Intel finds flaw in latest chipsets

Intel has discovered a flaw in its recently launched chipsets which can preclude a system from starting up normally, and is...

Intel has discovered a flaw in its recently launched chipsets which can preclude a system from starting up normally.

A spokeman confirmed that the company will recall a certain amount of those chipsets from system suppliers and channel partners.

The 915 G/P and 925X chipsets, formerly known as Grantsdale and Alderwood, have a flaw in the I/O controller on the chipsets that can prevent a PC from starting normally, said Howard High, an Intel spokesman.

A chipset is the circuitry that connects a processor to the rest of the computer, such as the memory and I/O. Intel's latest chipsets incorporate a number of features which are expected to improve performance over the next several months, including the PCI Express interconnect technology and support for DDR2 memory.

Chips are built in layers, with circuits added on top other circuits. During the manufacturing process, a thin insulating film is applied to each layer before the next layer is built so signals do not leak between levels.

At certain points on the chip, that insulating film is removed to allow the layers to communicate with one another. However, the insulating film on some of Intel's chipsets was not completely removed from one particular area.

The film is partially blocking one of the connection points and is not allowing signals to cleanly travel between levels. This can cause the system to hang or fail during the startup process, High said.

The problem only affected a certain portion of Intel's chipset shipments because it was a manufacturing error, and not a design flaw, High added.

Intel has not disclosed the number of shipments affected, but said the bad parts were shipped to system suppliers before the official launch, and the company believed that very few chipsets actually reached end users.

Intel has identified the particular chipsets containing the flaw, and is working with PC suppliers and resellers to remove those chipsets from circulation.

Customers interested in buying PCs from Hewlett-Packard and Dell based on Intel's chipsets will have to wait for several days, according to their websites. HP's m1000 series Media Center PC went on sale this week, but later informed customers the new PC would not ship until at least 6 July.

Dell's Dimension 8400 will also ship in July. That particular system will take 15 days to build, compared with the three days it takes Dell to build a Dimension 2400 based on older technology.

Advanced Micro Devices also reported a bug in its Opteron server processor that could cause a server to fail.

However, AMD's bug was caused by testers in AMD's lab running synthetic software instructions that only occur in very rare cases. The company is planning to work with server suppliers and Bios companies to distribute a work-around.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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