HP reports 'higher than expected' failures of some desktop PC motherboards

No recall issued, but HP extends warranty 12 months to offer free board replacement

Hewlett-Packard has identified a high rate of logic board failures in its popular Pavilion line of desktop PCs, and has offered customers a one-year warranty extension to cover possible repairs, Computerworld has learned.

The problem with numerous models in its Pavilion line, said HP in an email to owners today, is that they "have system boards with a slightly higher than expected failure rate."

Pavilion Elite HPE-4xx, Pavilion P66xx and Pavilion Slimline S5660f desktops built in June and July 2010 may have flakey motherboards. "[These] computers may experience no video at start up and stop responding," said HP in its email.

The company has not recalled the machines, but has instead added 12 months of warranty to the existing plans that cover the PCs. Customers whose warranties have expired have one year to report symptoms.

In all cases, HP will repair the system by replacing the motherboard free of charge. It will also pay for round-trip shipping between the user and its repair facilities.

A support document on the company's website spelled out the warranty extension, listed the serial number range of the impacted PCs, and described the symptoms that could stem from a board failure, including no video after powering on, lock-ups at the POST (Power On Self Test) screen, or endless reboots.

Turn-around time for a PC with a bad motherboard may be as long as three weeks, warned HP. "After HP receives your computer, HP will use its best efforts to repair and ship your computer to you within 10 to 14 business days," the online support document stated.

HP claimed that only a "small percentage of systems in the serial number range" have either already experienced, or may experience in the future, a motherboard failure.

The company did not immediately reply to questions Tuesday asking it to quantify the size of the affected PC pool, whether there was any danger of fire because of the logic board problem, and whether users' data stored on the machines' hard disk drives might be at risk.

Only U.S. and Canadian customers are eligible for the warranty extension and possible free motherboard swap.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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