Fake vs. Real

After discussing an Adaptec SCSI HBA that was clearly made from recycled parts and likely fake, I wanted to see what a real one looks like. It looks like this:

A presumably not fake Adaptec 39160 SCSI HBA

For reference and for comparison, here’s the sketchy one:

A likely fake Adaptec 39160 SCSI HBA

The PCB is not quite the same (ASSY 1817206-00 vs. 1817206-01) but it’s close enough. The real one has none of the sketchy labeling—it says “CH 2/B” and not “CH 27B” and so on.

Here is a close-up of the 2D barcode and the Adaptec logo:

2D barcode looks actually legible

The barcode looks legible, and the silkscreened Adaptec logo looks a little lighter.

The terminator chips aren’t quite from the same batch but were made within a few weeks from each other:

Terminator chips were made at more or less the same time

In general all the components on the genuine HBA were made in late 2000 or beginning of 2001, as one would expect. There’s none of the odd mish-mash of components made over a period of 5+ years.

Here’s the reverse side of the genuine HBA:

Reverse side of real HBA

And here’s the suspected fake—it actually doesn’t look all that different.

Reverse side of likely fake HBA

Now here’s the interesting part. This is the cardboard box that the suspected fake came in:

Box the suspected fake came in

And for comparison, here is a presumably genuine box, the picture of which I shamelessly stole from some random auction:

A presumably genuine Adaptec cardboard box

The Adaptec logo is clearly not the same, the fake uses a heavier font. It’s kind of bizarre—why not just copy the existing one? It’s actually even weirder because the Adaptec logo appears to be custom made and is not based on any existing font. It’s not at all clear to me how the suspected fake was made precisely because it’s so different.

And here’s the strangest part of the presumed fake, the printed documentation and driver CD:

Driver CD and documentation included with suspected fake

There is absolutely nothing about the driver CD that looks fake, and the installation leaflet looks just like the ones from genuine boxed Adaptec products. The print quality is very good, it all looks genuine. The thing is, why even bother with a driver CD or a leaflet? And if it’s a fake, how come it’s such a good facsimile when the rest isn’t? I feel like there’s a story there, but I don’t know what it is.

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6 Responses to Fake vs. Real

  1. rm says:

    In such cases I see no point in repeating “fake” and “fake” as if these are some kind of currency, or gold bars. If it works and has no issues, then it is just a card of this particular model, that is all. Maybe from a different factory, from a different OEM and so on.

  2. Michal Necasek says:

    It is important, because you can only hope it has no issues. At some point you may find yourself in the same situation as the owners of fake FTDI chips, whose devices were bricked or Windows 10 simply refused to work with them. At minimum, it is simply fraud, because when buying the HBA I was not told “you can pay less for a fake”, it was presented as the real thing.

    That said, I’m still unsure whether this particular HBA is truly a fake or a legit if somewhat poorly manufactured controller made from genuine parts.

    To be clear, you’re welcome to buy fakes if they work for you, but you can’t tell others that they shouldn’t care.

  3. Nathan Anderson says:

    Actually, that CD also has all the hallmarks of being a fake. It’s interesting that they went to the trouble of pressing them and printing labels on them professionally, but if you compare to the genuine article — e.g., https://www.ebay.com/itm/163934958441 and https://www.ebay.com/itm/332478699901 (pictures aren’t the greatest on either, but in aggregate I think you can tell the difference when comparing to yours) — the fonts and the text kerning are way off on yours (fonts are too bold / clunky, “Adaptec Family Manager” and “Version” should be in same typeface and size, the space between “V” and “ersion”, the LACK of space in “VERSION4.0”, etc.).

    I bet if we looked hard enough at the manual booklet, we’d find some telltale signs on or in it, too.

    Speaking of interesting uses of “recycled parts”, though, I have recently been made aware of the world of no-name-brand motherboards that are apparently cobbled together from random e-waste. And at least the manufacturers of such boards are doing something more interesting — coming up with a unique product! — vs. just cloning something that already exists. This review of one such board I found to be particularly entertaining: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNje63vx73s

  4. Ben says:

    The fake card may have been for unofficial retail channels such as electronic markets and independent PC part retailers in tech-savvy, non-Western countries? It wasn’t unusual for counterfeits to sell as a cheaper alternative to official stock.

    The difference in the quality of components may be that the counterfeiters sourced different suppliers rather than doing it all themselves.

    There were probably small-time producers that made a living specializing in counterfeiting brown product boxes, PCBs, rebranded/recycled chips, CD/manuals, etc. And the quality varied based on skill, the equipment used, and the price charged.

    Given the prolific quantities of counterfeit physical software that once existed, the market for creating counterfeit discs and manuals may have been very competitive, and therefore their inclusion a no-brainer?

  5. Michal Necasek says:

    Yes, the CD might be fake, and I guess I need to check my archive in case I have a genuine Adaptec CD from the same era. The mystery is, like I said, why even bother. They could sell it without a CD just fine I’m sure.

    I’ve seen those X79 frankenboards on eBay, they look very… suspicious. The review is pretty amazing.

  6. Rich Shealer says:

    In the late 80’s & early 90’s I worked for a small PC Clone builder. I was insistent that we provide legitimate copies of MS-DOS.

    In one case I remember that we had MS-DOS 5 with a perfect bound manual with a hologram. The manual (about an inch thick) had a black and white OEM cover compared to the retail upgrade version from Microsoft. I noticed that some of the pages seemed to be a little blurred or bolded.

    We found out later that there was a major bust of Taiwan imported counterfeit MS-DOS 5. It’s quite possible that those were one of them.

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