Intel to Replace Defective PC Motherboards

BOSTON (05/10/2000) - Intel Corp. today said it will replace approximately 1 million PC motherboards designed around its 820 chip set because of a faulty component that could cause system failures and, under extreme conditions, even data corruption.

The defect may be present on motherboards that were shipped since November, according to a statement released today by the Santa Clara, California-based chip maker, which also manufactures computer, networking and communications products. Systems shipped before that time aren't affected, the company said.

Intel said the faulty component is a memory translator hub (MTH), which translates signals from synchronous dynamic random access memory to Intel's 820 chip set. Intel spokesman Howard High said system noise problems can cause some systems to intermittently reset, reboot or hang.

Normally, the Intel 820 chip set is used with a different memory - rambus DRAM.

RDRAM-based systems aren't affected by the problem since they don't use the memory translator hub, the company said.

High said the company couldn't yet estimate the cost of replacing the defective motherboards. The worst-case scenario for Intel would be a $100 million price tag to replace nearly 1 million motherboards, said Dean McCarron, an analyst at Mercury Research in Scottsdale, Arizona. However, said McCarron, it's more likely that Intel's costs will end up in the $10 million-to-$20 million range since some users won't think they are affected enough to have to replace their motherboards.

"It depends on how many people want replacements and how we make those replacements. Did they buy the product as a board and in that case we replace the board, or do they bring the system in and we replace it, or do we go there (to the users) and replace it?" High said.

HIgh said a customer alerted Intel to the problem several weeks ago, at which time the company began performing synthetic stress tests in its laboratories.

"When we did the stress tests, we found that we could induce data corruption under certain conditions," High said. "Because of that, we decided to move quickly and put a hold on the product on May 1 and this past Monday we began notifying customers."

High said Intel is working with its customers - computer makers, motherboard makers and distribution channels - to notify PC users about the problem and to offer a replacement motherboard.

Computer users who want to know if their systems contain the defective motherboard can contact their computer maker for more information, or download the MTH ID utility from Intel's http://www.intel.com/support/mth/>Web site.

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