Beware the Pitfalls of Buying 'OEM' Components
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18 August 2008
There are many computer components available on Ebay that appear to be bargains, unfortunately, they only appear that way and actually have the potential to become a source of annoyance, frustration and possibly extra costs too, that will negate the bargain you thought you were getting. I'm talking about what are known as 'OEM' items; that is, components made by well-known manufacturers for a third party company that then assembles their own branded systems using these components. The item (a motherboard)I bought arrived in a timely manner and it worked when I test-booted it outside of a case before installing it, so I gave good feedback, which I now regret. 'Trust' is a word you should forget the meaning of when considering an Ebay purchase. My reason for writing this article is that although the motherboard I bought was advertised as an AOpen MX46-533V, and indeed this is what is printed on the board, it is in fact an MX46U2-CN, made by AOpen for a third party company called RM, who build and supply computer systems and other I.T. products, mainly for the educational and local Authorities sectors. RM only provide support on their products for their registered account holders, and the two phone calls I've made to them to request BIOS update files have been met with a polite but flat refusal. When I build a new system, especially with an older motherboard, I always install the latest BIOS update possible in it as this reduces the likelihood of any motherboard-related problems arising. Manufacturers only issue BIOS updates when they need to address problems & issues that have shown up over time, why would they bother otherwise? What annoyed me in my case was that subsequent communication with the seller made it apparent that he knew he had sold me an 'OEM' board, but he made no mention whatsoever regarding this in his advert; the advert also said that I could get everything I needed for this board from AOpens' site, which has not been the case. I downloaded various BIOS update files for the MX46-533V that I thought I had, and was unable to install any of them - when I tried I was met with an alert telling me this was the wrong BIOS for this board and also telling me the boards' true identity. The only way I can now right this is to pay for a new BIOS ROM chip from an independent supplier, notwithstanding the fact that this is a soldered and not a socket-mounted chip, so there could be more problems with even trying that. The main trouble with buying an OEM item is that the original manufacturer is contracted by the third party company to refer any requests for support back to them, i.e. you will not (intentionally) get any help or software support from the original manufacturer, whatever the item might be - sound cards are another one to beware of, Creative in particular have made a lot of cards for other companies and don't have drivers for them on their own site, so make sure you know what you're buying before you part with your money. In my case because RM only deal with registered customers, so I'm getting no help - I've built a system with the board and it works OK, so I just have to hope it stays that way. This unpleasant little lesson cost me £16.95 + postage, so it could have been much worse, I've noticed other OEM components on Ebay for higher prices so don't learn this the hard way - if you're thinking about buying a motherboard or other component that looks like a bargain, check the maker's website for it first and make sure you can get all the drivers, manual, and other updates - if it isn't on there, chances are it's an OEM part. (unless it's just so old they've removed it, but most makers sites have a 'legacy' section on their sites for older items) OEM parts are made all by the main manufacturers but look out in particular for AOpen, Asus , MSI, Creative - I've just had a quick look through the motherboards section now and there are OEM items from all these makers on sale, just waiting to spoil someone's day...
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