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Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Intel hit by Pentium III flaw
intel chip
The intermittent fault causes PCs to crash or reboot
The world's largest maker of computer processors, Intel, is facing a multi-million dollar bill after discovering that a large number of its newest Pentium III chip boards are faulty.

Intel has already promised to replace the faulty component, thus avoiding a replay of the public relations disaster in 1994, when the company first refused to acknowledge a fault in its original Pentium chip.

The fault appears only intermittently, causing the computer to crash or reboot, and can corrupt data.

It occurs only in systems with an Intel Pentium III 820 chip set using a "memory translator hub" to access the computer's SDRAM memory, which was first introduced in November 1999.

According to Intel, the memory translator hub can be "sensitive to system noise under extreme conditions", which would trigger the fault. The company says that "less than a million" computers are affected.

Half a year ago Intel warned of another problem with its Pentium III chips, which affected the start-up routine of a PC.

Test the hub

Most computer users will not be aware whether their computer uses a memory translator hub, and the fault is not that obvious because the reboot issue occurs only occasionally.

However, Intel has released a utility that allows owners of Pentium III computers to check whether their chip set uses a hub. The software can be downloaded from Intel's web site.

If a hub is present in a PC, it may have the fault, and Intel asks customers to contact their retailer.

The company is warning Pentium III users that they may not get instant help, though, as "this issue has just recently come to light". Chip sets with a new version of the hub are promised to be available later in the summer.

Intel's share price dropped sharply on the news, losing about 10% of its value.

The firm was alerted to the problem by an unidentified computer maker.

Shortly after Intel launched its first version of the Pentium chip, some computer users discovered that the processor miscalculated certain advanced maths problems.

It turned into a public relations disaster for Intel, even though most computer users were unaffected.

Intel had known about the fault, which affected all Pentium chips on the market at that time, but failed to alert its customers to the problem.

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See also:

02 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Pentium III bug in new chips
18 Jan 00 | Business
Intel forges chip alliance
09 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Intel follows speedy chip debut
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