third drive since May and this morning the drive would not do anything but make a “phfff – ting” sound – it died as the other two did. I am asking for my money back from Castlewood. Check BX Boards review of the drive as well. I want my money back!

Email from Steve: “I was in CompUSA and saw about 10 of these in the “resale” bin with no warranty…looks like a BAD product.”

Email from Joe: “You wanted information on the Castlewood Orb Drive, I’ll tell you my experience with the unit.

I worked for Major utility on the help desk for three years and was the head hardware junkie. I was asked to check into the current external hardware storage platforms, and to recommend a backup solution for the help desk agents and our outside field technicians. We needed a way to be able to dump a computer’s hard drive down to a RW disk and restore it from a pre-made Ghost image (Symantec now owns Ghost). This method allows us to be able to mass-produce identical PC images in a hurry. We create one image, and Ghost that image of the HD to a server or a CD-R disk. This image can be as large as 600 megs or bigger.

The field guys needed a way to do this without network support, and it had to be fast. The requirements were to have a device that could hold 600+ megs and work from a 1.44meg boot disk. The CDRW drives were slow and had to have Windows running for the drive to work. This left only the Jazz 2 gig and the Orb 2.2 gig drives. I had a one gig Jazz drive and we beat the hell out of it. We even drop tested the jazz drive (accidentally). The Jazz survived every thing we could do to it.
We tested back ups via SCSI and parallel, all worked without a snag. The Jazz drives are very sturdy and the disks are very solid.

We had very bad experiences with the SyJet 1.5 gig drives. The Company bought about 50 of the drives – all parallel and all are now dead. The SyJets are flimsy and the disks are very weak. It feels like something Hasbro would make. Not wanting to be burned by a new company, I decided to go with the Iomega Jazz 2 gig drive.

But the field techs went behind our backs and bought the orbs on their own (company credit cards) because of the major price difference and the fact that we were not coming up with a solution fast enough. It turned out our report was buried on a manager’s desk and by the time it was dug out, all the field techs had Orb drives.

To our horror, the Orbs are flimsy and feel very cheap. Maximum PC says these are the best way to go for cheap and very fast storage. They say the ORB runs circles around the Jazz 2. Maybe so – but the company bought 20 of the orb drives and 6 were DOA. I’m not sure if this was due to the fact that Castlewood is trying to meet demand and are turning out shoddy equipment. Or they are just new and haven’t worked out all the production bugs. My experience says go with the name brand and stick with Iomega until Castlewood proves to be a serious and reliable contender.”

Email from Sniper: “Being a bit of a gadget fan and my father needing more space on his computer (a P133 32 MB ram, 3 GB HD) I recommended an Orb disk over a CD ROM writer (he has literally about 2 GB worth of Word Perfect8 doc’s). I said that considering 650 MB for (then) $5.00 aus cd’s vs $69 aus for 2.2 GB on the orb disk, that the orb disk was better value (same start up cost e.g. drive vs. CD burner about $500).

I installed the Orb drive, figured out the slave/master/primary/secondary channel usual crap and away we went. I was happy with it, Bios was happy with it, W95 recognized it, everything was cool.

Since then there has been nothing but problems.

The computer crashed some weeks later (nothing unusual), then the bios refused to recognise the orb drive, even with manual config. The drive was swapped, everything was ok, then it started to not ‘read’ one of the orb disks. Got it swapped – it was a hassle due to having to re-backup dad’s doc’s. Then another Orb disk corupted ALL data on the disk, e.g. stuffed up DIR structure, filenames etc etc. Formatted it – seems OK. Dad is now having problem with another Orb disk. So some of his stuff is backed up on 1 disk the rest of his new 5GB HD.

Bottom Line:

In my experience (I was going to get one, and I just talked a friend out of getting one in favour of a burner) don’t touch it with a barge pole unless you are only moving non-essential files between computers (crap you don’t care if you lose while walking between the 2 comps). Get a burner – while they don’t store as much, there are easy to use, RELIABLE and disks are cheap + last for years. Also note the 3X g force limit I think this means that if you drop the disk onto a solid floor from 2 metres (or so) then the disk will probably be fubar.

That’s my 2 cents on the Orb drive. I am very disappointed with it, I was going to get one, I recommended it to my father and have been left with egg on my face. I have also seen other similar experiences written up on the net.”

Email from Jason: “These things are crap. I have tried to install numerous ORB drives into notebook computers without success. They seem to be a cheap version of the Jazz drive. I wouldn’t recommend this item to anyone. One bad thing is that the disks seem to get stuck in the drive and you need a screwdriver to pry it out.”

Email from David: “Using it trouble-free so far and like it a lot. SCSI version; I decided not to wait for the “PC SCSI” version and bought the Mac version, then simply plugged it in and formatted the disc for PC. I’m running a dual PII-300 MHz clocked to 450, and single celery 366 clocked to 550 MHz. (Done by

No problems I can see yet, but if anyone sees any pitfalls I’d like to know. My intent is to boot off it for some apps I don’t want to install on a particular system, instead keeping them on the ORB drive. Haven’t done that as of yet. I haven’t got an extreme system running at 150 MHz FSB, so I have no idea whether the ORB behaves well there, but the SCSI version ought to be OK.

The only caveat is that it deserves gentle handling, and when you insert the disk you have to push in and down so it engages smoothly; also, try not to pile stuff over the little door where the disk goes in.”


UPDATE 11/29/99: 3D COOL has decided to no longer sell these products.

Nils H. Gjendem at Overclockers Shootout alerted me to two additional peltier “Problem Products” currently being sold by 3DCOOL (Pentium Peltier and Athlon Peltier) Just looking at the specs and seeing a single fan used to cool these peltiers raised a red flag right away – too little too late.

I emailed 3DCOOL about these products and received the following reply:

“The Peltiers are going dead soon as we sell the ones we have. When we DO sell one online we let the customer know that it won’t work like they expect it to and give them the chance to void their order right off the bat. I hate unhappy customers — bad for business.

We made the mistake of buying them with the sales rep saying that they will freeze anything they touch. “Woops”. You already know what the Socket Peltier does. Pretty lousy. We have a conference call tomorrow hopefully being able to return all the Peltiers we bought since I don’t even feel comfy selling them to anyone.

I bought them before testing/researching Peltiers and it was the dumbest mistake I’ve ever made. We typically test *everything* we sell before selling it to make sure it’s a good solid product. Heck, those Tornado cases took us a few months to find out what worked the best. Spent about $3000 in cases before finding a good one with a solid ability to cool. :-)”

I think it is commendable for 3DCOOL to “own up” to what these products can do and the position they have taken with customers is a good one. They are developing their own line of peltier coolers and when available we’ll try them out. Hopefully more vendors will look critically at the products they sell.


UPDATE 11/29/99: Swiftech has revamped this product – check out the details HERE. We have not tested these units yet but will post ASAP.

I have received emails (see below) about this product and I am issuing a “Problem Alert.” These are from third party sources – I have not personally tested this product so take these opinions as a warning. However, looking at the specs for the MC370 raised a red flag. The peltier is in fact under-powered for effective cooling. An overclocked C366 @ 550, 2.0 volts, puts out 33 watts. A 39 watt peltier does not have sufficient power to do anything but keep the CPU at best at room temp. If you bump the voltage, the CPU will overpower the peltier and “cooling” will be worse.

If you are looking for super-cooling, the peltier must be rated much higher than the CPU – 2:1 is a good guide. In addition, Socket 7 super-cooling is very difficult due to condensation issues; cooling substantially below room temps requires extensive insulation of the socket itself, and off the shelf solutions do not meet this need. I hate like hell to buy the MC370 to test it, but if Swiftech does not offer one to test I may have to.


Update 11/29/99 from Hernan:

Email from Hernan:

“As a follow-up to my last message[see below], I found out just how borderline the MC370’s peltier rating is in its ability to cool a Celeron CPU running at 550+ MHz. When temperatures rose during the day yesterday, the MC370 was no longer able to properly cool my CPUs, and actually started heating the systems and CPUs to the point where both the BP6 and the MS-6163 Pro systems locked up completely.

Prior to that, I had already had enough stability problems that I had had to bring the MS-6163 Pro back down to 95×6, albeit at 2.0V. While the MC370 was able to reach higher fsb’s at lower voltages than the Alpha, I have significantly greater stability and lower CPU and system temperatures with the latter. I would have to agree that an MC370 as it is currently being produced will more than likely not improve a given system’s overclockability.”

[First Email]”I purchased three MC370 peltier coolers, of which I have thus far installed two. One is running a Celeron 400 at 98×6 at 2.0V on a BP6 that could previously only manage 94×6 at 2.2V with a S370 Alpha. The second is running a lapped Celeron 400 at 100×6 at 2.1V on an MS-6163 Pro with an MS-6905 converter that could previously manage 95×6 at 2.2V with a S370 Alpha.

While the peltier could certainly stand to be of a higher rating, it does somewhat improve overclocking as it is currently sold. It clearly did not worsen the overclockability of either my BP6 or MS-6163 Pro system.”

Email from Dave:

“I have one to add to your list – Swiftech’s MC 370 Peltier cooler. This came as a surprise because this company’s other products have all been hailed as top notch by reviewers. I wasn’t able to find much outside reviews or other info on the MC 370 before buying it, but assumed that it too would be top notch based on the company’s rep. Well, I was pretty disappointed by what I got.

The build quality looked great but it just didn’t perform! I added it to a C366 that was almost perfectly stable at 577 (with heatsink and an overvolted fan @17v). I was hoping tot get to the 600+ level or at least keep my system from crashing every now and then at 577. What I got with the MC370 was worse than my stock heatsink and fan!!!

I would now barely boot into Windows at 577 before! I thought that I must’ve done something wrong, so I took it out and looked it over, checked for good contact (looked at the thermal grease imprint), checked the peltier, checked power supply etc. I found nothing wrong, so I tried it on my friends BP6 (who also uses stock cooling fan/hs) setup with only one chip (366) and found that his setup also proved to be no better off with the peltier either!!!

I hope that you consider what I outlined and see if you can get any info on this unit – perhaps try it and review it?? So far I have yet to see any reviews on this piece, possibly due to its lack-luster ability!! I’m sure that Swiftech’s 1000 and 2000 are great but this one bites!!”

Email from Dan Yeo:

“My friend bought two MC370s, even though an Alpha+Leufkens combo would be cheaper. I told him not to, but he wouldn’t listen. Needless to say, the 32 watt peltier performed almost as bad as a normal heatsink – and this was running off MY power supply (400 watt that I purchased for 100 bucks) on separate lines. It’s a piece of shxt.”

Email from Kent Reinfors:

“I just got an answer from a company that sells OC things here and have Swiftechs MC1000 and 2000 in stock. I sent a request about the MC370 and here is the answer I got from them:

‘Hi Kent and thank you for your request.Yes we can certainly get the Swiftec MC 370 for you. I am sure Swiftech will hate me for what I am about to tell you, but I will not and cannot lie, just to sell a product.

We have chosen not to have the MC370 in stock, as it does not perform as well as the ALPHA S370 Turbo mounted with a 59 or 80W Peltier upgrade and a Coolplate S370 Kit incl. insulation kit, which will take your CPU down to as low as 12 degrees Celcius.

Note the MC370 does not come with more than a 39W Peltier, because it cannot drive efficiently a larger Peltier. Also the Swiftech Coolers are supplied with a very noisy fan. We have chosen not to provide our coolers with such noisy fans, and still get better performance. So my best advise for the S370 is currently the above-described alternative.'”

“Peltier Cooler”

I reviewed this particular Peltier Cooler (“Mushkin Tundra”) some time ago and recently it has re-surfaced under generic as well as the Vantec labels. I have not seen a positive review yet for this product and doubt any credible reviewer will find it usable. It does not cool as well as a good air-cooled heatsink; further, I believe it can be downright dangerous, as it get so hot you could burn your fingers on the heatsink. AVOID AT ALL COSTS!


“42 cfm System Cooler”

UPDATE 1/2/00: Email from Brandon:

“I can tell you and your readers these are nothing but junk. I had installed over 100 in our mainstream market computers with a 90% return on the computers due to overheating failures. Some of the fans are failing because the bearings had no oil and some due to another mechanical failure, blades that come off the shaft and break the motor coils. I did a test after some computers were returned to see what the actual air flow was and found that the fan in the computers power supply was stronger then the add-on squirrl cage unit and it would actually pull air in from the accessory fan and bypassed the processer cooler.

Cigarette smoke confirmed the airflow as the smoke was taken into the rear of the case and totally bypassed the main part of the board. Our case power supplies are the temp controlled fans that use the thermisters and with this disrupted airflow it was not sensing the actual case temps thus ran slower than needed to keep everything within normal limits. Here is a short list of failed parts, failures caused by this fan:

6 AGP based Jaton video cards
3 AMD K6-2/500 processers
8 Adaptec 2940U2W SCSI cards
15 Soundblaster cards of varied flavors
1 3COM 3C905 NIC card
2 Customer supplied video cards, older Matrox Rainbow runner and
Stealth-64 PCI based

19 hard drives, these failed in less than 45 days some motor controller related, diffrent flavors again
6 Customer supplied Seagate ST15150 used for a small RAID
1 wire set melted to the processer heat sink

These are not isolated to just one failure per computer, these are
multiple failures in multiple computers but all have cost us money, a lot of money in very little time. We have since discontinued the use of these cooling fans and instead have gone to installing a host of different fans to various locations on the computer case. My favorite fan is the Comair Rotron “Biscuit” DC fan model BD12J3 mounted to the case using 2 unused ISA slot holes. Fan ratings are 75 CFM for real and will actually pull the sides in slightly on some of the cheaper tower cases and they make less noise than the little slot fan.

In closing I would recommend that owners of the little “42 CFM” fan
remove this as soon as possable and run without or try to find an
alternative case fan as these units are not even suitable for a video
card cooling fan. Failure rates are way too high to be comfortable
keeping these units around and could be a potental danger to unmanned
servers or workstations that remain on full time.”

This product is manufactured by a Taiwanese company and can be found under a variety of labels. The manufacturer must have very liberal testing standards – it is highly unlikely that under any reasonable test condition this product will move 42 cfm of air (“System Cooler Review”). I think someone dropped a decimal point – 4.2 (4 point 2) cfm is a lot closer to the mark. Given its size and power consumption, it is physically impossible to move this amount of air. This is an OK product as a video card cooler but not as a system cooler. OK BUY AS A VIDEO CARD COOLER.

System Cooler

Have you bought a product and feel it should be included on this list? Drop me a line – I will do some research and if I feel it meets my criteria, it will show up here.

– Joe

Every once in a while we come across a product that has some real problems. Could be that it doesn’t perform as advertised, is outright dangerous or misrepresented. What follows are products I feel meet this criteria:

“Pre-Tested CPU’s PC-10 Peltier Heatsink – Problem Alert!”

UPDATE 6/3/00:

I have received additional complaints and about as many emails from satisfied customers as well. Let’s let Mike of Pre-Tested CPUs respond first:

“I have used open celled foam, closed cell foam, rigid fiberglass insulation and even polyisocyanurate insulation but with all of them if the CPU is allowed to get too cold, condensation will occur with all of them.

When people do not follow instructions and leave power management and/or ACPI enabled and do not use motherboard monitor to help control the temperature of the CPU (All of which is stated on the enclosed instruction sheet with my coolers), condensation can occur with any peltier device. I have had customers ask me if my cooler will prevent condensation because they purchased a kit from Leufken, or a cooler from Swiftech and they noticed condensation. I ask them if they followed the instructions included with the kits, they almost always answer ‘I did for the most part’. I then reply if you do not follow the instructions 100% that are included with any peltier
device, you will most likely see condensation.

I cannot force people to read and follow instructions. I tell customers on my site and in my instruction sheets what needs to be done. If they do not follow instructions I do not see how I can be at fault.

If you have any further questions, just let me know.

Thanks – Mike”

The following email is representative of the positive responses I have received:

“Even though I am a satisfied customer of Mike’s and have used his cooler for over 4 months now without any problems, I just thought that I would point out to you, that on his web site now he has posted a statement that even though he has had over 600 satisfied customers, he is very unhappy about the 3 unhappy customers. And since most people (including yourself) feel the problem is with the insulation he used, Mike has stated that he has switched to closed cell foam.

I just thought that since you posted the original problem product on your site, that you would also want to post an update on it.

Happy Overclocking, Frank Funk”

I can’t attest to any numbers of satisfied or unsatisfied customers, but I applaud Mike for changing to closed cell foam. Peltiers require more care and knowledge than simply slapping on a heatsink; however, any vendor selling a high-performance product has a responsibility to provide the best possible materials for the task at hand: In this instance, it was not open cell foam, nor do I agree that condensation is inevitable.

Condensation is a characteristic of peltiers and always will be. However, careful preparation, correct materials and proper installation will prevent it. If you are uncomfortable about that, have not done some research on peltiers, are not handy or expect an off-the-shelf solution, don’t buy these products – you will be disappointed.

End Update

We have received a number of complaints on this product. Apparently users are finding that it comes with OPEN CELLED FOAM which does nothing to stop moisture. Only CLOSED CELL FOAM will act as a moisture barrier.


“I have used a pretested cpu peltier setup myself. Liked the temps and everything about it. Except I ran into problems first of all I was at 0c and according to Mike I was supposed to idle at 8 to 10c. So what happened is the foam he uses is open cell it soaked up like a sponge. Second problem is back of slocket got condensation on it and turned a nice shade of green. Killing my 600E@900 1.75 volts fcpga chip. So if your going to use it I suggest to use close cell foam or at least make sure it idles at 8 to 10 c. And also try to insulate back of chip as well. Jen

“I took your advice and after two days of running on this cooler I took it apart and found condensation or water in the open air foam included with the kit. First I dried out the foam and picked up some silicone and this stuff called Great Stuff or something. It is the foam you can spray on for an air tight seal and then when it hardens it is like air tight styrofoam . You can then cut it to shape it once it becomes hard. I then took the clear silicon and sealed anything that would let in any air. This chip is now encased in a coffin . There is no way air is getting in this sucker now. It is sealed air tight. Thanks for the warning I think you saved my processor at least for a while. J Rous

“I bought a PC-10 cooler off of Mike also, it didn’t last a week and it killed my system, water!!!! I had Niagara falls going on in there!! I was told by Mike that the QJ bios on my Abit BE6-2 was to blame, qy will do it also according to Mike! It apparently puts your cpu into idle regardless of what settings you have made to your bios or windows. The real kick in the nuts is I told him prior to ordering that it was for a BE6-2! He uses one for god’s sake as a test bed!. He also mentioned that the RV bios resolves this problem. Where’s your business ethics Mike? You knew this was going on and you ignored it and to say otherwise, I’d call you a liar to your face! John Thornton

I have not tested this product so I can not personally attest to its deficiencies; however, I have no reason to doubt that the experiences listed here are representative and buyers should take this into consideration before purchasing this product.

Peltiers require careful construction and experience; if you are planning on buying a kit or pre-assembled unit, go with vendors who have established a track record. SwiftTech and Tom Leufken’s Kits are two that have been around and are recommended.

PC-10 Order Page

Have you bought a product and feel it should be included on this list? Drop me a line – I will do some research and if I feel it meets my criteria, it will show up here.

– Joe

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