Let's talk about bootleg laptop kits

Oct 20, 2019 - 11:54 AM

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  • Throughout my time working at Diesel Laptops, I have talked with a lot of customers on available diesel diagnostic solutions out in the market. The question: I've got a guy who said he could sell me a laptop kit that does everything the dealer can do, on EVERY truck, and it will never expire AND he's only charging a couple hundred bucks. Why shouldn't I just buy from him? has come up more times than I would have hoped it would... So I would like to shine some light on what people are really selling when they offer a laptop kit that will do everything the dealer can, on every truck, with no expiration or fees for only a few hundred dollars.

    Let's start from the top. What is required for a laptop kit to connect and diagnose your trucks? You'll need a laptop/tablet, software (either OEM or aftermarket) and a pass-thru device. But wait... that's what the shady man down the street is offering me too... and his is super cheap and works on everything! Right?

    Well... When you break down what they are actually offering:

    They do give you a laptop/tablet. They typically offer the cheapest laptop/tablet they can find online or at their local Walmart. They will usually be outdated, low memory, low processing power and not much hard drive space. This means you'll most likely have a painfully slow, dinosaur of a computer to work with while communicating with your trucks, if it doesn't freeze every 5 seconds. If they offer a newer, upgraded laptop you will easily pay double if not three times the price for the laptop alone.

    They do give you a pass-thru device. Typically this will be a Chinese knock-off of an actual genuine pass-thru device. We have a blog post here: https://blog.diesellaptops.com/2017/07/26/how-to-spot-a-chine-nexiq-usb-link-2-clone/
    that goes in depth on the difference between a genuine USB Link 2 and a knock off. To keep it short, you are getting an old, outdated device, that is put into a nice, new, shiny outer case to make it look like it is brand new and the best thing on the market. Will it connect to your trucks? Maybe... They are pretty hit or miss. If your pass-thru device decides to stop connecting while you are in the middle of a reprogramming, then you've got yourself a bricked ECM. If they do provide you with a genuine pass-thru device then that is great, I can't knock them for offering a device that actually works!

    They also give you software! The software they are loading onto these laptops are typically old, outdated and cracked OEM software. There are more negatives to using outdated, cracked OEM software than I have room to list, but to keep it short... The software is usually old and on an outdated version, that may or may not work. If you have software that was last updated in 2007, good luck getting it to work and connect to any trucks newer than what that version of software has functionality with. If you do get it to connect, you will most likely have very limited data being communicated from the truck to the laptop. Even then, for those reading this that have genuine software that is either OEM or aftermarket, you know that there are new updates coming out all the time for your software that fixes bugs, adds new functionality for newer trucks and adds in more functionality for older trucks. None of that will be available with your cracked software. If you ever run into an issue with your bootleg software or just need help getting a job done, who do you call? The people selling these bootleg kits are typically not there to support the tools afterwards, even if they are, their knowledge is usually limited. Well, that's ok, you can just call the OEM for support! Nope... Can't do that either, typically the first thing that happens when you call an OEM for support on your software, they will ask if you are on the latest version of the software or that you need to go ahead and update your software, it is probably best at that point to hang up the phone before you get put on the do not support list if they discover you are using bootleg software. There are about a dozen more negative points and scenarios to bring up, it's illegal, it's unreliable, it's a pain in the ass, etc... but I think what has been explained is reason enough to avoid buying a bootleg kit!

    What about the positives? Well... It's cheap. Really you have to ask yourself: Do I want to service my trucks, my customer's trucks, or my fleet's trucks with an outdated diagnostic kit, that has questionable reliability, that could also end up just not working at all? If the answer to that is yes then there are tons of bootleg options available with a simple google search. But, if you are looking to build your repair/diagnostics business, diagnose your fleet, or keep your own truck running smoothly, I would highly recommend avoiding the headache of the bootleg market and looking into either OEM or aftermarket solutions.

    To sum things up, the diesel diagnostic world is filled with so many different diagnostic options it can be a little intimidating to get started if you don't have the right information. Diesel Laptops focuses on a consultative and educational approach on what diesel diagnostic solutions are available in the market, our goal is to take the scariness away when deciding on what diagnostic solution is right for you. I hope the information above can help at least one person in the market get an understanding of some of the shadier things offered in the diesel diagnostic world.

    Thanks for reading!

  • Great post Riley! I am sharing it with our whole team this morning!